Disappointments and Delights du Jour - 2015-03-04

  • The US House of Representatives passed a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday.

    "Clean" is loaded language; it means, in this case, "provides funding for Obama's lawless amnesty for illegal immigrants."

    Comments Allahpundit:

    The “Hastert Rule” says that a Speaker shouldn’t let any bill reach the floor unless a majority of his own caucus supports it. In the end, when the Great Executive Amnesty Sellout reached its final act, a supermajority of Boehner’s caucus opposed it. He passed the bill anyway — with all members of the minority party voting yes.

    Among the 75 GOP Congresscritters that voted "Yea" was my own representative Frank Guinta. Reading between the lines of his press release: he'd rather pass the buck to the judicial system than do anything about it himself.

    I sent him a note. Basically asking: why did I bother voting for him, if he's just going to vote the same way Carol Shea-Porter would have?

  • Also disappointing is our state's GOP Senator, Kelly Ayotte, who has signed on as co-sponsor of the dreadful "Campus Accountability & Safety Act".

    Supporters allege that it has been improved from a previous incarnation. Ashe Schow finds that those improvements are insufficient.

    Worse, when Ms Schow asked Senators' offices (last year) about "due process" protections for college students accused of sexual assault or rape:

    Ayotte's spokeswoman didn't even answer the due process question.

    As an ex-Attorney General, Senator Ayotte should be able to do better than that.

  • But it's not all bad news in the Granite State today: Jim Harper reports that an attempt to enact "REAL ID" requirements for driver's licenses was defeated unanimously by the Senate Transportation Committee. (Follow the link for more information as to why this is good news.)

  • In other news: something called the "Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee" issued its report. In addition to the usual nagging, it recommended taxes on sweet and salty foods, plus more regulations, subsidies, incentives, mandates, etc.

    At Reason, Baylen Linnekin has more. Apparently, the Committee considered "sending text messages to obese Americans", but that idea was dropped. Maybe next time.

What If?

[Amazon Link]

A Christmas gift from my generous family. I took my time working through it, because too much wonderfulness in one sitting can lessen one's overall appreciation.

It is mostly a "greatest hits" collection of Randall Munroe's entries to his What If? site. Munroe is a dedicated scientific polymath, and a fun illustrator. (I suspect that he could draw people as more than stick figures if he wanted to, but that's his schtick.)

The questions, posed by his readers/fans, are (as admitted in the subtitle) absurd, but imaginative enough that answering them can illuminate real-world science.

  • If an asteroid was very small but supermassive, could you really live on it like the Little Prince?
  • How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie himself backward into the net?
  • What if I took a swith in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool? Would I need to dive to actually experience a fatal amount of radiation? How long could I stay at the surface?

Perhaps indicating a tendency toward morbid thoughts (in Munroe or his question-submitters, probably both), a lot of the answers involve massive amounts of death and injury. (Q: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? A (summary): you don't want to be the batter, the pitcher, a teammate, a spectator, or really anywhere within miles. Full answer here.)

Only slightly marred by some typographic flubs, where a few math symbols that were (undoubtedly) present in the font Munroe used to compose the text just appear as annoying white rectangles in the book's font. Might be corrected in a later printing.

So it's great geeky fun, but also a tutorial on how someone with a scientific bent puzzles out answers to queries. That's a skill applicable to non-absurd what-ifs too. Highly recommended.