Candle Wax Explosion

July 15th, 2008

This interesting phenomenon is the product of boiling melted candle wax over a campfire upon which water is poured. Since the boiling point of wax is significantly higher than that of water (paraffin wax has a BP above 400 C), the poured water instantly boils off, rapidly expanding in the process and carrying with it liquid wax. The liquid wax vaporizes during the expansion, producing the huge flame seen in the video.

It is incredibly unsafe and foolish to even attempt! I see another safety video by Yedidia in the future…

The Pitfalls of Oil Futures

June 10th, 2008

As I found out by reading the below article, the price of crude oil today is not made according to any traditional relation of supply to demand, but instead is controlled by an elaborate financial market system as well as by the four major Anglo-American oil companies. A previous Senate report estimated that during June 2006, when oil traded near $60 a barrel, as much as 40% of its value was due to speculation markets. Due to the recent credit crunch and weakening of the dollar, which are pushing hedge funds and other investors into the energy market, that estimate could be increased to as much as 60%.

One may question where the oversight for such trading is? Due to key rule changes on how these oil futures can be traded, much of the oversight from the Commodity Futures Trading Trading Commission (the governing body for such trading) has been bypassed, allowing speculation to run amok.

If interested, you can read in greater detail over at Global Research.

Rocket Man

May 16th, 2008

There is a real rocket man, though this one is powered by four jet engines attached to a self-made composite wing. Calling himself Fusion Man, Yves Rossy demonstrated his flight through the Swiss Alps controlling himself with only his body. You can see the amazing video below, and another one where he performs a tight roll at CNN.

The $25B Eigenvector

May 6th, 2008

For a little insight as to why Google has the top search engine around, one needs look no further than the linear algebra that lies just below the surface. With a concept called PageRank, they rank pages based on the number of links to them, in a democracy of the internet, where each link is a vote. It isn’t a perfect democracy, though, as more important sites (those with more links toward them) have greater weight given their links to other sites.

You can read a nice paper on the details of the Google engine at The $25B Eigenvector. Also, the author has a page where you can download Maple and Mathematica workbooks that demonstrate the basic principles at

SuperMemo: Remember Everything

April 22nd, 2008

Developed for wrote memorization tasks, such as learning a new language, SuperMemo is a program based on the idea that there is an optimal time for reviewing what you’ve learned. Review too soon, and you are wasting your time; too late, and you are relearning it. This is the so-called spacing effect.

Following a “forgetting curve,” tailored to each individual and the piece of information, the program brings up specific information at the proper intervals to maximize retention as illustrated in the figure. The program in its current form allows you to enter any information you wish to remember from websites to text passages to Wikipedia articles.

Spacing Effect and the Forgetting Curve

I am going to try out the program and see how it goes.

Wired Article

From the article:

Philosopher William James once wrote that mental life is controlled by noticing. Climbing out of the sea and onto the windy beach, my skin purple and my mind in a reverie provoked by shock, I find myself thinking of a checklist Wozniak wrote a few years ago describing how to become a genius. His advice was straightforward yet strangely terrible: You must clarify your goals, gain knowledge through spaced repetition, preserve health, work steadily, minimize stress, refuse interruption, and never resist sleep when tired. This should lead to radically improved intelligence and creativity. The only cost: turning your back on every convention of social life. It is a severe prescription.