Google drove past our little village in Italy and caught themselves in the turning mirror just about perfectly.
The coverage they have is getting pretty impressive.
Carolyn and I were flying from LGA to DCA early this morning. I booked an award ticket through UAL on USAIR, but mine was a connecting flight through PHL as there wasn’t any availability on the direct for award tickets. On UAL this means you have a confirmed flight on the less optimal route but if there are seats at the gate the agent will get you to your destination the most efficient route available, which is also the lowest CO2 emission route and the lowest cost route for the airline: everybody wins.
I called US air the night before to verify that I could fly standby (no problem, I was told) and that there were seats (looks like plenty, I was told). No problemmo.
But not with US-Air. Not that they weren’t friendly enough, but as my booking class was “X” and they didn’t have any “X” seats left, they couldn’t book me even though there were plenty of open seats. I tried with the gate agent, the supervisor, all to no avail. I called UAL but they don’t have any visible inventory because US-Air doesn’t share it with them. US-Air tells me UAL has to get me into one of their open seats. UAL shows no open seats.
So I figure I’ll just go to the gate. Gate agents have special powers over last minute seating. I show them my ticket and they immediately hand it back “no, we already called United, they won’t put you on this flight.” I’m thinking there must be a note on my ticket – but no, apparently the counter had called the gate and specifically told them not to let me on the flight. I get on the phone with UAL and they tell me “I don’t understand why they won’t just accept your coupon.” No budging.
I thought maybe I’d take the shuttle over to JFK and fly direct to IAD, but Carolyn pointed out there was a UAL express flight from LGA-IAD. As I have to get back to IAD later in the day anyway, it is a better option (pick up a rental car and drive myself into DC and back out). UAL got me on it no problem. I bus myself over to the UAL counter, and a very cool and very knowledgeable agent at the counter tells me about his family in Italy and his recording business in Rome while he gets me a very good seat on the LGA-IAD shuttle and clears my upgrade and tickets me for tonight’s flight back to SFO. Friendly agents, premium seating, no hassle, expedited security line.
UAL win: USAir Fail.
Glad I’m not causing a transfer payment after all. Lesson: it is worth flying a less convenient route on UAL than a more convenient one on USAir.
Arriving in Italy we found our apartment had been squatted in by a swarm of hornets, probably through the chimney. It appeared they’d recently had a massive party and most, but not all had died.
We started a fire to clear the chimney and dispose of the corpses, which given how gigantic they were, was a lot of burning. By a lot, I mean dustpans full of hornets, some still crawling, at a time.
They could have been European Hornets, but the largest were closer to 5cm or so, fairly large even for European Hornets.
There’s been an interesting newskkake and premature twittergasm of commentary on the pre-publication announcement of results from an experiment at CERN that suggest that neutrinos traveled from CERN to Italy faster than the speed of light.
The announcement reminds me a bit of absolutely unbreakable quantum cryptographic key distribution where the theory was strong but weaknesses in any real detector make Eve’s job easier than theory would suggest.
As the CERN paper was published in the last few hours atarxiv.org none of the reporters who’s breathless reports are generating so many tweets actually read the paper they are reporting on. Remember what happened when UT issued a press release before the paper was peer reviewed.
The conclusion of the paper is that the experimenters measured a time of flight discrepancy of 60.7 +/- 14.3ns or 0.00248% +/-.00058% [(v-c)/c%]. If one reads the paper, the complexity of measuring time of flight over 730km to a nanosecond or two isn’t trivial and there’s a huge number of very complicated (but very accurate) measurements between Switzerland and Italy that go into computing this result, it isn’t like you can just call up and fire a neutrino and say “let me know when you see it.”
The CERN measurement isn’t that far off the 2007 MINOS measurement of 0.0051% +/- .0029% (v-c)/c%. The MINOS experiment wasn’t hyped, but it does tend to validate the CERN experiments (or, more accurately, vice versa).
It is important to remember that the six sigma of the 10x more accurate CERN measurement (than MINOS) is about 2 parts per billion, not far off the odds of winning a multi-state lottery. That is, chances are 50/50 that if you had 500 million researchers testing fundamental constants to equal accuracy, you’d get an anomalous result like this overturning some branch of physics every publication cycle that would turn out to be erroneous. And this is why scientists don’t start rewriting textbooks on the first anomalous result, even if breathless journalists try to.
Further, it is also important to note that the researchers do not speculate that the neutrinos are actually traveling faster than light in violation of general relativity, even if the experiments can be repeated, rather that Leonard has created a little more work for Sheldon. Both “traditional” relativistic phenomenon and poly-dimensional theories (like string theory) provide a theoretical framework whereby in our observation frame an object moving in a different reference frame might appear to be moving faster than the speed of light in our reference frame, for example, perhaps neutrinos interacting oddly with gravitational time dilation. Or, maybe, just maybe, there’s room in the universe for a 0.0051% error: good enough for government work. Or maybe, as Newtonian mechanics described life at human velocities accurately but failed to describe relativistic phenomenon, so too relativity may not be a complete description of the universe.
We had a visit to lovely Cinque Terre. A bit touristy and too many SF types in the crowd (including the owners of the Atlas Cafe) but otherwise quite cool.
I was playing with long exposures with the NEX5. I got a cool picture with a shooting star in the background – it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but showed up on the image (almost typed “film”). It was a 30 second exposure at ISO 6400, very cool that it resolved the color of the trees and tower by starlight.
The village was is an automatic HDR composition which reports 3.2 seconds at ISO 1600.
I remember when I was a kid we used to fill jars with fireflies believing we could read by them – and while they weren’t quite that bright, it is now quite cool to find even a single firefly. What happened to them?