Posted by Wizard
Nov 14, 2010

My father's report from the equator

My father is literally a Ph.D. rocket scientist from Yale and Cal Tech. He doesn't tolerate scientific sloppiness easily. Here is a excerpt from a recent trip report he sent from Ecuador, at the so-called equator. I think this would help explain to anybody who cares why I am like I am.

Quote: My Dad

In the afternoon we paid $20 each for a trip to what was supposed to be a "middle of the world" government-built tourist attraction with a big monument and exhibits on the equator. They did not go there. We did get to the equator, about 15 miles from here, but the place they took us was a sham tourist trap with misinformation about where the equator is (200 feet off), how "wide" it is, and what happens there about water going down drains and balancing eggs on a nail and walking a straight line blindfolded. (Who can?) I told the tour guide (privately) that we were being lied to and that I am an astronomer/physicist and can recognize fakery. I also had a GPS with me with 10 foot accuracy. I quit the guided tour and waited in the bus for the snake oil show to end. At least I got to use a rest room. About 1/4 of the group liked it and 1/2 did not realize it was a sham. I did not ask for a refund, but the tour guide will be dealt with appropriately at tip and report card time. I cannot afford to make enemies at this stage of the tour. We will be walking on the first of four Galapagos Islands Wednesday afternoon,

Here was my follow-up question: "At the equator did they mention the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect ' rel='nofollow' target='_blank'>Coriolis effect? In particular, if the rotation of the water when you flush the toilet is correlated to the hemisphere you are in. "

Quote: My Dad

They made a big deal of the Coriolis effect, and carried out a totally rigged demonstration. The effect is millions of times too small to be effective on the scale of a bathtub. The direction the water swirls depends upon how the tub was filled and if the water was stirred, even if it has been left tio settle for days. Mosat of the people believed it. it was like a magic show. I was really pissed off. Christa and I will tell you mopre about it later. Their equator location was also about 400 feet off. My GPS is accurate to 25 feet. New ones are better than that.


AZDuffman Nov 14, 2010

How big would we say the equator is? And how would it be defined? 12,500 miles from pole to pole and that is divided into 180 degrees of lattitude. That is simple enough. But is a whole degree the equator? 12,500/180 in that case? Do we take it to the minutes or even seconds? 12500/90/60/60? Or do I (as usual) have most of the concept right and I missed some fine point, proving why Algebra I took me 2 attempts and even then just got by it?

Doc Nov 14, 2010

I don't read the blogs here very often, but I did catch this one. There is a web site you might like: Bad Science. I used to read the posts there, but I don't know whether it is kept up to date. One of the links there specifically discusses Coriolis effect and a sham demonstration near the equator: Bad Coriolis. I suppose fakirs find it annoying when the knowledgeable and not-quite-so-gullible show up in the audience.

You have mentioned a couple of times that your dad was a career rocket scientist. I did that gig myself the first few years of my career, working with propulsion systems for military rockets, but I grew disenchanted with the work environment in the military/industrial complex and went after different pursuits from there.

odiousgambit Nov 15, 2010

I have to admit I would have breezily accepted a 200 foot error, yep even 400 feet I think, on the placement of the equator. Otherwise bad science can bother me too, my current pet peeve being the proliferation of shows purporting to take a scientific approach to so-called para-normal phenomenon. Complete shams [and shames].

Ibeatyouraces Nov 15, 2010

We have sort of the same thing here in Michigan and many may find the same in other northern states. Here in Michigan if you travel north on I-75 just south of Gaylord, MI you will pass a sign that reads "45th parallel of latitude, half way between the north pole and the equator" These signs are all over roads where you "cross" this line but in actuallity the "real" 45th parallel is a few miles away. They do this so it doesnt create a log jam of gawkers and others that want to stop and take pictures.

FleaStiff Nov 16, 2010

GPS signal strength is attenuated when in the proximity of tourist dollars.

DJTeddyBear Nov 16, 2010

Your dad is quite a character. You should be proud of him. I do beleive he's earned a few fans here thanks to you posting his comments.

If it makes your dad feel better, I'd be willing to bet that he has been to other tourist traps, that proport to show something real, but employ equal amounts of fakery as he experiences when he wasn't at the equator, but that he didn't recognize the fakery because they were outside his area of expertise. Then again, I'd only bet $1....


FYI: The direction the water rotates in a toilet is directly correleated to the position and angle of the rim holes thru which the water passes.

DJTeddyBear Nov 16, 2010

How wide is the equator? For tourist trap situations, I would expect to see a horizontal marker in the form of a strip of semi-precious metal, at least several yards long, and about an inch or two wide.

How wide are the lines at the Four Corners marker? (FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Corners_Monument)

For a real answer, I agree that a line has no width.

But apparently the position of the equator is not fixed.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equator:

Quote: Wikipedia

For high precision work, the Equator is not quite as fixed as the above discussion implies. The true equatorial plane must always be perpendicular to the Earth's spin axis. Although this axis is relatively stable, its position wanders in an approximately 9 metres (30 ft) radius circular motion each year. Thus, the true equator moves slightly, but this effect is only relevant to detailed scientific studies.

Doc Nov 16, 2010

With regard to Ibeatyouraces's comment about tourist signs at the 45th parallel, I have seen just such a sign in Nova Scotia, along the highway between Halifax and Truro. I didn't stop, but the sign was located so close to the 45th (as indicated by my GPS) that I could not detect any error as I drove by.

Wizard Nov 18, 2010

Thanks for all the comment. There is a sign noting the 45th parallel on the I-5 on the way to Seattle. I don't know if it is in the right place. A guy I know went to the geographic south pole with his GPS, and indeed it said 90.0000 south. He took a picture of it.

EvenBob Nov 19, 2010

I've been past the signs in MI. Its the idea of it, rather than being a fact at that exact spot. Reminds me of the Cardiff Giant in the late 1900's. Even after it was exposed as a fake, people still paid to see it for years and years. Half the fun of some tourist attractions is you don't know if its real or not.

Posted by Wizard
Nov 10, 2010

NFL picks week 10

Last week I went 2-2-1. My overall record is now 17-18-1. ROI is -7.0%.

Week 10 picks:

Cin +7.5 -115
Hou +1 105
Chi +1 -105
KC -1 -105
Phil -3 -115

Posted by Wizard
Nov 03, 2010

NFL picks week 9

Last week I went 4-1, bringing up my season record to 15-16-0. ROI is -7.3%.

Week 9 picks:

Buf +3 -115
Car +6.5 -110
TB +9 -110
Det +4 -110
Mia +5 -110


AZDuffman Nov 05, 2010

Glad to see someone else thinks Buffalo is a good pick. For -115 you would think they would give you +3.5.

BTW: What stats do you use most when picking a game, other than favoring underdogs?

Wizard Nov 10, 2010

Answered question above by PM. Trust me, it is nothing brilliant.

Posted by Wizard
Oct 29, 2010

I stink at poker part II

After my last rant about how I stink at poker I took a break from it for a while. Recently I came back, just playing the 50¢/$1 game at Bodog. However, this evening I couldn't get any other players, but there was a game $1/$2 game going so I joined that.

There was the kind of player there who I've seen many times before. Basically the player who raises 90% of the time. Maybe he would back down to a check-raise with garbage, but otherwise he just raised, raised, raised -- all night long.

With this kind of player I lower my standards, and will call with a middle pair, or basically any hand well above the median. However, this guy just kept catching the right cards over and over. If I had a straight, he would catch a flush on the river. If I had a set of aces, he would catch a straight along the way.

Anyway, this guy gave me a royal spanking for two straight hours before I just now gave up and waived the white flag. Do I stink or what? I think a robot that was programmed to raise 100% of the time could beat me. I get scared out 80% of the time, and the other 20%, where I should be recouping, I take one bad beat after another. It wasn't just me. There were two other players there, at separate times, who seemed to play "by the book." The first one was cussing out the lucky raiser, and the second was ranting about how the game was fixed.

There is just something not right with my game, and I can't put my finger on it. If I had any sense I would just quit the game. I can see a bad player getting lucky, but for two straight hours in a fast game, it is just hard to take.


odiousgambit Oct 29, 2010

Quote: WoO

I lower my standards, and will call with a middle pair, or basically any hand well above the median... I get scared out 80% of the time...

to make sense of the above, you mean normally you stay only 80% of the time when someone raises, but in this case [a case with lower standards], it's an example of what happens the other 20% of the time?

To "protect" myself against bluffing, I often call a raiser with cards that are not so hot, but seldom middle pairs. What game were you playing?

In a recent thread someone was remarking about how poker players have to endure unusually large stretches of bad variance. Could it be that this is 90% of your problem?

Wizard Oct 30, 2010

What I meant was that if you put me against a player who raises a lot, I will fold by the end of the hand 80% of the time. The other 20% I would try to string him along, and probably do a check raise on the turn or river. However, the game in question, I still lost those hands because he would catch exactly the card he needed on the river. I'm just an average poker player, at best, but I truly feel I had a horrible run of cards yesterday. It wasn't just me, other players were complainging the raiser was extremely lucky too.

Today I had another losing session. This time it was clearly to a good player who seemed to read me well. The loss was not too bad, but I deleted the Bodog Poker from my computer afterward. Hopefully I'll have some self control and not download it again. This is my pledge -- no more online poker for six months. If you hear of me playing before May 1 kick me.

TheKeymaster Nov 02, 2010

I've actually been a 'victim' to a poker bot in a tournament before. It was kind of funny considering he and I were the only ones left (it was a small, 1 table tournament). I started to notice that he was raising every single hand...and so when I actually had the nuts, I just went all in and of course, the bot called.

That of course, is a terrible way to try and win a tournament, but hell, it got him to heads up...

As to your plight...who really knows in this day and age. Someone could easily program a bot to raise pre-flop every time, and then read the board and make a percentage decision on whether to raise or fold. Then again, I play with people like this at my local joint too. They will raise almost every single hand...sometimes they'll get lucky and catch, beating the follower, and sometimes they'll just get everyone to fold. It's just really aggressive playing that can either win big or lose big.

DJTeddyBear Nov 03, 2010

Do what I did. I got involved with a poker league.

There's no cost (except to patronize the bar holding the game). If the league is anything like the league I'm in, the people tend to be open and honest when giving you advice. And you can even ask about hands that you're not in. Just remember the rule to not talk about hands that are still in progress.

Check out NevadaPokerLeague.com. The locations page just has names and days, while the schedule includes streed addresses. I had to dig to see that most of the locations are in or around Las Vegas.

Posted by Wizard
Oct 28, 2010

License plate spotting

I saw this beauty at the Red Rock parking lot recently. I think this is the second time only I have seen a Puerto Rico license plate on the road.


odiousgambit Oct 29, 2010

you'd think more people would just drive over! [g]

dm Oct 29, 2010

Did the plate get to remain there after the picture, collector?

Wizard Oct 30, 2010

"Did the plate get to remain there after the picture, collector?"

Of course. I have one in my own collection, which I can look at any time. They go on eBay for about $50.