Category Archives: Mathematics

Tidal Asymmetry

This post set off a discussion in which I pointed out that tidal forces are asymmetric. Carl Pham expressed skepticism at this, asking if I was saying that the tide rose higher on the side of the earth closer to the moon. I hadn’t previously thought about this before, but since I do believe that tidal forces are asymmetric, this probably followed. Or at least it followed that they were different.

One attempt was made by Ilya to prove it, but I thought it flawed and oversimplified for reasons I pointed out in comments there, because one has to consider both centripetal effects and gravitational effects when analyzing tides.

Here’s my attempt. Caution, math to follow:

Continue reading Tidal Asymmetry

Go To: Heaven

John Backus, the inventor of FORTRAN, has written his last line of code.

FORTRAN wasn’t my first language. When I started engineering school in Ann Arbor, they told me I had to learn a programming language, but they didn’t say which one, so I took a CS course in which we were inducted into the programming world with ALGOL. I used it to write a simulation of heat transfer, with no problems, though the engineering professor didn’t know the language. But I had to take a graduate course in numeric analysis, in which one had to write in FORTRAN, to be able to interact with the instructor’s subroutines, so I went to a few free lectures on it that he held at night for the general student population (and in fact public). After learning how to program in a structured language, I was appalled at DO loops and gotos, and their potential for spaghetti. I’ve used it quite a bit since, but still try to use as much structure as whatever version allows. Still, as the article notes, it was a huge breakthrough in making computers practical.

And here, courtesy of wikipedia, are a few FORTRAN jokes:

* “GOD is REAL unless declared INTEGER.”

* Joke, circa 1980 (following the standardization of FORTRAN 77): “Q: What will the scientific programming language of the year 2000 look like? … A: Nobody knows, but its name will be FORTRAN.”

* A good FORTRAN programmer can write FORTRAN code in any language.

* Computer Science without FORTRAN and COBOL is like birthday cake without ketchup and mustard.

I Got Six Out Of Eight

I screwed up number two, because I didn’t read carefully, and thought it was asking about the minute hand (which was simple–a hundred twenty degrees). And I couldn’t manage number five in my head. I was trying to do the algebra, and couldn’t manage it. And a couple of them, as noted, are trick questions.

And I certainly wouldn’t have done that well at age eight.