All posts by chris

Pizza Pi

When you order pizza, how much is the cheesy, delicious part...and how much is crust?

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Pony Up

Normally the word explosion has sort of a negative connotation. And yet, properly managed, explosions are responsible for getting many of us safely to work in the morning, in the form of the internal combustion engine. If all goes according to plan, these explosions happen in the combustion chambers inside a vehicle's engine. The chambers sit on top of cylinders, which contain the pistons and valves that manage all of the important manipulation of fuel and gases flowing into and out of the engine.

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Police, Academy

Death and taxes are both mortal locks in this world, but the government can only spend one of them. Which they do. A lot. That's not terribly surprising, since governments have an incredible number of responsibilities that -- like many responsibilities -- require money. And because there's a finite amount of cash to go around, state governments have to make some tough decisions about where to lay it, which means spending has something important to tell us about priorities.

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iPod dPreciation

In an incredibly bold and almost certainly unprecedented move, Apple has decided to release a newer version of one of its popular products. That's right: as of Friday, the iPhone 6 is available for pre-order. Since you're currently connected to the Internet, that's probably not news to you. But what you might not know, what wasn't part of any cryptic e-whispering or subsequent media hullabaloo, is that — just a few days earlier — Apple wordlessly murdered the iPod classic. No press release, no farewell tribute. One day it was in the web store, and the next it just...wasn't. (RiP)

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Civic Duty

Back in 2006, Honda was pretty psyched about its new 50-mpg Civic Hybrid model. And, if this ad is any indication, so were the flowers, praying mantises, toucans, giraffes, and fishes. And why shouldn't everybody be psyched? Fifty is an awful lot of miles to be able to drive on a single gallon of gas, and less fuel consumption means lower emissions, spunkier fauna, happier customers. After all, not only can consumers feel good about doing something helpful for the environment, they can also spend a lot less money on transportation. So are hybrids a good deal, right? Well, that depends.

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Driving Question

It's football season again, so let's talk about professional basketball for a minute. That's right, basketball. In order to make games more exciting, NBA rules don't allow teams to hold onto the ball for too long during any given possession. Currently, the shot clock counts down 24 seconds, meaning that's the amount of time a team has to attempt a score before they're forced to turn the ball over. That's the law of the land.

Now imagine everybody gets together next week and agrees that they'll instead turn the ball over after 18 seconds. Not that the rule will change — there will still be 24 perfectly good seconds available for legal use — but that the new prevailing convention will suddenly be to give up 25% of your available possession time. Everyone would think that's nuts.

And yet that's more or less what happens in every single NFL football game. A team has four chances to advance the ball a minimum of 10 yards, but if they haven't succeeded after three plays, they typically sacrifice the last down in order to punt the ball over to the opposing side. Pretty much everybody thinks that's reasonable.

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Green Acres

Last month Mathalicious HQ packed up and headed to Austin, Texas, which now makes us a part of the single largest demographic group in the country. No, not Texans. City folks.

Depending on how much faith you have in the Census, it turns out that something like 80% of all Americans live in urban areas. For at least two reasons, that's crazy high. First of all, it's almost impossible to get 80% of Americans to agree on anything, so it's borderline miraculous that so many people have agreed to share such a tiny fraction of the country's area. Second of all, we've only been at this urbanization thing for a couple hundred years, and we started out extremely rural.

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Spinning Your Wheels

Sometimes the world is all backwards.  And sometimes it just looks that way.  Exhibit A: car commercials. Did you catch it?  If not, watch again, and this time focus on the wheels.  At certain points they seem to be spinning in the wrong direction even though the professional driver isn't spitting out pieces of his transmission all […]

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Siren Song

Some strange things are so common that it's easy to forget how strange they are.  Like, for instance, standing by the side of the road.  Each time you hear a car moving toward you, you know it will sound different after whizzing by. It happens all the time, but if you stop to think about […]

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Letterboxing

In the Long-Ago Times (prior to ca. 1975), if you wanted to record video, you needed strips of light-sensitive material known as "film." You loaded this film into the camera, which had some sprockets that would latch onto perforations in the film and pull it through the camera, exposing frame after frame as it wound its way through.

The physical dimensions of the camera determined its film size, but different cameras required different sizes. Edison and his buddy William Dickson decided that this was pretty dumb, and that film sizes should be standardized. In 1892 they were using 35mm film stock; any image recorded on that film had a width:height ratio of approximately 4:3. This measurement is known as the film's aspect ratio. Because everybody generally agreed that Edison was a genius, 4:3 quickly became the industry standard. In fact, even today 4:3 is often referred to as "standard format" for video.

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