(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘gyroscope

“Iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress”*…

A word of caution from the wondrous Randall Munroe (@xkcd): “Rotatation.”

* George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

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As we resist repetition, we might send perpetual birthday greetings to Jean Bernard Léon Foucault; he was born on this date in 1819.  A physicist who made an early measurement of the speed of light, discovered eddy currents, and is credited with naming the gyroscope (although he did not invent it), Foucault is best remembered for the (eponymously-named) Foucault’s Pendulum– suspended from the roof of the Panthéon in Paris– demonstrating the effects of the Earth’s rotation.  Using a long pendulum with a heavy bob, he showed its plane was not static, but rotated at a rate related to Earth’s angular velocity and the latitude of the site.

In fact, essentially the same experimental approach had been used by Vincenzo Viviani as early as 1661; but it was Foucault’s work that caught the public imagination: within years of his 1851 experiment, the were “Foucault’s Pendulums” hanging– and attracting crowds–in major cities across Europe and America.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 18, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Night Time Is the Right Time”*…

An architect based in Boston by day, Andrew Thomas Shea is a photography hobbyist at night and his latest project, Neon New England, celebrates a beloved common fixture across the Northeastern United States… vintage neon signs.

More of Shea’s sumptuous work at “Nocturnal photographs of New England’s famous American neon signs.”

* song written and first performed by Roosevelt Sykes (1937), bt better known in subsequent versions by inspired many subsequent versions, including hits by Ray Charles, Rufus and Carla (Thomas), and James Brown

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As we reflect on reflection, we might recall that it was on this date in 1851 that Léon Foucault famously used a pendulum suspended from the top of the dome in the Pantheon in Paris to demonstrate that the earth turns on its axis. (He used a technique developed by Vincenzo Viviani, though it was Foucault’s “experiment that caught the public’s attention.) The following year, Foucault used (and named) the gyroscope in a conceptually simpler experimental proof.

(Several years later he also helped take the first photo of the sun.)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 8, 2021 at 1:01 am

“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money”*…

Intrigued by the mechanisms that generate a world like ours, in which over 33% of the wealth in the U.S. is held by 1% of the population, economist Ricardo Fernholz and mathematician/statistician Robert Fernholz developed a model that might explain the high degree of income and wealth inequality we see in advanced economies.

As James Kwak notes in Baseline Scenario,

The model assumes that all households are identical with respect to patience (consumption decisions) and skill (earnings ability). Household outcomes differ solely because they have idiosyncratic investment opportunities—that is, they can’t invest in the market, only in things like privately-held businesses or unique pieces of real estate. Yet when you simulate the model, you see an increasing share of wealth finding its way into fewer and fewer hands [as illustrated in the chart above].

As the authors emphasize, “it is luck alone – in the form of high realised random investment returns – that generates this extreme divergence.”  In the absence of redistribution, either explicit or implicit, this is the kind of society you end up with…

Clearly, the world is not quite so simple; there are some redistributive mechanisms (taxes and the like), and (given, e.g., educational differences) not all peoples’ earning abilities are equal.  Still, as Kwak observes,

…this is a useful antidote to the widespread belief that outcomes are solely due to skill, hard work, or some other “virtuous” attribute. Even if everyone starts off equal, you’re going to have a few big, big winners and a lot of losers. Because we want to find order and meaning in the universe, we like to think that success is deserved, but it almost always comes with a healthy serving of luck. Bear that in mind the next time you hear some gazillionaire hedge fund manager or corporate CEO insisting that he knows how the country ought to be run.

Read a summary of the Fernholzs’ paper here; download the (rather mathematically-intense) original here.

* “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money”  – W.C. Fields

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As we ponder polarization, we might send balanced birthday greetings to Elmer Ambrose Sperry; he was born on this date in 1860.  An early exemplar of equipoise, Sperry was the engineer and inventor who devised the gyrocompass (a huge advance on traditional magnetic compasses, first tested on the U.S.S. Delaware in 1911).  His compasses and stabilizers have helped navigate and “balance level” first ships, then aircraft ever since.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

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