# (Roughly) Daily

## “You can’t criticize geometry. It’s never wrong.”*…

In the world of mathematical tiling, news doesn’t come bigger than this.  In the world of bathroom tiling – I bet they’re interested too.

If you can cover a flat surface using only identical copies of the same shape leaving neither gaps nor overlaps, then that shape is said to “tile the plane.” Every triangle can tile the plane. Every four-sided shape can also tile the plane.

Things get interesting with pentagons. The regular pentagon cannot tile the plane. (A regular pentagon has equal side lengths and equal angles between sides, like, say, a cross section of okra, or, erm, the Pentagon). But some non-regular pentagons can.

The hunt to find and classify the pentagons that can tile the plane has been a century-long mathematical quest, begun by the German mathematician Karl Reinhardt, who in 1918 discovered five types of pentagon that do tile the plane…

Pentagons remain the area of most mathematical interest when it comes to tilings since it is the only of the ‘-gons’ that is not yet totally understood…

Read the whole story– and see all 15 types of pentagonal tilings discovered so far– at “Attack on the pentagon results in discovery of new mathematical tile.”

* Paul Rand

###

As we grab the grout, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953, after a year of experimentation, that marine engineer and retired semi-pro baseball player David Mullany, Sr. invented the Wiffleball.  (He patented it early the following year.)  Watching his 13-year-old son play with a broomstick and a plastic golf ball ball in the confines of their backyard, Mullany worried that the effort to throw a curve would damage his young arm.  So he fabricated a full- (baseball-)sized ball from the plastic used in perfume packaging, with oblong holes on one side… a ball that would naturally curve.  The balls had the added advantage, given their light weight, that they’d not break windows.

David Jr. came up with the name: he was fond of saying that he had “whiffed” the batters that he struck out with his curves.  The “h” was dropped, the name trademarked, and (after Woolworth’s adopted the item) a generation of young ballplayers– and their parents– converted.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

## Beating plowshares into swords…

Bruce Lund has cemented his place in the toy-makers’ hall of fame– he created Tickle Me Elmo and Honey: My Baby Pony.  But as Popular Mechanics reports, the Pentagon wants a piece of him too…

His company’s latest product is a nonlethal weapon for the military nicknamed the Big Hurt…  The problem with existing weapons firing rubber bullets, beanbags and other crowd-control rounds is their velocity. Anything that is effective at 50 yards may be lethal at 5 yards; anything that is safe at 5 yards won’t be fast enough to be effective at 50. Lund’s solution is a weapon that automatically measures the range to the target and varies the muzzle velocity accordingly…

Lund’s Variable Velocity Weapon System (VVWS) uses cans of methylacetylene propadiene gas, the kind that fuels blowtorches and nail guns, sold at hardware stores. “You might view the VVWS as a repurposed nail gun,” Lund says…

There is plenty of interest in future developments of the combustion technology. Lund is talking to the law enforcement community about a handgun version that will provide the sort of nonlethal stopping power currently available only from shotguns. The Department of Homeland Security officials have been talking about a combustion-powered 40-mm grenade launcher to launch sensors that can detect toxic gas or place wireless listening devices. Lund has even been looking into making gas-fired mortars. An adapted VVWS might even have sports applications for skeet or trap shooting, and could be considered a green technology since it needs no cartridge cases and uses no powder.

Read the full article here (and take heart that Lund insists that he’ll return to home base: “Nothing is more fun than making toys.”)

As we rummage in the garage for that old BB gun, we might recall that it was on this date in 1840 that the “Penny Black,” the first adhesive postage stamp, was issued in Great Britain.  A product of postal reforms authored by Sir Rowland Hill, the stamp embodied a number of innovations:  it was pre-payment for delivery, it was affixed to an envelope, and it covered delivery anywhere in the U.K.  Before this point, payment was on delivery (by the recipient), and was charged by the number of sheets in a letter (often carried loose) and by the distance they were carried.

Queen Victoria’s silhouette (All British stamps still bear a likeness of the monarch somewhere in their design, and are the only postage stamps in the world that refrain from naming their country of origin, relying on the monarch’s image to symbolize the United Kingdom.)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

## Please, Dad! Please read the one where the plague victim gets caught in the hurricane and is crushed by a tree…

From the ever-illuminating Ten Zen Monkeys, “The Most Depressing Children’s Books Ever Written“…  Consider, for example, #5:

Andrea Patel, a Massachusetts schoolteacher– and pastry chef, and musician– represents the earth as a big blue circle of tissue paper, then writes “One day a terrible thing happened,” as a big red splotch appears on that circle.

“The world, which had been blue and green and bright and very big and really round and pretty peaceful, got badly hurt.

“Many people were injured. Many other people died. And everyone was sad.”

Then she tries explaining terrorism to children — using more tissue paper collages. There’s a tornado, an earthquake, and a fire — all bad things that happen naturally. “But sometimes bad things happen because people act in mean ways and hurt each other on purpose,” she writes. “That’s what happened on that day, a day when it felt like the world broke.” Then there’s a picture of the pieces of the world blowing away and drifting across the blank whiteness of the next page…

The book was finished within weeks of the September 11 attacks, and Patel donated all the book’s proceeds to a 9/11 charity, but the whole exercise is still a little disturbing. People fumbled for the right response to the terrorist attacks, and in the end, this is probably Patel’s most inadvertently honest sentence.

“This is scary, and hard to understand, even for grown-ups.”

One should steel oneself, then find them all here.

As wonder whatever became of Tom Terrific
, we might recall that it was on this date in 1584 that Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a Royal Patent by his Patron Elizabeth I to colonize Virginia.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 25, 2010 at 2:02 am

## 51 areas, but not Area 51….

From the folks at Focus Research, a list of “51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps“:

…for all of the places that Google Maps allows you to see, there are plenty of places that are off-limits. Whether it’s due to government restrictions, personal-privacy lawsuits or mistakes, Google Maps has slapped a “Prohibited” sign on the following 51 places.

1. The White House: Google Maps’ images of the White House show a digitally erased version of the roof in order to obscure the air-defense and security assets that are in place.
2. The U.S. Capitol: The U.S. Capitol has been fuzzy ever since Google Maps launched. Current versions of Google Maps and Google Earth show these sites uncensored, though with old pictures.
3. Dick Cheney’s [now Joe Biden’s] House: The Vice President’s digs at Number One Observatory Circle are obscured through pixelation in Google Earth and Google Maps at the behest of the U.S. government. However, high-resolution photos and aerial surveys of the property are readily available on other Web sites.
4. Soesterberg Air Base, in the Netherlands: This Dutch air-force base and former F-15 base for the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War can’t be seen via Google Maps.
5. PAVE PAWS in Cape Cod, Mass.: PAVE PAWS is the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s radar system for missile warning and space surveillance. There are two other installations besides the one in Cape Cod.
6. Shatt-Al-Arab Hotel in Basra, Iraq: This site was possibly censored after it was reported that terrorists who attacked the British at the hotel used aerial footage displayed by Google Earth to target their attacks.
7. Leeuwarden, Netherlands: This Dutch city is one of the main operating bases of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, part of NATO’s Joint Command Centre and one of three Joint Sub-Regional Commands of Allied Forces Northern Europe. Leeuwarden is also one of two regional headquarters of Allied Command Europe, headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
8. Reims Air Base in France: This lone building on Reims Air Base in France is blurred out.
9. Novi Sad: This military base in Serbia is off-limits.
10. Kamp van Zeist: Kamp van Zeist is a former U.S. Air Force base that was temporarily declared sovereign territory of the U.K. in 2000 in order to allow the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial to take place.

See the other 41 here…  and note that, while (understandably) there’s no Street View photography available, Area 51 is on Google Maps.

As we unfold our maps, we might recall that it was on this date that, in 1952, the first UNIVAC, the world’s first commercially-produced electronic digital computer, was delivered to a customer– the Pentagon.  UNIVAC, which stood for Universal Automatic Computer, was developed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, makers of ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer (started by the U.S. Government in 1943 and finished in 1946) for use at Los Alamos and in other defense-related settings.

(In 1951,the U.S. Census Bureau “received” the first Univac, but it was operating at Remington Rand Labs; there was apprehension over disassembling and moving it…  it finally did reach its home– then stayed in service long after it was obsoleted by advancing technology. Indeed, the Census Bureau used it until 1963– for twelve years.)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 14, 2009 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

## A megaton here, a megaton there…

from Dr. Strangelove (source)

Further to “Just when you were beginning to feel a little bit safer…,” this piece by Jeffrey St. Clair of Counterpunch, an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Loose Nukes, in Alternet:

Things go missing. It’s to be expected. Even at the Pentagon. Last October, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported that the military’s accountants had misplaced a destroyer, several tanks and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of machine guns, rounds of ammo, grenade launchers and some surface-to-air missiles. In all, nearly \$8 billion in weapons were AWOL.

Those anomalies are bad enough. But what’s truly chilling is the fact that the Pentagon has lost track of the mother of all weapons, a hydrogen bomb. The thermonuclear weapon, designed to incinerate Moscow, has been sitting somewhere off the coast of Savannah, Georgia for the past 40 years. The Air Force has gone to greater lengths to conceal the mishap than to locate the bomb and secure it…

For the strong of stomach, the article continues here.

As we practice “duck and cover,” we might console ourselves console ourselves with grateful thoughts of a Divine communicator, Durante degli Alighieri– Dante– born on this date (or so many scholars believe; the exact birth date might also be June 1) in 1265…  We might also note that this is both Arnold Bennett’s (1867) and Dashiell Hammett’s (1894) birthday, as well.  May 27…a wonderfully eclectic  day for literature!

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 27, 2009 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized