Short Cuts

By Sean Carroll | March 13, 2006 3:00 pm

Bits and bobs accumulated while I was traveling, offered up as I recover from the traumatic trip back to Chicago. (I wasn’t at Don and Crystal’s wedding, but many congratulations to the happy couple!) I had an early flight scheduled Sunday, but I was feeling lazy and unmotivated to arise at dawn to return my rental car, so I called United and asked whether I could go standby on a later flight. They indicated that there should be no problem, as the later flights had plenty of open seats. This turned out to be one of those things they believed even though they couldn’t prove, in fact even though it wasn’t true. After sitting in LAX, watching two flights to Chicago take off full without me, I finally squeezed onto a plane that was scheduled to reach O’Hare at 10:44 p.m. Of course, it took off only after an hour-and-a-half delay, and then landed safely around 12:30 a.m. Sadly, it landed not in Chicago, but in Rockford IL, since it was apparently a bit breezy in Chicago. (Windy city and all that.) After some tense moments when it appeared as if we might all climb aboard busses and drive the rest of the way, the plane did take off again, landed safely in the appropriate airport, and I endured a tense half an hour in which everyone on the flight retrieved their luggage except me. Finally mine came out, allowing me to proceed to the character-building exercise of standing in the rain for another half an hour to get a taxi. Arriving to my chilly lakeside condo at 3:30 a.m., since apparently some bozo left the window open when he left for L.A. For as much as I travel, it’s been a long time since I’ve been subjected to such delays, so I suppose I was due.

And while we were away:

  • Peter Woit reports that the second- and third-year WMAP results are soon to be released, which looks to be true. My guess is that there won’t be any universe-shaking surprises, just some careful results about polarization of the CMB, which is a very tiny signal that is hard to measure.
  • Krispy Kreme burgerGrrlscientist points to a bit of culture you can only find here in Illinois: the best hamburger ever. Served, apparently, at the ballpark of minor-league baseball team the Gateway Grizzlies. What is it, you may ask, that separates this particular all-beef patty with two slices of cheddar and two strips of bacon from its artery-clogging competitors? It must be the bun, which consists of two halves of — wait for it — a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donut. Mmm. It’s only 1000 calories, so you might want to order two.
  • Alina Stefanescu , via Marginal Revolution, points to a condensed version of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom in cartoon form. Originally published in the 1950’s in Look magazine, and distributed by General Motors. Hayek was an economist and political philosopher, popular today among libertarian-leaning types for his warnings against the horrors of collectivism. It’s interesting to me how the process of creeping loss of liberty described in The Road to Serfdom sounds these days like a warning against the excesses of our putatively-conservative administration. (At least, according to that notorious pinko sympathizer Sandra Day O’Connor.)
    road to serfdom
    And now there’s a movie version!
  • Occasional CV commenter John Farrell points to a slightly more conventional documentary: The Bag of Knees, about the lives and choices of nurses. You can see a preview, and it’s available for purchase on DVD.
  • Continuing on the movie theme, from Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy comes perhaps the second-cutest thing ever: this somewhat unequal cat fight.
    cat fight
    The cutest thing ever was of course already referenced here. Those darn cats.
  • My interminable trip home was enlivened by a celebrity presence on the plane, one celebrated for his persistent cheerfulness: that’s right, Richard Simmons. There was a touchy moment when we were on the ground in Rockford and it looked like he was going to lead the plane in singing campfire songs. The previous evening, playing poker at an L.A. cardroom, the table behind me featured a game between Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, and a couple of their friends. Which of these counts as a more significant celebrity sighting will depend on your personal cultural matrix.
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Travel
  • Eugene

    I vote for Richard Simmons.


  • erc

    I saw Placido Domingo in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC on Wednesday, and then he had dinner in the same restaurant as me afterwards. Which personally I think beats both of your celebrity sightings, but that’s largely to do with the fact that I don’t know who those people are :)

  • Clifford

    Hmmmm, that is very cute. As much as I love cats, I must submit the subject of this earlier post as being a contender for the cutest thing ever…. Well, it’s got to be in the top three at least, right?


  • Eugene

    Also, thanks for the shoutout on the Bag of Knees! I just ordered one.

  • Plato

    Now if some of the more ingenious and thought to rib you Sean, imagine what we could do with your head on Richard’s body?

    Should not an event be planned to morphize, “such changes” if one adopted such a lead to let’s say, such characterization leading in class as ? :)

    I was thnking earlier of “the heads” of cosmic variance rotating in a circle with a spiral leading into the center, a strobe behind, and a voice trailing in the distance heard, “accept them?”

    I wish I was that ingenious. :( :)

  • Amanda

    Just in case you were wondering what the cats are saying, here is the essence of it:

    Small cat: your eyes are getting heavier… when you awake you will give all your cat food to me!
    Large cat: I think what you need is a good beating!

  • Elliot

    Gus Hansen and Phil Ivey “clearly” more impressive. How did you do?

  • Sean

    Well, I wasn’t playing against those guys, just in their vicinity. Nevertheless, I still managed to play awfully. LA seems to bring out the worst in me as far as poker goes.

  • Amara

    Hmm. Road to Serfdom. Hayek was 60 years ahead of his time. I am alarmed to the depths of my toes to see the words: “morality”, “human rights”, “liberty” used by the federal government of a particular large rich country.

    Part of the foundation of the Total State (totalitarianism) is laid when common but valuable words are rewritten to have a new meaning. That is, propaganda. For example the Soviet propaganda in 1979 for why the Soviets invaded Afghanistan was to “free their women” and “modernize their country” and 1939 invading the Baltics was to “protect them against the threat of incursion”. The word “liberty” is the worst offender, according to Hayek.

    ————- Quote from F. Hayek (pg. 172-173, _Road to Serfdom_ 1944):

    “The most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals of the new regimes are expressed.

    The worst sufferer in this respect is, of course, the word “liberty.” It is a word used as freely in totalitarian states as elsewhere. Indeed, it could almost be said — and it should serve as a warning to us to be on our guard — that wherever liberty as we understand it has been destroyed, this has almost always been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people.

    But “freedom” or “liberty” are by no means the only words whose meaning has been changed into their opposites to make them serve as instruments of totalitarian propaganda. We have already seen how the same happens to “justice” and “law,” “right” and “equality.” The list could be extended until it includes almost all moral and political terms in general use.

    If one has not one’s self experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion which it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates. It has to be seen to be understand how, if one of two brothers embraces the after a short while he appears to speak a different language which makes any real communication between them impossible. And the confusion becomes worse because this change of meaning of the words describing political ideals is not a single event but a continuous process, a technique employed consciously or unconsciously to direct the people. Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional associations which still adhere to them
    ———— end quote

  • D R Lunsford

    There already *are* universe-shaking surprises – correlation of quad- and octopole moments, correlation with ecliptic plane. I suppose all that analysis by Huterer and his colleagues doesn’t count.

    By the way – the idiom “earth-shattering” here presented a missed opportunity to be witty.



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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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