Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Inertia is defined as "the tendency of matter to move uniformly at a constant velocity (in a straight line at a constant speed)." Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion talks about inertia more specifically. It states that "A body at rest tends to remain at rest; a body in motions tends to remain in motion at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an outside force."

As I have been trained as a scientist and engineer, I tend to think about life in terms of the various scientific and engineering principles that I have learned. While some folks joke about "gravity" getting them down, I just blame it all on Newton's First Law.

Picture my husband coming home. The kids are fed and homework is done, but they are basically vegging out in front of the TV. The dishes have not been done. Of the 10 household chores on my list, only 3 have been completed and the rest have seen half-hearted attempts which have been interrupted. I am curled up in my reading corner with the light off and a cold towel on my forehead.

"Everything OK?" he asks.

"Yeah. Blame it on Isaac." I reply.

"First Law again?"

"It's what keeps the world spinning."

"Not really."

"I'm not going to argue Physics with you now. Too much inertia."

"I'll put the kids to bed."

This month it has seriously gotten me in its grip. I can't seem to get started on anything. And the fibromyalgia keeps flaring up. I know the most likely cause is the changing weather which plays havoc with my system. It seems the higher the wind velocity, the stronger my headache. And the more it rains, the stiffer my joints. But a part of me also knows that I am in this pattern and it is not going to go away by itself. I have to act, to exert effort, to effect change. And while the scientist part of my brain is analyzing all this, the inertia-laden rest of my body just continues on in its pattern of everyday routine and nothing changes.

So my first step is to fall back on what I know. I find I can blog about physics and science easier than I can about the on-going stresses in my world these days. So I am tempting myself out of my routine by focusing on a few of my favorite topics. I hope, dear readers, that you still find me interesting, and hopefully not too boring. And maybe you can learn a little something as well as have a laugh at my expense. As a bonus, I promise (inspired by the incomparable Leslie) a future blog about the "Physics of Sex".

Want a short lesson on Inertia? Check out this YouTube cartoon (4 1/2 minutes)!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Geeky Gal is Back

I am a geeky gal. (This should be no surprise readers, see my blog title! Read my profile!) So when one of my favorite bloggers came up with the brilliant plan to set aside a day for reading, I was making big plans. You would not believe the stack of books next to my bed. Just a random sample: Micheal Crichton's "Next", "Dublin" by Edward Rutherfurd , "Planet Earth" (companion book to the BBC/Discover series), "Science and Philosophy" by Alfred North Whitehead (1948), and the one I finally settled on "Ideas and Opinions" a collection of writings by Albert Einstein. I chose the latter because it is a collection of his letters and writings on various subjects and I thought I could read sections at a time and not get too caught up. I forgot about my own tendency to obsess about reading anything I pick up cover-to-cover.

However, the best laid plans...etc. So while I have started this book, and even managed to read for a full hour on the appointed day, I am far from finishing. So this is no real book report. And it is heavy going. Not because of the geek stuff, though the latter chapters about his contributions to science do promise to be too much for the layperson. No, what I am most moved by is the realization that such a great mind and gentle soul were almost trapped and snuffed out by the fanaticism and hatred that was Germany in the 1930's and 40's. It is amazing that he got out. It is horrifying to think of the other great minds and talents that did not. It is moving to read his humility when he was already in his lifetime a revered and lauded personality. It is admirable that he still maintained his strong pacifism when so many of his relations, friends and acquaintances perished at the hands of the Nazis.

I am so humbled by his writings. And while I expected this to be the case when it came to his mind, I am surprised that this is also the case with his heart. He writes with tender emotion and such wisdom that I finish a passage in tears and find I have been holding my breath for far too long. So I share with you here, in his honor, some of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein himself:

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

"As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable."

"The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not."

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves."

"Something deeply hidden had to be behind things."

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

"I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war."

"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

"Humiliation and mental oppression by ignorant and selfish teachers wreak havoc in the youthful mind that can never be undone and often exert a baleful influence on later life."

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

And the best one of all, in my humble opinion:

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

You gotta admit, the guy gives you a lot to think about!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Missing... Action
Sorry. It has been hectic. It has been stressful. And to top it off I have only just gotten over a 10-day fibromyalgia headache. Not only did I not feel like moaning about it, but looking at the computer screen only made it worse, so I haven't even been lurking. Reading e-mails was about all I could possibly manage. Replying was often too much. I will soon do so to those of you who sent personal queries about my absence. I am better now. Not 100%, but better.

...all the Fun.
Reading was not much better. And my brain was so fried that I found I could hardly remember what I had just read. The only good side is that I get to catch up on all the lovely book reports about the Day to Read that was the brainstorm of the lovely SMID. I owe her one and feel very jealous that I could not take part. But I am sure there will be a next time.

...the Point.
Blogging is something that had become part of my daily routine. And I had some specific things that are close to my heart that I wanted to write about. But somehow I have gotten sidetracked by, well...Life, that thing that happens while we are busy making other plans. I am hoping that things will settle down a bit soon and I can again address some of my favorite topics like science, astronomy, and various ways to make sense of all the chaos around us!

Well actually, many links. Singular Saturday. Soap Opera Sunday. Music Monday. Day to Read. And so many fun memes, awards, interviews, challenges, questions,... (sigh). I need to get back into this, but am afraid I will have to do it slowly. And I have a lot of reading to catch up on!

...all of You.
Thanks for the lovely e-mails. It is nice to be missed but I do feel somewhat guilty for not replying sooner. I feel a bit disconnected and kinda lost, but I am confident that as soon as I start reading and commenting I will also be hearing back from you all.