A birthday salute to one of my giants

While I was preparing my Darwin day post it occurred to me that I don’t take the time to celebrate the giants upon whose shoulders I stand in my everyday work. Researching the birth dates of my personal giants it became clear that the majority have SI units named for them. Since my initial list came out too short for my purposes, I decided to add in birthdays for everyone whom has an SI unit named for them. The additions gave me a list that is long enough to sink my teeth into. My first entry doesn’t fit neatly into the categories I outlined above but, his contribution is important to embedded systems designers everywhere.

James Thomson was born February 16, 1822 in Belfast Ireland, he was the first son of James and Margaret Thomson. His mother, Margaret Gardner Thomson died in 1830 so his father James raised their seven children alone. In 1832 his father took up the Chair of Mathematics at Glasgow University and two years later at the age of twelve James and his younger brother William began studying at the university. James graduated in 1839 and began his apprenticeship as a civil engineer but do to health reasons decided he was not cut out for the hard physical labor common to civil engineers of the day. So beginning around 1843 he devoted himself to inventing machines and theoretical studies making many contributions to physics and engineering. He was living in Belfast when in 1857 he became Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen’s College. He stayed in Belfast until 1873 when he accepted the Glasgow University Regius Chair in Civil Engineering. He remained at the University of Glasgow until 1889 and died May 8, 1892.

While James Thomson had many achievements including helping his brother William (Lord Kelvin) he caught my eye because of the radian. The term radian was used in print for the first time by James on June 5, 1873 in examination questions he wrote at Queen’s College. He also helped spread the adoption of this unit of measurement in consultations with other scientists and engineers. (See A History of Mathematics By Florian Cajori, page 484) He is also credited with the invention of the non-SI unit the poundal.

The radian is the SI derived unit of measurement for a plane angle. Most people are more familiar with degrees for measuring angles however, the radian is extremely important because it encapsulates the value of PI. PI, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is an irrational real number that can create a mess in formulas when degrees are used for the angle measurement.

So, lets raise a glass and toast James Thomson, MA, DSc, LLD, FRS for being a giant on who’s shoulders we can all stand!

References and further reading:
Dictionary of Ulster Biography
Who, Where and When: The History & Constitution of the University of Glasgow [pdf]
His father
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

The radian
Angle measurement
Radian Measure
A History of Mathematics By Florian Cajori
Origin of Radians

Happy Darwin Day

Today, February 12th, we celebrate Charles Darwin‘s birthday. Take a moment to read this short biography or view his life in pictures. If you’re more ambitious you can read some of his great works at Project Gutenberg or the University of Cambridge Darwin website.

Over the past year and a half I’ve looked at the intelligent design hypothesis debate. I’ve read everything I could find written by the proponents and I can’t find anything useful in this hypothesis. It very simply boils down to a hypothesis that when you see something in biology that you can’t explain, stop looking for an explanation and simply say, it’s that way because some intelligent designer made it that way.

So, as far as I can tell, proponents of the intelligent design hypothesis are either trying to avoid doing the hard work (lazy) or are simply pushing to substitute a philosophy/religion for science. I firmly believe we should not teach laziness or philosophy/religion in science classes lest we stop all the wonderful advancements that humanity can make in coming centuries.

Firefox problem fixed

I’ve been having a problem with slow response from Firefox 2 on one of the PC’s I use. Pages would stutter just before finishing loading and opening empty new tabs was slow. Occasionally Firefox would crash hard while loading pages.

Since it was only this PC with the symptom I figured it was one of the many add-ons causing the trouble. I disabled them all and sure enough the problem disappeared. Carefully re-enabling add-ons a few at a time I determined the culprit was MozCC.

A Google search led to this promising article but then I realized I already had a newer version. Checking the comments on the main MozCC page gave me the solution posted by Tyran. I quickly hacked up the version override and MozCC 1.21 works great in Firefox 2.

Internet problems yesterday

Two days ago I posted about the problems I had with Yahoo Mail Plus, the paid service. Well things seem back to normal today. Problems continued to a lesser degree all day yesterday including an e-mail stating “Your account has been temporarily disabled from receiving new messages” in the afternoon. I reported the problem to Yahoo three times Monday starting in the morning and they didn’t acknowledge my reports until 7:48 PM . At 3:02 this morning they sent acknowledgments for the problem reports with the third acknowledgment at 3:22 AM. If they had a prompt automated response I probably wouldn’t have sent three reports and gotten so mad.

On a related note, the net seemed a bit slow overall to me yesterday. Checking around a bit I couldn’t find any reports of major problems. The Internet Health Report looked OK and the Internet Traffic Report appears broken (North America index and link in the table). The net seemed a bit unreliable so I decided to put off finalizing some e-shopping until the net seemed reliable (I hate having a net error while entering an order). This morning I checked to see if there had been any unusual problems yesterday and found this Wired AP News article. Now I know it wasn’t my LAN or non-scientific gut feeling but a real issue.

Karen Hunter, Debbie Schlussel are hate mongering bigots

I’m shocked at CNN giving air time to the hate speech from these bigoted intolerant women (they are certainly not ladies, transcript here). What ever happened to the belief in religious freedom that is in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Check out the video and read this article for yourself and also the excellent commentary by PZ Myers. Please voice your opinion on this to CNN via the CNN feedback link.
Here’s what I sent to CNN:

Re: Paula Zahn Now: Karen Hunter, Debbie Schlussel, Stephen A. Smith on Atheism.

This was the most disgustingly one sided bashing of a minority I have ever seen on CNN. I’m shocked that you did not make any effort to have an atheist on the panel. What’s next a whole panel full of White Hooded Clansmen discussing non-white people and saying we’re a white nation.

If the subject of discussion had been any other minority group you would never get away with espousing such hatred and mis-information.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. I’m sure Roger Williams (1603-1684) is rolling over in his grave at the state of religious intolerance in this country.

I’m slowly beginning to feel that religion IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL in this world. These two woman should be made to live in one of the many repressive Islamic countries for a while and then see if they still think that religion should be forced on people by the state. Perhaps being forced to wear a burka and be a slave to men will wake them up to where their religious intolerance leads.

Yahoo mail followup

Since it was after 18:00EST and the problem from my last post had not been corrected or even acknowledged, I decided to send a third message to Yahoo mail support.

Here’s what I sent:


All day your server is showing my inbox as having ZERO messages but using 4 gigabytes! (screenshots at http://www.paulhutch.com/wordpress)

Please fix immediately or at least acknowledge the problem.

I’m a paying Mail Plus customer and I am beginning to think I had better change to another provider.

Of course, as soon as I returned to my Yahoo mail page after sending the message it was fixed. Thanks Yahoo for fixing it but, it would have been nice if you at least acknowledged receipt of the error reports.

Yahoo Mail problem

This morning Yahoo’s mail servers are screwed up. If you’re trying to e-mail me at my paid for Yahoo Mail Plus account it probably is bouncing. My other email accounts are working OK so use those if you’re getting a bounce.

As of 14:00 EST, I’ve contacted Yahoo support twice and have not received a response.

This is what I see when I login to the web page (click to see full size):

When I click the “More Info” link I see this(click to see full size):

So my inbox has no messages but uses 4 gigabytes of space, hmm sure looks like a Yahoo server error to me.