Come, sweet homeostasis

If a dynamic equilibrium is disturbed by changing the conditions, the position of equilibrium moves to partially reverse the change.

Le Chatelier-Braun Principle

I was born in 1970s, weird times when our world insignificant blue dot in space had a strong, clear division. There were two oposing sides with Iron Curtain between them. Yin & Yang. PC and Mac. Mordor vs. a bunch of raggedy halflings led by a senile vagabond with a tenure. You get the idea.

Both sides of the coin competed on many levels in many domains. Science was, of course, one of them. Especially this part of science, which was considered sort of a status symbol for both of the conflicted boys. “Ha! My toy flies so, so high!” one of them would exclaim and point triumphantly to the sky. “Oh, yeah? Watch this!” replied the other one, and the chase continued.

Then, there was a sort of a thaw. Boys shook hands, even embraced and went to declare they were ‘best buddies’ from now on.




The whole Ukraine deal and current foreign affairs between Russia and Western part of the world are too complex, recent and potentially harmful to us all, that I will dare to comment on them in more detail here.

Enough said, the space exploration programme went totally bonkers too.

And yet (try to read this aloud in David Attenborough’s voice), Nature finds its way to adapt and moves on…

Where will this lead? Is it a hindrance or a solution? I have recently seen this film (and read the book, and recommend you do it too) and I am not too optimistic about the whole idea. One of many positive things that can be said about international cooperation is that the range of peer review and regulation is better then.

This news is both good and bad, I will now just say that at least exploration of space still continues. Somehow.

All right stop, collaborate and…

“Listen” was.. not bad. Not bad at all.


  1. Initial Doctor’s soliloquy – great hook to keep me watching. And listening.
  2. Puffer fish CGI – no comments.
  3. Wonderful socially awkward conversation during Clara and Danny’s date (dates?)
  4. Plot developed nicely and smoothly, there was this constant feeling of being in the middle of a mighty clusterfuck.
  5. “Scared is superpower!” – great line. Also: “dad’s skills”.
  6. Solution – they got me this time. I liked it. Well done.

All in all, the biggest flaw of this episode was: it did not really induce my rage, so this review is just this bland list.

Beneath the Spherical Cap Part 2

Last time we have come to the conclusion that, indeed, the air at the top of the Dome can be significantly colder than that near the surface.

Provided, of course, we consider the Dome to be permeable by air. I can assume, that if this whole system is closed and does not interact with the rest of the atmosphere in any way, its temperature gradient might behave differently. And there is a strong evidence that this invisible barrier is impenetrable, because once it has been hit by a MOAB. And nothing bad happened to its inhabitants.

Hmm, how can I be sure? If only this barrier wasn’t some unexplained, mysterious phenomenon, that cannot be described. Oh, wait.

For the time being, let’s assume there’s some interaction and flow between inside and outside of the Dome (at least on particle scale or microscopic level). And the air at the top has the temperature of roughly -30 degree Celsius as calculated before.

Is there really enough cold air (in proportion to warmer, near the surface) to cause freezing when mixed up? And what is cold air and what, exactly is warm?

chester's milltempboundary

If the temperature at ground level is 21°C, then at 1000 m it is 14.5°C, at 2 km it equals 8°C, at 3 km it is 1.5°C and at about little more than 3.23 km it drops below the value of freezing point for water.

I will use this as my divide boundary. What is below is ‘Warm Air‘ from now on, what is above this 3.23 km level I will consider as ‘Cold‘.

What is the ratio between those two? Well, if it was a cube or rectangular hexahedron, not a dome, we would say that there’s about 40% of Warm Air and the rest is Cold Air. Case solved, move on.

But a dome is not a cube. Its volume is not s3 (s is length of any side). It equals two thirds of its radius cubed and multiplied by π.

I will calculate the volume of the whole Dome. Radius is 8.045km, so:

V = 2/3 * 8.0453  * 3.1416 = 2/3 * 520.689 * 3.1416 = 2/3 * 1635.7966 = 1090.5311 km3

Now, we need to somehow find out the radius of the smaller circle that is created by sectioning the Dome with a plane parallel to its base at the height of 3.23 km. Actually, I sort of cheated here and constructed a semicircle in Inkscape (with grid and exact values in centimeters) and by using precisely measured rectangles I was able to estimate this radius to be around 7.373 km. Correct me if I am wrong here, please!

The Volume of Cold Air needs a slightly modified equation: It’s no longer a hemisphere, it is a spherical cap, i.e. its height is lower than the radius of its base. Radius is 7.373 km, height is (8.045 km – 3.23 km) 4.815 km.

V = 1/6 * π * height (3 * radius2 + height2)

V = 420.11 km3

Volume of Warm Air is thus: 1090.53 – 420.11 = 670.42 km3

So, inside the Dome, actually 61% of air has temperature above 0°C.


It does not look like this because picture is not to scale. I will work on this, I promise.

I have to stop here, I need to see a doctor. To be continued.

Beneath the Spherical Cap Part 1

I’ve just seen the trailer for one of Under the Dome episodes. I was once a fan of Stephen King, but I moved on and do not enjoy it as much as before. One of those things that living for too long does to one’s mind, I s’pose.

Not much moved by the plight of people in the aforementioned trailer, or their goals and personal traits, I was nonetheless intrigued by the freezing part of the excerpt. I searched for synopsis of the very episode and came across this paragraph (after Wikipedia):

The Dome begins to rotate, which shifts the colder air of the upper atmosphere downward, sending Chester’s Mill into a deep freeze.

“This looks like a job for the Nit-picking Man!” I said to myself, and proceeded to gather information.

First of all, I looked for some articles on the Dome in Google Scholar. To my surprise there was none, so I had to resort to this site as my main source on the topic.

The main premise for the story is as follows (my own summary):

There is a typical US town, blah, blah, blah, one day its citizens and few passers-by are cut off from the rest of the world by a giant impenetrable yet transparent force field or barrier that seems to be of unknown origin, blah, blah, blah. They are confused, many people die, their resources become scarce, and so on and so forth…

What about the size of the phenomenon? According to the series wiki page:

The Dome is estimated to be 10 miles in diameter and of unknown height.

So, in other words, the diameter equals about (10 * 1609m) 16090 metres or 16.09 km in SI units.

Great, I told myself, some data to crunch!

Some maths first: a dome is really a part of a sphere that has been sectioned with a plane. Take a look at this (crude) picture:


This is a sphere, r stands for its radius; all r’s are equal in length and they meet exactly in the center; if you combine a blue r with a red r you’ll get the diameter of the sphere.

Now, let’s cut our sphere into two identical halves. You just have to position your sectioning plane so that it’ll go through sphere’s center and apply a gentle mental push.


We now have a hemishpere – basically a dome that has its height equal to the radius of the base.

It’ll be our model of what the Dome from the TV series can look like. Let’s put Chester’s Mill inside and ponder about the dimensions.

chester's mill

Height is half the diameter, so it’s a little bit more than 8 kilometres.

Now we need some meteo stuff. Earth’s atmosphere is not a homogenous gas cloud around our planet, but rather a layered cake of different densities and temperatures.

The lowest and most dense part is the troposphere – a layer of air about 17 km thick (on average – it’s much thinner above the Polar regions and a bit deeper around the Equator). We live just at its bottom and breathe it every day.

Because the higher we get in the troposphere, the less dense the air becomes, it gets colder and colder in the process. We can approximate that the temperature drops roughly 6.5 °C for each kilometre that we go up. This varies if the air contains little or no water vapor, but since landscape in the series does not resemble Sahara, let’s stick to humid air coefficient.

Now, some more maths and another hastily painted picture:

chester's milltempdrop

If we went up to the highest point of the sphere this temperature drop would be 52.29°C (8.045 km * 6.5 °C).

Series takes place in Maine, US. I assume it’s the middle of summer. According to this site, temperatures in this state are in range from 15 to 27 °C in July. Let’s average that to 21 °C.

It would mean that at 8 km up from the center of the Dome the air temperature drops to -31.29°C (21-52.29). That’s pretty much fracking freezing if you asked me.

But let’s not jump to hasty conclusions yet, shall we?

To be continued…

Deep Breath

No, no, I’m not going back to that dreadful experience, instead, have a tune, everyone!

Another geobiological boundary has to be relocated. According to this research. A more open access explanation is to be found here.

That’s not the first time someone presented evidence for presence of small amounts of O2 on Earth before GOE, but this one pushes the beginning of the changes even further back.

60 million years may not look much from pure geological perspective, but this find might help to further pinpoint the evolutionary period during which cyanobacteria or their ancestors developed.

Deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder

Title taken from this. As before, I recommend you play it along while reading. It adds uplifting feeling to the article, quite unexpectedly.

One of the things I like to ponder upon is the Origin of Life.

This is going to be a long road ahead for science, and combined effort of biologists, astrophysicists and chemists will be required to solve this puzzle.

However, small steps like this might provide necessary basic data to base future research on.

The whole mission of Rosetta spacecraft is a fascinating story indeed. 10 year long chase in space! A giant ball of ice and dust is being pursued by a robot that uses gravity of planets it passes in order to speed up and steer through the cold, unforgiving vacuum of the Solar system*! That’s a good Doctor Who episode plot.

So far there are surprises and there are hopes. There are indications of hydrogen and oxygen present in the atmosphere, but no (expected) ice-water has been observed.

The lander Philae will kick up the show a notch in November, when it will attempt to contact the surface and further provide us with more data as the comet approaches the Sun and begins to heat up.


*) I know it is a cliche, but I could not resist.


We Are the Robots

First of all, to get you in the mood – a song! I listened to it while writing, so you can reverse-engineer my ‘creative’ process.

Now, to the point. Robot of Sherwood has happened. Here are my observations, in form of a brief* list.


1.) Capaldi is getting better and better and the quality of the writing plummets.

2.) If this trend continues, I’ll have to edit out any scenes not containing him from the last episode in order to save my sanity.

3.) Twelve has changed his shirt! Purple** is the new fez.

4.) ANOTHER reference to ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. Is this some sort of a fetish thing?

5.) ANOTHER case of “We live in Medieval times, brush our teeth regularly, wash our hair and use cosmetics.”

6.) ANOTHER MacGuffin saves the day at the end of the day.

7.) As I said earlier, this was edited out, however, another scene of decapitation*** was shown without any changes. With severed robotic head in close-up. And beheading was freely discussed in this episode as well.

8.) Sheriff of Nottingham was ok. In fact, he seemed the most human of them all.

9.) ALSO: Is it me or Ben Miller in this episode DOES look and sound like Christoph Waltz with a fake beard?

10.) How to destroy a killer cyborg who does not die? Simple, throw him into molten metal. Innovative and groundbreaking!

11.) Clara was… strange. I don’t know why, but she acted like a robot through the majority of her screen time. I really had some uncanny valley vibes whenever she spoke.

12.) Homage**** to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – namely the scene when peasants have to perform meaningless slave work while being supervised by heartless guards.

13.) Where was Rabbi Tuckman? I surely remember him from the classic version of the legend.

14.) Missy did not welcome anyone ‘in Heaven’*****. There was some doodling with chalk though. Beautiful Mind style.

15.) SOME unnecessary meta that could otherwise be implied by viewers or is already described by decades of lore established during previous series.

16.) I’m starting to write longer and longer points. Time to finish.

One final comment: I was searching for a nice phrase to use as a title of this post and came across this song. I know nothing about the band, might listen to them later, though.


*) I’m afraid if I allow myself to write in longer paragraphs my rage will take control.

**) Possible reference? No, but it’s a nice idea. I would do it if I were Moffat.

***) He was a robot, it does not count!

****) French for ‘rip-off’.

*****) Yup, this is Heaven. Really. OR MAYBE IT ISN’T! BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *moans of tortured souls & smell of hydrogen sulfide*

Virtual violence is still violence

I’ve started following We Hunted the Mammoth, an interesting blog that deals with problems of misogyny and shares my feminist opinions.  From what I can see, there’s always a huge discussion there and people actually use reasoning and do not stick to platitudes when explaining their point of view.

Recently, a new post has been published there and I decided to add my 3 eurocents to the comments.

I wrote:

Many accuse video games of increasing violence and causing psychological harm. I’m far from such biased views, but if we take a look at the history we can see that at some point games become violent. And I mean REALLY violent. Like psycho-crazy-rapist violent. Topics got darker, more gloomy, more gory. What was niche became a required feature. Graphics got better and we can now see everything in fine detail.

I think players were strongly influenced by those changes. They saw violent and criminal behaviour presented as acceptable, as excused by artistic licence. They got used to phenomenon of being violent in the reality of a game-world. They felt ok inside.

Soon after, Jono replied:

@slivarth, No I disagree. There’s virtually no evidence that violence in video games causes violence in real life. There are some studies that find a correlation and some that don’t. Overall though, correlation does not equal causation. Yes, I agree that there are some assholes in gaming but the majority of gamers are not assholes nor are they violent, myself included.

Well, I never said gamers become violent in real life. Such cases are extremely rare and hard to prove. What I meant was that gory violence inside games became staple of a modern storyline.

A note on the correlation/causation topic. I believe the correct phrase is correlation does not IMPLY causation which does not totally exclude B from being true if sentence A->B has to be changed to A->C.

Also the reaction of male gamers towards other people with different opinions is scary. There are no boundaries, they jump to death threats at the very begining!

Again, the question remains is the gaming industry attracting or creating such mindsets? As in any complex systems it might be a combination of both.