The perfect speed bump

Sitting in traffic in the middle of London gives you a lot of time to think. Here’s a fun problem born entirely of frustration sat waiting to cross the Hammersmith bridge.

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img cmprssn w/ svd

Let’s get pedagogical. Often when analysing a system, it is useful to break a component down into pieces, and figure out which are the important ones (if any). There are many techniques for this, here I’ll look at one called ‘singular value decomposition’ in the context of image compression.

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Extractor attractor

Recently the extractor fan in my bathroom has started malfunctioning, occasionally grinding and stalling. The infuriating thing is that the grinding noise isn’t perfectly periodic – it is approximately so, but there are occasionally long gaps and the short gaps vary slightly. This lack of predictability makes the noise incredibly annoying, and hard to tune out. Before getting it fixed, I decided to investigate it a bit further.

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Fear of heights

I am a short man. I have an even shorter girlfriend. Odds are, any offspring would be short. Odds are, their partners would be similar or smaller in height, especially if they are male. Does this mean I am destined to be the heir to a slowly shrinking troglodyte race, my pristine DNA squirted from troll to troll until it degrades to a corrosive, fetid broth? Let’s put the thesaurus away and have a look.

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On which shaped planet am I the heaviest?

Continuing on from my last post concerning optimisation and Lagrange multipliers, I came across a neat little paper on the arXiv here, which asks and answers the question: what shape should a planet be to maximise the gravitational force at a given position? This is a fun problem, solved using an extension of the techniques from the last post, namely the use of Lagrange multipliers to optimise a function given some constraint.

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