Warped ideas

I was in Rome airport not long ago, and noticed that the reflection of the striped ceiling looked warped and bent due to the non-flatness of the reflecting surface:

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What else to do when waiting in the departures lounge?

As I’m sure will be familiar to any traveller, the excruciating boredom of an airport drives the mind to wander, so here is my derivation of the underlying mirror surface structure from this image.

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Axes of rotation

I recently tried my hand at throwing axes at a wall, courtesy of Whistle Punks in London. While this was a fun and satisfyingly macho activity, I noticed that the attendants were careful to position people at various distances from the target to increase their chances of success. This piqued my curiosity, so here I’ll have a look at why that might be.

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The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason

Intriguing title, no? These are the first eleven words of Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves, which set up the remaining 600 pages as an extended treatise on the future of humanity as it copes with certain annihilation. I thoroughly recommend it, as long as you can deal with hundreds of pages of orbital mechanics. In this post I will numerically explore this post-lunar age, to verify for myself if it would be as deadly as described.

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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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