Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Sugar-in-the-raw vs. white sugar came up at brunch today, so I decided to look into it. This was the most surprising sentence in the Wikipedia Sugar page: is impossible to develop cavities in the absence of fermentable carbohydrates.
Wow! I love the word "impossible" when used somewhat scientifically.

To answer the original question, sugar-in-the-raw, or natural brown sugar, is made by not extracting as much molasses while refining. It is produced during the first crystallization of the sugarcane, while white sugar, or table sugar, is produced after the third boiling and crystallization.

Or something like that.

Natural brown sugar is different from the brown sugar we bake with, which is white sugar with molasses blended back in.


(Confession: I thought white sugar was bleached like flour is. My bad.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Muphry's Law

Browsing the "see also" list on Wikipedia's Occam's Razor page, I made a beeline for "Murphy's Law." Being a Murphy, I'm relatively familiar with the phrase, but I've never looked into its origin. I clicked the link and saw this:
Not to be confused with what?

Turns out, "Muphry's Law" is fairly recently-coined adage that states "if you write anything criticizing editing or proofing, your writing will contain some kind of typo".  It's the Murphy's Law of literary criticism, and I'm a firm believer.

The law, as defined by John Bangsund of the Society of Editors states:
(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
(d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent. 
Muphry's Law also dictates that, if a mistake is as plain as the nose on your face, everyone can see it but you. Your readers will always notice errors in a title, in headings, in the first paragraph of anything, and in the top lines of a new page. These are the very places where authors, editors and proofreaders are most likely to make mistakes.

So this is why my book reviews are so hard to edit. Also, now I know how difficult it is to misspell my name on purpose.

Source: Muphry's Law on Wikipedia, Canberra Society of Editors

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Acting you age, however you act

I can't even vote on Mars
Have you ever been told to "act your age"?

You were probably doing something immature or foolish at the time and the speaker undoubtedly wished to admonish you.

Now you can prove that you are acting your age by informing your would-be scolder that you are only 12-years-old (...on Mars).

Nah-na-na-na na-naaah.

Your Age on Other Planets

Friday, October 22, 2010

Occam's Razor

Occam on a Wigu t-shirt
So this guy, Ockham, never actually said, "the simplest explanation is usually the correct one." That is kind of what he was implying though. What Father William de Ockham actually said was "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." In other words, do not add what is not needed.  He also said "Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora [It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer]."

As for the razor? It's what you use to cut down to the essential idea, "shaving away unnecessary assumptions."

My favorite part of the Occam's Razor wikipedia page was the "See Also" section.

 Don't mind if I do...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Time and Peanut Butter

Turns out that a "jiffy" is an actual unit of time, though it has a different definitions depending on context, but it's usually the time it takes light (or energy) to travel a short distance.  It might have originated as the length of time it takes for light to travel one centimeter (which is measured in picoseconds). Now physics sometimes defines it as the time it takes light to travel the smallest imaginable space.

When I hear "jiffy" I now think of it as the time it takes for the smell of peanut butter produced at the local Jif plant to reach my nose.  Jif is a brand of peanut butter owned by Smuckers and their factory in Lexington, KY is the largest producer of peanut butter in the world. I am lucky enough to live roughly 500 meters from the plant, which makes smells that vary from burnt popcorn to a mild nutty scent.

Friday, October 1, 2010

GDP by State!

GraphJam is an amusing site over at Cheez Burger (aka lolcats). While usually breaking down things like How Lady Gaga likes her steaks, every now and then there is an economic gem such as if the states were renamed by GDP:

Click to zoom


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Horse Capital of the World

There are five horse capitals of the world. Four of them are in the United States (the other is in France, go figure). I'm pretty happy to live in one of them, especially as the World Equestrian Games approach.

Source: wikipedia