Archive for June, 2011

Happy τ Day!

That’s right, its τ Day! Wait, what?

Recently, I have found an interesting proposal regarding the number π (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, or, 3.14159265358979…and so on…). It states that using π is not the best choice and that we should use a constant that is equal to 2π, which is 6.283185307179586…and so on… Basically, the ratio between the circumference of a circle to it radius is more basic a concept than circumference to diameter.

So what’s the difference? Well the main point is that in almost every single equation that you encounter in math and physics that comes with a π in it, it actually comes as 2π or some multiple thereof. Therefore, it is more convenient to simply write τ (called “tau”), one character, than 2π, which is two characters. Physicists like to simplify things as much as possible when they can.

Therefore τ Day is 6/28, which is today!

There are other reasons too. Conceptually, it is more intuitive. Travelling τ radians takes you once around a circle. Travelling τ/2 radians takes you halfway. One tenth of a circle is τ/10, and so on. For π, the values would be 2ππ, and π/5, which don’t really make sense. Travelling π/5 takes you a tenth of the way around a circle, rather than a fifth?

Anyway, I love it, and maybe I’ll try to use it on some test and see what happens (initially noting that τ = 2π, of course).

Metric Time

The idea of re-doing the clock to use the metric system is something that is appealing to me, but I must admit I don’t see the idea catching on anytime soon.

The best system I believe is one based on the day, where days are divided into partitions that differ by some factor of ten (like 10, 100, 1000, etc.). There are currently 86,400 seconds in one day, so it seems logical to divide a day into 100,000 parts, and so that each “tick” of the metric clock will be almost as long as the current second.

My proposal is that the day is divided into 100 “hours” (equal to 14.4 minutes), which is then divided into 100 “minutes” each (equal to 8.6 seconds). You could have a decimal after that which could count the “seconds”, but it’s necessary.

Basically, under this system, looking at the clock would immediately tell you how far through the day you are. “25:00” would be around sunrise. “50:00” would be noon. “00:00” would be midnight.

I also programmed an analog/digital metric clock so you can see how this works:

(Download here)

The clock automatically syncs up with your computer’s time, so all you have to do is run the program.

Atheism: Good Enough…

I like funny infographics. Here’s one:

(From here. L-R, T-B: Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sagan, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin.)

Now, you might argue that not all the men pictured here were really atheists. While it is true that people like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin did believe that there was probably some sort of god, it was only because scientific knowledge in that day was so lacking.

In the 18th and first half of the 19th century, there was no theory of evolution, or the big bang. It would have been very difficult to reject the Christian belief that god created everything, when there was no real alternative theory that could explain everything. If you could somehow bring these people into the 21st century, and teach them all that science has discovered along with the vast bulk of evidence that goes along with it, I’m almost certain they would accept it.

What we do know for certain is that all the people pictured were not faithful Christians, or believed in a personal god.  And that they were at least adherents to rational thought and skepticism, which is the most important thing of all.