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Matt McIrvin
Attended College of William and Mary
Lives in Massachusetts
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Matt McIrvin

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Nice A Scanner Darkly shout-out near the end.
It’s fun for the occasional tech demo, but now we know the real reason that Google Glass, and other augmented reality solutions, have failed to catch on. The future they’ve promised us will eventually turn into the same nightmare that surfing the web has become—a sea of intrusive ads and countless another annoyances trying to sell you something.
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Not pictured: AdBlock, and fifteen minutes later, legislation banning 'gratuitous aural or visual distraction' after someone pulps a two-year-old.
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One of the world's most peculiar border anomalies is going away. And it's a good thing: the situation caused a lot of problems for the people who happened to be caught up in it.

Unlike the similar oddity at Baarle on the Dutch/Belgian border, which mostly functions as a tourist attraction.

(Via Randy McDonald on Facebook. This article is actually from last August, but it seemed to get relatively little notice at the time.)
Dahala Khagrabari was a part of India, surrounded by a Bangladeshi enclave, which was surrounded by an Indian enclave, which was surrounded by Bangladesh.
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Heh heh cooch... 
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The big W... is a mistake. If you can't fix what's broken, you'll go insane.

(via +Ray Radlein)
 
So much better than it ought to be.
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This could also be the trailer for a Fallout movie.

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Had some fun last night playing through the first bit of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, a game from a few years ago that is mostly new to me. It's interesting how completely it is the grownup version of the Pirates of the Caribbean playset from the first Disney Infinity. A lot of the play mechanics are practically identical.

Though the bits I remember Penny Arcade making fun of, where the awesome piratey action suddenly stops and you're a cube worker poking around an office in the present day, are jarring. I think it's funny that you're playing a dude who is imagining he's a pirate who is posing as an assassin who is secretly a Knight Templar. With a little more effort they could have had him also be a cowboy ninja astronaut.
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30 years later, these are still the best pictures we ever got of the moons of Uranus (newly processed by skilled amateur planetary photo editor Ted Stryk).

Emily Lakdawalla was reminded of these by Charon, but I agree with the people who think Ceres looks a lot like Umbriel.
January 24 was the 30th anniversary of the Voyager flyby of Uranus. Uranian moons have been on my mind ever since New Horizons sent us close-up images of Charon. On the occasion of the anniversary, Ted Stryk produced latest-and-greatest versions of the Voyager views of these worlds.
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...There were actually closer shots than these of Miranda, the one moon Voyager 2 passed relatively close to (because of the odd axial tilt of Uranus and its inner system of moons, Voyager was coming in at a high angle and could only approach one).
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Mike Brown gives the reasons to be skeptical of his claim that there is a large undiscovered planet in the far reaches of the solar system. My favorite part of the essay is the part that begins here:

From some very simple calculations we can show that the probability of these alignments happening due to chance is only about 0.007%. You could also say that there is a 99.993% chance that the alignments we are seeing in the outer solar system are real, and that we are not simply being fooled into seeing a pattern where none exists.

But, really, if you said that, you’d be wrong. Real statistics don’t work that way.

And he goes on to explain what should be kept in mind by anyone reading a sensational report of a tiny P-value, not just in astronomy but in medicine or particle physics or any other subject.
 
"  As you will see in the next post, I think Planet Nine is really out there. But that doesn’t mean you should think it is out there. You might be skeptical. In fact, I would prefer that you were skeptical.   "
[or: what keeps me up at night] As you will see in the next post, I think Planet Nine is really out there. But that doesn’t mean you should think it is out there. You might be skeptical. In fact, I would prefer that you were...
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...that's also the basis for the "margin of error" cited in opinion polls: it's an estimate of random sampling error that is determined entirely by the sample size, and makes no attempt to take into account whether the sample is badly biased or the questions asked in a leading manner. So to conclude that "the real value must be within +-X% of this one" based on the MOE is to leave out a lot.
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Matt McIrvin

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Sam Wang's correspondent "N." has come up with a mind-boggling method for predicting presidential primary votes using Google Correlate. Includes long, sometimes peculiar lists of correlated terms.
I will comment on the East Coast primaries at the end of the post. First I will write about something more interesting: Google Correlate! >>> In human genetics there is a form of analysis called a genome-wide association study (“GWAS”). In this kind of analysis, the researcher looks for bits of ...
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+Andrew G These lists will, I think, tend to exaggerate and thereby caricature any group differences between one candidate's supporters and another's, since terms preferred by both groups will fall out of the analysis. That said, the dominance of baked goods in the Sanders list is extraordinary.
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Numberphile is starting to get really ambitious! Here's a half-hour video describing how to find the analogues of Platonic solids in any number of dimensions. 4D has six whereas 3D space only has five... but, perhaps surprisingly, spaces of still higher dimensions only have three.

+John Baez mentioned some of the astonishing properties of the 24-cell a while ago; this video gets far enough to hint that it's special.
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Sequin's remark at the end about how, thanks to spacetime, "we live in that one [four dimensions] too", is interesting to ponder. We do and we don't. Our four-dimensional spacetime is more or less Lorentzian rather than Euclidean, so it doesn't have the same symmetry that these Platonic solids have (instead, it has the symmetry of 3D hyperbolic honeycombs embedded in four dimensions, with a vertex angle larger than 360 degrees). But many operations in quantum field theory involve analytically continuing a calculation from our space-time to a 4D Euclidean space and then bringing the result back to our world, so it's quite relevant.
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Another Life development from 2013 that I missed at the time was that somebody actually did modify Andrew Wade's Gemini pattern, a "spaceship" that moves by programmed construction of a new copy of itself, into a true replicator that replicates not just the constructor but also its instruction tape (the "DNA", so to speak).

The creator calls it a "linear propagator" rather than a replicator, because it's still not capable of reproducing quadratically. Still, it sounds good enough that I'd call it the first full realization of a replicator in Conway Life.

http://www.conwaylife.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1006&p=9917#p9901
codeholic wrote: Speaking about optimizations again... :roll: I thought that Output Copier could actually play the role of SE Reflector, if one could modify it in the way, that it could receive input from two directions (is it possible?) It's absolutely possible to make a Geminoid replicator ...
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Here's an essay I wrote in 2011 about Gemini, how it works, and why it's not quite a true replicator: http://mmcirvin.livejournal.com/458266.html
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This is a remarkable development.
 
Tiny c/10 orthogonal Life spaceship!!!!
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The copperhead is actually the slowest orthogonal spaceship known, though in principle arbitrarily slow ones could be made with self-construction techniques (the only ones of these that have been built travel at oblique angles).
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Why are there chins?
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Aside: there is no mystery as to why nothing else has a chin. One presumes that it would be very hard for an animal with a muzzle to have a chin. Mammals other than humans have muzzles. Humans don't, because the MYH16 gene is broken so the jaw muscle is much less strong than in other primates (at least) and the bone of the jaw grows correspondingly less (bone growth is stimulated by the strains on it). So that is, at least, a necessary precondition for a chin (though early protohumans had no muzzles and no chins, so it's not sufficient).
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Forgot to link to this post from about a week ago which, among other things, mentions my belated first experiences with the XBox One.

Further observations:

1. Far and away the biggest thing the One brings to my house is a far, far more stable XBox Live connection than the 360 could ever manage. I know, if I really cared about online gaming I'd set up a wired connection to the router instead of using wifi (but it's a pain in the butt given the way things are set up in our house). But either the One's ability to use the 5 GHz channel instead of the 2.4 GHz one is making a huge difference, or it's something specific to the different implementations of XBox Live.

In any event, I installed Destiny on the thing, and not getting kicked off the servers every ten minutes makes Destiny vastly more addictive. The game is also prettier on the newer hardware; it plays at higher resolution with better textures, but it's a subtle enough difference that the superior networking is the real enhancement. I've actually been playing Destiny more than Halo 5, as lovely as Halo 5 is.

2. Halo 5 plays great but I do think the lack of splitscreen is unfortunate. To me, splitscreen multiplayer with your friend in the same room is a huge part of what I think of as the essence of Halo. Everyone's moving toward network multiplayer and making everyone buy a copy of the game. I suppose it's nice having the whole screen to yourself, but you lose something in face-to-face socialization.

I also have to confess that some of the single-player campaign's storytelling is kind of opaque and muddled to me, maybe because I haven't played through all the previous games' campaigns in order (I think I've gotten all of some of them in dribs and drabs, playing with friends). For a while I didn't even get that the POV was switching between Locke and Master Chief. But it's mostly an excuse for nicely-executed gun battles with space monsters anyway.

And it is by far the most visually gorgeous version of Halo. Halo 4 upped the graphical quality but also went to a dustier, more Call of Duty aesthetic. Halo 5 bucks the trend and brings back the chromes and blues of the earlier installments. Some of the landscapes are full of colorful flowers. It's nice.

I never could take seriously the way the grunts yammer in English like mischievous fantasy dwarves, though, and they brought that back too.

3. Turns out the Disney Infinity base peripheral is not inter-compatible between the XBox 360 and the XBox One, which is ridiculous, since it's just a USB device. That means I can't just buy the core download for the One and transfer everything else over. I think this is the end of the line for us with that clever but greed-motivated kids' game; we'll keep the 360 around for playing it.
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A friend of mine does have the Master Chief Collection; the updated graphics for all the old Halo games are nice, but it does just make it more obvious how old-fashioned the gameplay in the earliest ones already feels. 
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Education
  • College of William and Mary
    Physics, 1986 - 1990
  • Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
    Physics, 1990 - 1997
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Matthew James McIrvin
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I'm the Matt McIrvin who lives in Massachusetts, formerly of northern Virginia.  I was trained as a particle physicist but quickly got into programming instead.

People who have been around on the net for a while may remember me from Usenet in the 1990s and early 2000s, posting mostly in physics-, science fiction- and humor-related groups. Since then I've hung out mostly on LiveJournal, but am curious about this Google+ thing.

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