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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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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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Another pointless post on playing through Disney Infinity 3.0 with my kid. In this installment, we encounter That One Mission that almost breaks our will to proceed. But the game is otherwise cute.

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Why Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually had me missing the prequels a little (though it's a better movie).

(This review reveals no plot points: if you haven't seen the movie, I don't think it will ruin it for you unless you are practicing a total information blackout. However, I'm not going to screen the comments for spoilers, here or there.)
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Yes, I loved the fact that the young budding Jedi here is a 'she' very much indeed! There is even a female villain. Wahoo! :-)
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I just showed this classic to my daughter. It is at precisely the level of her current sense of humor, and despite the passage of 37 years she gets all the references, with the exception of "Excuuuuuse me!"
 
"You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll kiss three bucks goodbye! Get in line now!" // How Ernie ever managed to get the great Paul Frees to narrate this is one of the wonders of the ages.
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ok, I forgot that was where flying toasters were from. Although these didn't have /wings/... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gD-JnD1DCo
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Have him in circles
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Matt McIrvin

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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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Another year, another Disney Infinity, and you can bet they're making the most of their biggest recent acquisition.

http://mmcirvin.livejournal.com/492954.html
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Bill Murray may never get the chance to steal that Wu-Tang Clan album from Martin Shkreli, but we do have this.

http://www.starwars.com/games-apps/star-wars-crawl-creator/?cid=567b2b04e4b00c42f705a386
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The timestamps seem to be different now... landing starts around 32:25.
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Over the weekend, we finally saw Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-Ray. Of all the ridiculous war vehicles, this thing with the backhoe on it is my favorite.

The movie has me wondering about the continuity of the Mad Max series, such as it is. Clearly it's been somewhat reimagined for Fury Road: the Tom Hardy Max is obviously younger than Gibson's Max was in Beyond Thunderdome, and the world seems slightly less decayed as well. Either this is an alternate timeline, or Fury Road takes place between The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) and Beyond Thunderdome. Perhaps we should be thinking of these as like the Bond movies, with a mild continuity refresh when the lead actor changes.

There's also the question of precisely when the nuclear war took place: I always assumed it was between the first two movies, but I'm surprised to find sources online saying it was after The Road Warrior. Fury Road is explicitly postwar, but the differences in the environment from the world of The Road Warrior are not that large.
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If you haven't seen it, perhaps give "The Rover" a try. It was a genre-match for the original Mad Max, as well as a substantially similar plot: some Guy (Pierce, in this case) trying to do his own thing with his own car in an desert outback Australia that was ruined by a relatively recent collapse of order. 
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Have him in circles
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Introduction
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.

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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