User:DirkvdM

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Main Contents
My contributions (well, some of them)
Why everyone should adopt the SI system
Alternative to the Big Bang theory
Mendeleyevian Mechanics
Countries I have visited
Dirkvdm.jpg
This editor is a Veteran Editor II, and is entitled to display this Bronze Editor Star.

My name is Dirk van der Made and I live in the Netherlands (Amsterdam). I have studied management and philosophy and my fields of interest are just about anything new (which is why Wikipedia is so addictive to me), but especially science, music and travelling.
In 2015 I followed a one-year course in 3D modelling (scanning, designing, printing). My portfolio is on a subpage of this page. For this course I did an internship at Ultimaker, where I subsequently got my present job as engineer at Special Projects.

I discovered Wikipedia in March 2005 and was instantly hooked - it became quite an addiction for about 2 years.

On this page are some quotes in frames, to the right. The yellow ones are from others and the purple ones are my own.

After a bit of fun, the following starts with my Wikipedia-contributions, but if you're into physics, don't miss the physics section. For a model I placed on YouMagine, I also wrote an explanation of how a Stirling engine works. This is my interpretation of what I read in the Wikipedia articles - I hope I got it right. :)


WikiFun[edit]

From the Babel fish article:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.


And here's another gem, linked to at the ref desk by Edison:

Horses have an even number of legs. Behind they have two legs and in front they have fore legs. This makes six legs, which is certainly an odd number of legs for a horse. But the only number that is both odd and even is infinity. Therefore horses have an infinite number of legs.


Chestbeating[edit]

Some of the work I've done during my more than two year long addiction (from mid 2005 until 31 October 2007), during which time I've done 12530 edits on 2245 pages ([2]).
Three sections here:

  • Photographs I uploaded.
  • Major work on Wikipedia proper.
  • Links to articles where I did some more (minor) work, embedded in a text that is basically an introduction to me.


Photographs[edit]

For some beautiful photography of Cuba and Costa Rica Zleitzen 08:02, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Babel
nl Deze gebruiker heeft het Nederlands als moedertaal.
li Dizze gebroeker haet Limburgs as modertaal.
en-4 This user can contribute with a near-native level of English.
de-3 Dieser Benutzer hat sehr gute Deutschkenntnisse.
es-2 Este usuario puede contribuir con un nivel intermedio de español.
fr-2 Cet utilisateur peut contribuer avec un niveau intermédiaire en français.
af-2 Hierdie gebruiker het 'n gemiddelde begrip van Afrikaans.
id-1 Pengguna ini mampu bersumbangsih dengan bahasa Indonesia tingkat dasar.
fy-1 It Frysk fan dizze brûker is minimaal.
HTML-2 This user is an intermediate HTML user.
sw-0 Mtumiaji huyu hasemi Kiswahili.
Search user languages
Aaaaaaargh, that's me!
Yes, I admit, I voted VVD once upon a time. I've grown up since, though.

Photography has become a bit of a hobby of mine in the last few years, so I thought I'd upload some nice ones. I started this here at the English Wikipedia, on a subpage of my user page, but I restarted that on Wikimedia commons to make them directly accessible from any Wiki project. That is also a better selection and presentation. In the process I've created an online portfolio. Not necessarily of the best ones, just some that I considered useful for Wikipedia.

Another (more recent) selection of my photographs can be found at Fotocommunity.

My photos can be found all over the web. Image Googling my name results in some 40 of them. That's just the ones on the sites that have had the decency to put the credits directly under the photograph, but there must be many more who didn't. Sometimes I even stumble upon one while browsing the Internet.
Here my photograph isn't only hailed as 'herrlich' (wonderful, aka wunderbaaaar), but my name is also a link to my Wikimedia Commons user page. If only everyone did this. :)

I have also created some stubs just to place my photos, such as National Park De Groote Peel.

I received several offers for my photographs, which I grouped together at User:DirkvdM/Photo-sales.

DirkvdM beetle shed skin.jpg For some interesting photos by others see:
  • A beautiful photo of the movement of the Sun over a year. For a further explanation, see Analemma.
  • A bunch of beautiful photos of moments frozen in time.
  • A bunch of silly photographs (plus some other stuff). Close to 200 pages (navigation links at the bottom). Alas the page numbers change over time, so I can't link to the best ones. Not even the one that has one of my photographs, of a different kind of beetle that also sheds its skin. So I put that here.


Major article contributions[edit]

British Isles (terminology)[edit]

An article I started to clarify terms like (Great) Britain, the British Isles, the UK and England (and whether Ireland has anything to do with any of these), because that will be a mystery to many people and there was no comprehensive explanation in a single (obvious!) place. There have been several structural and other changes, but still a large part of the text is originally mine.

Schunck and Glaspaleis[edit]

An article I started on the warehouse that my great-grandfather founded in Heerlen and the monumental 'Glass Palace' my grandfather built to house it. Originally one article, but someone split it, which made sense. Actually, the two articles have grown so much now that they could almost do with another split (each).
On 16 December 2006, 15 months after I started the articles, the Glaspaleis article got a rating of B class with high importance. I suppose the verifiability of data will hamper a rise on the scale because my sources were largely in print, not from the web, and even from the city archives, which are only accessible by going there. Mid 2009, the articles still consisted largely of my original texts.

Valkenburg resistance[edit]

An article I started because it was started by my uncle and because it's a good example of how the resistance operated in the Netherlands during WWII. It's largely based on a story in Dutch on a site about my family (mother's side).

Template:List of cabinets of the Netherlands[edit]

A sudden interest in politics in 2006 led me to make this overview of the composition of cabinets in the Netherlands.

Corcovado National Park[edit]

This was a mere stub. I transformed it into a complete article because this magnificent park deserves it. I know what I'm talking about - I do a lot of 'tramping' (as Kiwis call it) and I have yet to find another park that comes anywhere near this one when it comes to watching spectacular wildlife.

Stranger in the forest[edit]

An article I started on an excellent travel book. Never mind novels. This is real and a more thrilling story than any novelist could come up with. And if he did, people would think he wasn't being realistic. If you like it, then also read Adrift, another great 'travel' book (although in this case it was not intended as such).

Onedin Line[edit]

One of the best series I've ever seen on tv. Partly because it is to do with sailing ships, one of my passions. But also because of the realistic portrayal of business practices (an emerging business, not the rich daddy shit called 'Dallas'), historical accuracy, good acting and social drama kept to a minimum. I wrote the episode section and the Onedin Line episode list. Alas, the rerun on Dutch tv I based this on stopped after the first season.
Some other sailing-related articles I contributed to are SAIL Amsterdam (expanded the stub), Ship replica (started the article) and some (tall) ships, such as the Stad Amsterdam and Batavia (ship).

Peace One Day[edit]

A stub I made into a full article, about a guy with a seemingly wacko idea to create world peace one day per year, who actually managed to create an influential international movement. Not yet successful and maybe it never will be, but still I admire the initiative, if only because it makes people think the unthinkable.

Black Tulip[edit]

An article I started, on an operation in the aftermath of the Second World War in the Netherlands.

Hiking equipment[edit]

An article I started. Basically a list. I plan to do more editing on the subjects of hiking and travelling. Alas, some folk decided that 'hiking' is about daytrips and changed the intro into something quite different from what the article was intended to be about. The confusion about what words like 'hiking', 'backpacking' and 'hostel' mean is rather widespread on Wikipedia (in the US they seem to mean something different from what they mean elsewhere), so tackling this problem would take a lot more time than I can afford to spend on it, so I just left it as it is for now.

Seven Ages of Rock[edit]

An article I started and largely wrote myself. Music plays a important role in my life and this is largely about the music I grew op with.

Misrepresentation of the People Act[edit]

Not such a big article, but it's a very interesting subject.

Reference desk FAQ[edit]

By popular demand, a faq list for the reference desk. I encountered many questions that had been asked before there, so I already came up with the idea in the first half of 2006. When other people started requesting it too, I decided to give it a go. This had the potential to turn into the biggest thing I started on Wikipedia. However, it is not being linked to very often, so I wonder how many of the regulars at the ref desk even know it exists. The chicken-and-egg demon strikes again.

List of animals in Artis Zoo[edit]

This one's at the Dutch Wikipedia. Because I bought a membership card and live nearby I started visiting regularly, taking shitloads of photos. Which I had to organise. So I had to come up with a system. While at it, I started making maps. As it became more organised, I thought I might as well make it complete, so I could upload it to Wikipedia. Which meant a whole lot more work than I had intended. Tens of hours, actually. By now, I know Artis so well that I barely need the maps or the scheme any more. Ah, well.

Other article contributions[edit]

Noia 64 apps karm.svg This user has been on Wikipedia for 13 years, 2 months and 25 days.
NewTux.svg This user contributes using Linux.

This is basically an introduction to me, an overview of some of my fields of interest (of which there are too many to mention here). The links are to articles I worked on. Don't expect too much - most of my work is spread over loads of articles - a bit here, a bit there.

Being from Amsterdam I have worked on articles relating to that city and the Netherlands, including History of the Netherlands and Maastricht, the city in which I grew up.
And also related to the Netherlands are Curaçao (where I was born) and Indonesia (the country I've spent most time in during my travels), which in turn led me to the Dayaks (of whom I've made a bit of a study in the early 1990's while planning a crossing of Borneo).
I created the stubs on the Peel, a region in the Netherlands, and the National Park Groote Peel (both just to have somewhere to put some nice photographs :) ).
The original (Dutch) version of Santa Claus is Sinterklaas, so I made a point of pointing that out.
Being from Amsterdam of course I couldn't help having my say about cannabis and related subjects.
After reading some very interesting stuff about Dutch history (we were close to a revolution!) I've added that info to Pieter Jelles Troelstra. I am now finding out that there were several similar (communist/anarchist) rebellions in Europe at the time, something I'd like to dig into further.

I have translated some articles from other languages (especially Dutch), such as the ones on Sociocracy and Nuna (the latter of which was really a matter of national pride, something of which you'll otherwise always hear me deny having any :) ).

I travel a lot, which of course causes a specific interest in countries I've been to. Especially those of my trip to Cuba, Costa Rica and Panamá. For example, I have somewhat expanded Monteverde and Baracoa, which were still stubs.
Alas the articles concerning Cuba sometimes gave me a headache due to the controversies. An exceptionally long one is at Talk:Cult of personality about whether, and, if so, how, Fidel Castro should be mentioned. This automatically led me to articles on Communism, such as Communist state (and whether that term is an oxymoron), but those also turned out to be dominated by commies and anti-commies, leaving no room for a balanced perspective. I have for now moved largely away from those articles, effectively letting the 'other side' 'win' by default. The effect on my total output was considerable - no longer confronted with those edit wars, I finally managed to really add info, without seeing it reverted within a day.
One Cuba-related article I started is Vieja Trova Santiaguera, which also reflects my interest in music, a field in which I'd like to contribute more.

Travelling has also inspired a more general interest in geography. That combined with a tendency to address things structurally and historically/etymologically correct has led me to do a slightly controversial rewrite of the Western Hemisphere article. This indeed led to a lot of bickering, but to my surprise, apart from the deletion of the literal translation (which I am always very fond of), my reasoning in the article has remained fairly intact.

My rather cocky attitude towards the meaning of America/the Americas and Football resulted in ineffective debates on the subjects ('soccer' is of course one of the ugliest words in the English language :) ).

Wasting way too much time watching movies, I wrote stubs on some that I saw, like Der Tunnel, Hiroshima (film) and Fidel (film). I expanded the stubs on Sir! No Sir! and Balseros and out of a nostalgic interest also the one on Floris (TV series) (the first acting job of Rutger Hauer).

Being a categorisation-freak I can't leave disambiguation pages alone.

I somehow got caught up in the God article (God knows how). Luckily I managed to break away from that. Religious discussions must be the least productive type of discussion imaginable (and I have studied philosophy, so I've heard some bullshit in my lifetime :) ).

And then there are of course loads of other minor contributions, of which I will just mention 911 as an oddity because of the asserted numerological assumption that the fact that some attack took place 912 days after some other attacks is in some way worth mentioning because the first attacks took place on 11-9 (little endian). Which it isn't. But then those who think it is turned out to be more adamant than me.

Talk:Dollar voting shows an attempt at setting up a theory on Dollar voting (that article is just a stub at the moment). I had put a link in the article to the talk page, but someone removed that. So now nothing links to it. Except for this - as if anyone's going to notice :( . Ah well, that taught me not to put time into original research. Interestingly, on the day of my last edit to that article, someone started a thread on the subject on the Ref Desk. One of the most interesting discussions I've had there.

Two more of the many stubs I've created:
Kees Boeke
User:DirkvdM/World politics overview This is a project I started to give an overview of world politics (coalitions and such). Nothing much yet, but I have big plans. Then again, I have many big plans and only one life. :)

Reference Desk[edit]

Blue ribbon.svg This user is a member of Wikipedians against censorship.
For your extraordinary contributions to Wikipedia reference desks, I award you this E=MC² Barnstar. Keep up the good work! deeptrivia (talk) 16:28, 3 March 2006 (UTC)
For helping me pass my GI subspecialist exams [1], I award DirkvdM this barnstar. Thanks for your Ref Desk assistance! Samir धर्म 06:45, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
SpecialBarnstar.png The Special Barnstar
For going the extra mile in your contributions to the Reference Desks lately. Your answers are consistently detailed and informative. --S.dedalus 01:18, 11 October 2007 (UTC)


In September 2005 I discovered the fun of the Science Reference Desk, which resulted in me becoming a Ref Desk Regular. As a result, I didn't have time for much else any more (though with some effort I still managed to eat and sleep :) ). But it paid off, as the three barnstars show (I even helped someone pass an exam and I got applauded in this thread). I suppose I need to spend more time in one place in stead of jumping from article to article, to get more of these. :)

However, alas, in November 2006 someone started deleting posts he didn't like and even got support from admins who didn't know what they were talking about, while the opponents couldn't get their act (protest) together. Since then, the ref desk isn't fun any more because everyone is scared their post might be deleted if it contains humour. I WILL NOT BE GAGGED. So I left the ref desk. (Effectively gagging myself.) I even stopped contributing to Wikipedia altogether because of rampant deletionism, not only on the reference desk.

Wikipedia is supposed to be by and for the people. Guidelines make sense, but some have made 'rules' that many disagree with and started applying them to a part of Wikipedia they know nothing about.

After my decision to stop editing, I discovered how much I was hooked on editing Wikipedia. I kept on using Wikipedia (and still do), but when I saw a typo or a clumsy wording or an unordered list, I couldn't help but hit the edit button. It had become a reflex, a habit, and I was experiencing serious cold turkey. But so far I have (largely) persevered (Je maintiendrai, as we say in Dutch :) ).


To give an idea of the sort of thing that would disappear, here's a fine example of what kept me coming back to the ref desk, from a question about whether it is safe to swallow a pen (the things people ask :) ):

WORST JOKE: A boy swallowed a counterfeit coin. After a few days he died. Reason? He couldn't pass it. Edison 19:08, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
BETTER JOKE: A boy swallowed a silver dollar and was sent to the hospital for observation. When his parents inquired as to his condition, the doctor responded "no change yet". StuRat 23:09, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
BETTERER JOKE: A boy took a medical exam. To the last question he wrote "no change yet." He couldn't pass it, and died. — [Mac Davis] (talk)

Or what about this one:

Q: Which is more durable? Metal or non-metal?
A: Skin. In the bible it states that Moses tied his ass to a tree and walked for a day and a night. Gzuckier 14:44, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

There is also more useful stuff there too, though, such as the following remark:

"In countries where people are not rich, the valued thing is the ability for you and your children to survive, not freedom. [...] Almost every country where democracy works the people are all already living in acceptable conditions when the democracy is installed." (by Philc)


Mailnly for the gang at the ref desk I translated the Dutch National Science Quiz 2011 on a subpage of my userpage.


I've also made a selection of The Best Of The Ref Desk, but that was growing a bit large, so I put it on a separate page. The following are the 'best of the best' (that's biased POV OR and all that, but hey, this is my page :) ):

  • Free markets - pro or con: my ideal economic politics in a nutshell.
  • Need help urgently: Contains a little rant by me about the uselessness of manned space exploration (the second half).
  • Football(soccer): Football ... and while I'm at it ... America.
  • Time dimensions: does 'time squared' imply a second temporal dimension?
  • USA success - some food for thought on international division of wealth, especially the first half.
  • The square root of France: An exquisite bit of nonsense.
  • Daily Death rates of US soldiers: The only interesting thing here is my last observation, comparing the relative death tolls of WWII (3.17%), US in Vietnam (5-10%), the US in Iraq (2.3% and counting) and the Dutch politionele acties (0.15%). Shame-wise, I'd rather be Dutch than USian.
  • Terrorists : A educative analysis by Marco Polo of the Middle East and Al Qaeda, which inspired me to make some astute observations too. After that the thread degenerated to bickering, but that can be interesting too at times.
  • Spacetime: An interesting view of spacetime, with motion and time being interchangeable.
  • Turkey Pop Out: The odd naming of turkeys in different languages. This answer (by me) was used in the christmas 2006 edition of QI, a quiz that appears to make ample use of the ref desk because topics there happen to pop up in the quiz a bit later surprisingly often.
  • Science - living forever - Can we live forever after our mind is transferred to a computer? Especially read SteveBaker's long post - he thinks like me. And of course my post. (And ignore the very first spin-off because that missed the point.) But first read the two consecutive threads downloading something to a persons brain and Communicating with animals ??, where I also proposed an implementation.
  • Humanities - What is the all-time biggest massacre? - after the first actual answers a discussion about the legality of war and an alternative in the form of an unarmed army (is that a contradiction in terms?)
  • Science - Runaway Global Warming - firstly, SteveBaker's list of runaway climate effects, but also my comments, especially the second one, where I link to the KNMI, which I consider rather illuminating - fairly detailed, yet concise (I have my moments).

Some thoughts on Wikipedia[edit]

incl This user is an inclusionist.

Wikipedia has a huge advantage over paper encyclopaedias - it doesn't have to fit on a shelf. So it can grow without limits (in text size the English Wikipedia is already about 10 times bigger than a major 20-volume paper encyclopaedia). Ultimately, it could hold all human information. Imagine a modern day Library of Alexandria with all the information organised in one big system in which everything links to everything! Alas, there are some old fashioned folk around who delete anything they don't consider important enough. My criteria are

  • is it true?
  • is it relevant?

If it's true it should be in Wikipedia. If it's not relevant for a certain article then it should go elsewhere (in stead of being bluntly deleted). This is also how Wikipedia grows - info is added to an article until it becomes too big, and then things have to be moved to more in-depth articles. Which in turn can grow and spawn even more in-depth articles. Etc, etc.
The amount of detail an encyclopaedia can give is limited by its size. Since there is no reason to set a limit to the size of Wikipedia, it can harbour any amount of detail.
For example, why not have an article on, say, the design of the power button on the Samsung CB-5051A tv set? If someone finds it interesting enough to write an article about it, chances are someone else somewhere someday will want to read about it. And the easiest way to find info is when it is organised the way it is in Wikipedia. If that is done well, such detail should be less than 10 links away and found in at most a few minutes, quite a difference from the messy way info is organised on the Internet as a whole. And it's also a lot more reliable than 'some other site' on the Internet because mistakes are likely to get corrected eventually. For those who are not interested in the subject - well, they can just ignore it, can't they? It certainly won't get in the way if all the info is placed and linked to logically.
Ultimately, Wikipedia could even become a newspaper with Wikinews as the front page, from which the relevant background info in the encyclopaedia is linked to. I often miss that when reading a newspaper.

I'm also a bit of a Don Quijote when it comes to pov and bias in articles. Such as the use of a word like 'regime' for some governments but not for others. I suggest dropping the word altogether in all articles to solve this. But the discussion at talk:Regime didn't get very far (or rather it got bogged down in details).

An other idea would be a fact sheet for each article, in which the basic facts to be presented in the article could be placed, not in the form of prose (as in the article) but as a simple listing. This could then also contain information that has not yet entered the article or has been removed from it, with a link to any discussions about it (the term fact sheet might not be quite right in this light, though). The article could then have just the undisputed text, maybe with a new type of link (eg in green) to the fact sheet where applicable.
All that is disputed could then be removed from the article, but still be accessible in a 'simple' overview without having to search through the talk page (or even the archives and the article history).
The reason for this idea is that some articles (eg Cuba) suffer from constant reverts. Many editors there are very opinionated and will add any 'info' (or twisted interpretation of it) that suits them. Which in turn inspires others who disagree to take a stronger opposing view. The result is that editors overload an article with so much info it can't all be checked, so they start reverting anything that looks suspicious. This will put off neutral editors, so they'll invest their energy elsewhere, leaving the article to the pitbulls.

A further step could be the use of moderators who are the only ones who can change the article, based on what happens on the talk page and the fact sheet. These would have to be people who have proven to be politically neutral (which is a tough one) and willing to put enough time into the article. An incentive for them would be that their edits do not run the constant risk of being instantly reverted and they'll make more of a difference, compared to the present situation.
A variation on this, that still needs to get off the ground, is http://www.citizendium.org/. Alas, this focuses on tech stuff, the very sort of article that is the most reliable bit of Wikipedia, so I don't really see the point. Then again, one has to start somewhere.
Also worth a read in this respect is this posting by Jimbo Wales about rating Wikipedians, as well as these 'articles' and this New Scientist article.

An alternative that has recently been introduced on Wikipedia is the requirement to verify information, providing sources. This is not yet applied very rigidly yet, and for a good reason. Most of the stuff on Wikipedia would have to be removed, which would cripple it. But if it would have been introduced at the very beginning, Wikipedia might not have come off the ground. So for the moment, doubtful bits of information are just tagged, thus [citation needed], or even a whole article, using these tags. Eventually, all info on Wikipedia should be checked. However, it is much more fun to add info (that's why Wikipedia grew so fast) than it is to verify information that others added, which also requires much more effort. If you add info from memory you can just write away, which is a lot easier than corroborating a given bit of info. So this is much slower work, but then again there are now millions of editors, so maybe that will balance that out. I hope it will.

  Fuck political correctness
     Free your mouth ...
     ... and your mind will follow

Miscellaneous[edit]

Dirk van der Made - other versions[edit]

Googling one's own name is always fun. In my case it results mostly in links to pages that have placed a photograph of mine (from Wikimedia Commons) and some posts of mine on various sites. But I also learned about some other people who have or had my name. Here are some:

Until just a year ago (late 2007), the only result was the oldest (top of the list). The new results are partly due to Google scanning books. They're still doing this, so I should check again in another year or so.

Family[edit]

In the second half of 2006 I started digging into my family history. Going ever further back in time (13 generations), my ancestors on my mother's side were called:

Schunck, Cloot, Prickaerts, Küppers
Snoeck, Damoiseaux, Kroppenberg
de Hessele, Keybetz, Schiffers, Stassen, Thissen
Handels, Pluymaekers, Ramekers, Scheepers, Schins
Meens van Musschenbroek, Quadvlieg, Schönen, Latten, Bosch, Hameckers
Reuters, Schepers, Sinsteden, Rutzerveld, Biessels, Coninx

The oldest ancestor being Macarius Priccardus, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grand-father, who must have been born around 1500.
If any of the those names appear in your family, let me know - we might be related. :)

I looked up those names and found a few interesting articles about people who might just be somehow related to me:

  • Anacharsis Cloots: with an 's', as one of my ancestors indeed spelled it. And he is a Prussian of Dutch descent, so that fits. And what's more, he was nicknamed "orator of mankind", "citoyen de l’humanité" and "a personal enemy of God". I can relate to that. :)
  • Snoeck appears in the List of Dutch noble families. My great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Snoeck was said to be the richest girl in Limburg. Whether she was of nobility I don't know. One doesn't speak of that sort of thing, you know. :)
  • Snoecks was originally called Snoeck's, so there might be a link.
  • Emanuel Schiffers was Russian chess champion for 10 years.
  • Claudia Schiffer. Without the 's', but those get dropped occasionally, so still a possibility there.
  • M.J. de Hesselle was mayor of Heerlen, which is also where 'my' de Hessele is from so he was probably family.
  • Bosch: of course the painter, the beer and the power drills, but also a Nobel laureate, a terrorist with a strikingly un-Cuban name, and many more.
  • Pieter van Musschenbroek, the inventor of the capacitor (battery).
  • 12491 Musschenbroek, an asteroid
  • Neopsittacus musschenbroekii, a lorikeet
  • Musschenbroek's Spiny Rat - this is starting to get silly ....
  • Stijn Coninx, director of Daens, one of the best films ever.
  • Reuters: no introduction needed. But note that the name of the founder is 'Reuter'. I can't find anything on the name 'Reuters'.

Some less interesting ones:

  • Maurice Damoiseaux, former governor of the Belgian province Hainaut.
  • Paul Thissen, a US politician with "a reputation as someone who could work across party lines". Something I can relate to.
  • Tof Thissen, a member of the Dutch House of Lords for GroenLinks, the party I vote for (for lack of a non-left-wing party that takes climate change serious enough).
  • Willem Bastiaensz Schepers, a Dutch naval hero. Fitting, with a name that literally means 'shippers'.

And an odd use of 'Thissen': In moments of extreme anger Ossett Fish-puddlers have been known to resent "thou" and reply "Don't thee thou me thee thou thissen and see how tha likes thee thouing" but this is rare.

  There are 3 kinds of people.
  Those who can count and those who can't.

Am I Jewish?[edit]

Interesting possibility: Emanuel Schiffers was an Ashkenazy Jew. My great-great-great grandmother along maternal lines was also called Schiffers. So if she was also Jewish, then by Jewish tradition so am I. Then again, her first name was Maria, so that makes that less likely (even though the best known Mary was presumably also Jewish). Still, worth some more research. After half an hour of Googling I can find hardly anything on the name 'Schiffers', but lots on 'Schiffer', without the 's'. Which appears to be a common name among Jews. Same for 'Schiff'. The Pinyehrae Schiffer article speaks of his "conspicuously Polish/Jewish name", but it doesn't say if that refers to his first of last name (or both). But most importantly, the only 'Schiffers' I can find is abovementioned Jewish Russian chess player. All this put together makes it somewhat plausible that she was Jewish. (Given Jewish history of prosecution, it is quite possible that the first name was meant to mask that.) Then again, I'm talking about the Jewish rules of descent here, which follow the female line. But in Western Europe, names are passed on along the male line. So it could very well be that she had a Jewish ancestor along the male line, which would not make her Jewish according to Jewish rules. Still, an intriguing thought that I might be Jewish, especially since I don't quite look the part. I love contradictions. :)

This user is a world citizen.

Politics[edit]

I managed to almost completely break away from Wikipedia in May 2006, to start up a political party (in Dutch). But then the Dutch cabinet fell, and elections came too early for the party to participate, so I made a 'slight return', until the next project presented itself. And then another. And then another. In the meantime, however, I kept on adding to the politics-project, so maybe I'll participate in the next elections in 2011.

Reproduction of the Fitter[edit]

A more correct version of 'survival of the fittest'.
Of course, 'survival' stands for 'reproduction'. And the intelligent will understand that by 'fittest' Darwin meant 'fitter', but alas precious few appear to be intelligent enough to see that. The notion that 'second best' doesn't count is frighteningly wide-spread. If evolution worked that way, life would have never gotten off the ground.
And the free market doesn't work that way either. Actually, there is no such thing as 'the fittest' or 'the best'. Maybe 'the best adapted given very specific circumstances' (in biology called a niche), but there are so many possible circumstances that loads of good (just 'good') solutions will find their niche. What's more, you just need to look around in an average shop to see that even crap solutions will survive and 'reproduce' if they are marketed well enough. Or simply are cheap enough. Actually, come to think of it, lacking good info for consumers, it's not surprising that the free market often results in 'survival of the cheapest' (read 'crappiest') because price is usually the only thing consumers can be sure of. (Luckily, with the rise of the Internet, consumers can much better inform each other and thus build a better basis for what to buy - in theory at least.)

Genesis[edit]

When one day I decided to read Genesis, I noticed that I already knew most of the story (which is really quite short), except for the interesting bits. Such as the fact that God is a liar. He told Adam that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would kill him. Which it didn't. So if God lied about that, how can we assume anything else he supposedly says in the Bible is true?

The reason I read Genesis is that I had long wondered where, according to the Bible, the third generation came from. As I already knew, God created Adam from nothing and Eve from one of his ribs (thus cloning a female from a male). A little suspension of disbelief is called for here. They had kids. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then what? Well, Kain slew Abel and was expelled from the Garden of Eden, upon which he went east where he met his wife. Hold on! Where did she come from then? Was she an unmentioned child of Adam and Eve? If so, they committed incest. My guess is that Genesis is really intended as a story about where the Jews came from. That that is not explicitly mentioned makes sense because it is a Jewish book. Present day Bibles may very well be a mistranslation, changing 'Jew' to 'man'. It is quite common for a people to use the same word for mankind in general and their own kind in particular.

I mentioned in the passing there that present day Bibles are all translations of the original Bible, which can be assumed to be lost to us forever. And any translation comes with interpretation. Which means that can no longer be seen as the word of God, for how can a mortal man hope to ever interpret the word of an all-knowing God correctly? So is the bit about God lying a result of misinterpretation? If so, we can't know which bits are correct and which aren't, so why bother reading the book? And if it isn't, then the Old Testament was written by a liar, so again, why bother reading it?

  Guns don't kill. People do.
  So it's best to keep the two well separated.

'Established facts'[edit]

All the people can fool themselves all the time,

If people really want something to be true they will start to convince each other and any lie can become an 'established fact'. Especially if the major media go along with it, but then they will, because if they don't, they will soon, through lack of popular demand, cease to be major media. Any free thinkers will be easily ignored or else terrorised away by calling them 'unpatriotic' or something of the sort.
For example, anyone who looks at the major achievements in space exploration with an unbiased view will have to conclude that the USSR won the space race in the 50s and 60s (first object in space, first satellite, first human in space, first to reach Earth escape velocity, first photographs of the other side of the Moon, first moonlanding, first landing on another planet, first samples brought back from the Moon, first lunar rover and first space station, to name but a few). Only after that did the US start to catch up with and even surpass the USSR, with the Mariner program, the Pioneer program and especially the Voyager program and the Hubble space telescope, but Kennedy had already fed people the lie that the first manned moonlanding was the main goal, so people didn't sufficiently appreciate the value of these missions, ironically lacking admiration for achievements that really deserve it. And irritatingly, this focus on manned missions has led to a lot of money wasted that could have been much better utilised for a multitude of unmanned missions (which cost only a fraction per flight).

One worrying aspect of this is that I had always believed the lie that the US won the space race, despite the fact that I was very interested in astronomy (and therefore knew the basic facts) and that I have always had a critical mindset, questioning everything and never assuming anything. Or so I thought. If even I was fooled by this, then how easily can the general public be fooled about things they know little about? Just look at the success of commercials. Of course, the manufacturer of a product is the worst source of unbiased information about his products. And when he hires professionals to make his products look good (in other words professional liars) then that must be the worst possible source of information. But given the success of commercials lots of people must believe these obvious lies.
Or take the success of Geert Wilders with his warnings about a muslim threat. There is no muslim threat of any sort in the Netherlands that I ever noticed (apart from a single murder some years ago). A nice illustration of this is the fact that his party won almost half the votes in Volendam, a village with hardly any muslims. And the one muslim the media found there, a shopkeeper, said he never noticed any animosity towards him, so he didn't understand why people voted against him. Well, they didn't. If you keep on hammering the notion of a threat down people's throats they will start to believe it, even if there is no indication of a threat in their direct surroundings. They didn't vote against him but against 'those bad muslims' they heard so much about, despite the fact that they probably never came across any.

  Excretum accidit

Cars[edit]

Main article: User:DirkvdM/Cars

Cars kill. Over 1 million deaths per year, resulting so far in some 30 million dead (and counting). On top of that, they consume close to 20% of our energy (depending on what you take into the equation). I've got a lot of thoughts on this, which I intend to write down here some day - I've already made a start in a separate 'main article' - follow the link above). The basic thought revolve around an automated highway system. See also Electronic Stability Control. And I wrote the SmILE article. Since I consider climate change by far the biggest problem mankind faces, I should put more effort into researching that. I've made a start with this article on a showcase car demonstrating how a simple redesign of just one product, the car, could knock about 10% off the greenhouse gas emissions.

To give an idea of how wasteful cars are: the energy it takes to drive an average petrol car for 1 m is equivalent to lifting 300 kg 1 m off the ground. Sounds ludicrous? It is, and a first reason is that combustion engines are horribly inefficient, 35% at best. But we don't drive at the most efficient speeds. Usually it's either in a city, with a lot of accelerating, or on highways at enormous speeds. And that last bit is worsened by the fact that cars are built for convenience, not efficiency. Else they'd look more like racing cars (small and low to the ground) instead of the big blobs that are called SUV's.

EE vs AE[edit]

Some notes on consistency of English English and American English.
In pronunciation:

  • "I say rather, you say rether, I say father, you say fether?" A variation on the better known (from an AE pov) "I say tomayto, you say tomahto, I say potayto, you say potahto."
  • Similarly: "How fair is it to the bear in your care?" ("How far is it to the bar in your car?") AE has this inconsistency with any 'a' that is followed by an 'r', it seems: are, large, car, bar, dart, bard. And, yes, 'fart'. But in 'quart' it's different again, in both EE and AE. That's not really an inconsistency, just yet another variation on the pronunciation of the 'a', just like any natural language has different pronunciations for letters. And 'potato' is just another variation as in 'bathe' or 'trade', except that with those words it's the same in AE.
  • Same for an 'a' followed by 'lm', as in 'palm' and 'calm'.
  • And the 'a' in 'want' (not pronounced as 'went').
  • But EE can also be inconsistent in the pronunciation of the 'a': accident, batter, man (mansion, romance, can, but not can't). And some words starting with 'trans-' (transmission), but not all (translate). But in 'trance' it's back to the familiar EE pronunciation. Which is a fortunate inconsistency. In AE they're pronounced the same, which makes 'transaction' and 'trance-action' phonetically indistinguishable. Not that that is likely to ever constitute a problem, though. :)
  • EE's pronunciation of the 'a' is inconsistent in the word passage. Oddly, the Irish are more English in this case. :)
  • Aunt and ant: In EE these would sound the same, so EE breaks its own rules by pronouncing 'ant' as in AE. So AE would have made more sense here, were it not that it pronounces 'aunt' like 'ant'.
  • In AE, a 't' in the middle of a word is often pronounced as a 'd', especially when surrounded by vowels. So a waiter becomes a wader. And the fact that the Netherlands is a nation of traders is something that could easily be misinterpreted in AE. :) However, 'hate' is pronounced with a 't', but in 'hated' it becomes a 'd'. But with the words 'mate' and 'mated' it's both with a 't' (I think, not sure about this one).

In writing:

  • Exercise, comprise, improvise, advertise and enterprise: ah, no discrepancy here, but that's only confusing since AE should, if consistent, spell those as 'exercize' etc. Even more confusing is 'merchandise', which is sometimes spelled as 'merchandize' in AE, but only as a verb, not as a noun.
    Also note that concerning interlingual consistency, AE follows Southern European languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian) while EE follows the rest (the Germanic languages and French). (Eastern European languages differ. Outside Europe I only know Indonesian, which uses an 's'.)
  • Similarly: Hypothesis - hypothesize? And analysis/analyst - analyze. And polarize - arise. Btw, a more general curiosity in the English language is the three-some price-prize-prise.
  • 'Pretence' is in AE spelled as 'pretense', but 'presence' is not spelled as 'presense', which doesn't make any sence sense.
  • In AE: 'color' makes more sense phonetically than 'colour', but so does 'contry'. Or glamor. Or 'serius'.
  • Similarly, 'center' makes more sense phonetically, but so do 'battel' instead of 'battle' and 'circel' instead of 'circle'. And 'angel' in stead of 'angle', rather more confusingly. So here AE is sometimes more logical, but not consistently so. Not sure which is worse; consistently illogical or inconsistently logical.
  • A metre is not the same as a meter. But in AE they get the same spelling. In pronuciation, though, both EE and AE are ambiguous.
  • The two can also agree in being inconsistent: pixel, but also axle. And baker, but also acre. (The AE inconsistency makes some sense, since the 'c' would otherwise be pronounced as an 's', but it's still inconsistent.)
  • In EE: Centre - disaster? Why not disastre? (Both come from French, where they're spelled 'centre' and 'désastre'.) Which leads me to:
  • Disaster - disastrous? An inconsistency in AE, but in a way even more so in EE since it could have been more logical if it had more consistently spelled the noun as 'disastre'.

I used to think American English was more consistent than English English, but when someone (from the US) told me he thought it was the other way around I started paying more attention to it. There is no consistency in English article, but I didn't look any further, and decided to see how many inconsistencies I could find by myself. With the results so far I'd say both EE and AE are an equal mess. :) Which is not surprising considering they're natural languages. Maybe I should also make a list for the Dutch language and maybe compare it to Flemish. Or, for a somewhat more similar comparison, Afrikaans.

Physics[edit]

SI system[edit]

SI This user prefers the SI system of measurement.
Metric seal.svg
Note that I use the comma as the decimal separator, as indicated by the SI system

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the SI system (also erroneously referred to as the metric system), so I decided to put my frequent explanation here for easy referral.

Why everyone should adopt the SI system.

One reason is standardisation. Using different units of measurement once crashed a spacecraft (the Mars Climate Orbiter). So it makes sense to all use the same units. Next question is who should adapt. Two arguments here.
Firstly, the SI system is much simpler
  1. There is just one basic unit per quantity.
  2. Other units for the same quantity can be formed in a way that is the same for all units (milli, kilo, and such).
  3. All these prefixes are base 10, which is also the base for our decimal numbering system (decimal means base 10).
  4. There are just seven basic units and all the other units are formed with just those seven.
Four very good reasons I'd say. The imperial system is a hotchpotch of units which don't seem to be related at all. Why have inches, thumbs, feet and miles (and different miles too, to complicate matters even further) if you just want to express one quantity, length? Some opponents in the UK use the argument that the imperial units are better for brain development because they are so complicated. :) And the imperial system can't even make up it's mind about which base to use. Sometimes it seems to be base 6 or 12 (1 foot is 12 inch), but not quite always and the ratio between some is just absurd (1 mile is 5280 feet - what kind of number is that?).
The other argument is that almost everyone except the US uses the SI system. Hell, even China has adopted it and the UK is trying, albeit a bit half-heartedly. New Zealand did it much better. They totally switched from one day to the next. A bit of a slap in the face, but because it is such a logical set of units it made more sense to change them all at the same time. An SI unit is not just another unit. It's part of a whole.

Time[edit]

That said, there is one quantity that is a pain in the bottom. Time. The SI unit is the second. But in everyday life we also need the units 'day' and year' because they are entities we can't ignore. Fair enough, but it does complicate matters. That there are 365,24 days in a year is something that can't be helped. But 86.400 seconds in one day? In contrast to the day and the year we define the second. So why not make it 1/100.000 of a day? That would make it slightly shorter. So what? We could then have, say, 100 seconds in a minute, 100 minutes in an hour and 10 hours in one day. That would already be a major improvement (which would also get rid of the 24 vs 2x12 hour per day confusion). But why not follow the SI logic through, here? Take the unavoidable day, make that the SI unit and take it from there. You'd then get millidays (about 86 seconds, roughly a minute) and microdays and such. There would be nothing like the second (there is no prefix for 1/100.000) but is that really so bad? The only disadvantage is that the microday is a bit short (about 1/10 second) for human usage.

But if all that weren't bad enough, these units are sometimes mixed in the same unit. Something like kWh/yr sends shivers down my spine. A Watt is J/s. So first you divide by seconds, then multiply by hours and then divide by years again. Aaaarghhhh! And for some mysterious reason Wh is always used in thousands (kWh). For conversion purposes:

  Democracy vs. Science:
     "They've got the truth,
     but we've got the numbers."
  • 1 Wh = 3600 J
so 1 kWh = 3,6 · 106 J (= 3600 kJ = 3,6 MJ)
  • 1 Wh/yr = 0,000114 W
so 1 kWh/yr = 0,114 W

What's wrong with plain Watts? I bet some economist came up with the idea of the kWh/yr. (Economists don't seem to understand real science.)

Then there's the issue of how the year is carved up. Why 7 days in a week? (Religious discrimination is no argument.) And months take it one step further by not all being the same length, oh horror. Following the SI logic, we'd get something like kilodays (just under 3 years), but that won't work. A decaday (10 days for the SI illiterates among you - nothing decadent about it :) ) could replace the week. We could then have 7 workdays with a 3-day weekend (2/7 is 0,28, so 28% of the week is weekend and here it's 30%, so that's about the same). And a year would then be just over 36 decadays (6x6, not too bad) - the remaining 5 days could be a holiday at the start or end of the year (or 6 days during a leap year, which is also unavoidable). Months are out the window, but who cares? They're annoyingly close, but not equal, to the lunar cycle, so good riddance. And of course the year should start on a more logical day, like an equinox or solstice. Just my 2 bit. Not ideal, but a whole lot better. And also better than the French Republican Calendar, which was invented by an obvious nutcase.

Until we get rid of months, there will remain the issue of how to write a date. The little endian dd-mm-yyyy makes more sense than the middle endian mm-dd-yyyy because it consistently goes from small to big. But our numbering system is big endian. For example, the year 1985 really means '1 millennium (kiloyear), 9 centuries (hectoyears), 8 decades (decayears) and 5 years'. So it makes most sense to continue adding ever smaller units to the right, so YYYY-MM-DD.
Of course, it would be much simpler to drop the months and write YYYY-DDD. The first 'D' would then stand for the hectodays, the second one for the decadays and the third one for the days.
An alternative that takes the SI logic with the year as a basis would be to just add a decimal comma after the year and then the deciyears, centiyears, milliyears, etc. But that would mean a mix-up with the unavoidable unit 'day' - one centiyear would be 3,6524 days - and that would just be confusing.

Oh, and then there's the issue of there not being a year zero, which is also pretty stupid, but at least that hardly ever poses a problem. Then again, while we're at it, we might as well resolve that too. And if we have to use some year as year zero it might as well be the alleged birthyear of Jesus, because there is no absolute year zero (except maybe for the Big Bang, but see below) and most people will be used to it. And then follow that through logically. The year before that would be -1. To make clear this is a year it could be called y-1 (the way y2k stands for the year 2000). This year could then be y+2006, but the plus sign might as well be dropped, so it would be y2006.

Note that the 'y' in 'y2006' stands before the number, not after it, as is common with units. But this is not the unit of time, but a time-reference (or what should I call that?). It is also pronounced as 'the year 2006'. Which brings me to another messy unit.

... equals money[edit]

There is one unit (or a bunch of them really - another mess) that is usually placed before the number, currency. Yet, it is pronounced the other way around - € 42 is pronounced as '42 Euro', just written the wrong way around. Why? We're dealing with economists again, here. :(

Finally, many would pronounce 42 € as '42 Euros', but that does not make sense. 42 Euros are 42 Euro-coins. The quantity of money is abstract and should not have a plural. Same with, say, the metre. 42 m is a distance, not a collection of things called a metre, so it should be pronounced as '42 metre'.

  Science is what we do
  when we don't know what we're doing.

Mendeleyevian Mechanics[edit]

For comments on this and the following see my physics page
SI (derived) units using kg, m and s
mass kg
length m
time s
area m2
volume m3
polar moment of inertia m4
frequency /s
speed m/s
acceleration m/s2
jerk m/s3
snap m/s4
kinematic viscosity m2/s
specific energy m2/s2
absorbed dose m2/s3
volumetric flow rate m3/s
surface tension kg/s2
irradiance kg/s3
momentum kg.m/s
force kg.m/s2
yank kg.m/s3
angular momentum kg.m2/s
energy kg.m2/s2
power kg.m2/s3
wavenumber /m
density kg/m2
dynamic viscosity kg/ms
pressure kg/m.s2
specific volume m3/kg

This table shows the derived SI units that use the basic units kg, m and s, expressed in just those units and not other units like Newton, because I feel that that should give more insight in what these units mean (assuming kg, m and s are the 'real' basic units of mechanics).

I wonder what Mendeleyev would have made of this. There is a certain logic to the way it is built up, with usually the kg and m above the divisor and the s below it. Might momentum be the most basic unit of them all? But there are some missing, most notably kg/s. That should mean something, shouldn't it? And why are there just a few of the other combinations (below the grey line in the table). There should be either none or the entire spectrum. And s to a power is only used in combination with other units. And no derived unit uses m3 in conjunction with the other two.

I also wonder what a philosopher might make of this. Why is the table almost complete for mass and length above the divisor and time below it? What is so special about that? Do we maybe have an inverse view of time (whatever that means)? Would thinking in terms of frequency in stead of time give us a better insight into the Universe?

According to the SI derived unit article there are just a few units that have mass below the divisor, three in electricity, plus specific volume: m3/kg. And mass is never raised to a power. So kg2 has no meaning? I can indeed not imagine what it would mean. Length to the powers 1, 2 and 3 are clear and used a lot (although the third power not in all possible combinations). And I 'know' what those mean. But what is time to the power 2 or 3? Once again (see above) time is the problematic one. Should I be able to grasp what these mean to get a true understanding of reality?

Still working on this .....

I asked a question about the meaning of time-exponents and dimensions at the science ref desk, which raised some issues, but didn't quite end with a satisfactory conclusion (for me). I assumed that m2 indicated a second spatial dimension, but that was disputed. I further assumed that the same mathematical equation should always have the same meaning, so s2 should indicate a second temporal dimension, but it was pointed out that the units are essentially different, ie one can not go back in time. Or, better put (I suppose), time is directional, while length isn't.


Alternative to the Big Bang theory[edit]

I have long had an alternative to the Big Bang theory. I'm very much a layman when it comes to this field, but I made a prediction that went against the accepted theories but turned out to be correct, which is a bit of a theoretician's wet dream :) . So I now venture to put this theory before you. Here goes.

When I was a kid I heard the expanding universe explained as a balloon with dots on it. On that everything moves away from everything else, which is exactly what we observe in the universe (through red shift). But then I wondered, how do you know a balloon expands? My thought was that you know that because the only alternative is that the room you're in (and everything else) is getting smaller. Which would be silly. The simplest solution is held to be true, which is that the balloon expands. But for the observable universe there are (by definition) no surroundings to compare with. There is no reference frame, so one has to assume the size of of the universe is given. Actually, in a univese that is distorted in spacetime, it is the only absolute measurement of length available. But then, how can everything move away from us? I couldn't think of a solution then.

Some time later I imagined falling into a black hole. I was supposed to get stretched out. But that's only true seen from the framework of an outside observer. For me, I'm part of the spatial framework that gets expanded. And wherever one is, the framework one is in is seen as the reference, the 'normal' framework. To someone else I might be distorted, but to me they look distorted. (If we could see each other, that is.) Also, time gets ever slower from the perspective of the outside observer, but, again, I live in that timeframe, so from my perspective it will take me forever to fall into the black hole. So for me nothing changes (right?). Except that I see everything around me moving away from me. Hold on, I thought, couldn't that explain the aforementioned obsevation that everything appears to move away from us? What if we are caught in a collapsing (part of the) universe? But then I realised that as things are further away they will appear to accelerate away ever faster. And acceleration is not what happened, right? Stuck again.

Until a few years ago some people (like Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter) discovered that exactly that is indeed the case. When I heard of this I jumped out of my chair. After the initial enthusiasm I didn't know how to present this idea. Who would take a layman like me seriously? Now, finally, I've found a place where knowledgeable people might be bothered to hear me out. So. Any thoughts on this? If so, please leave your comments on my talk page.

Note that this gets rid of the ugly notion of inexplicable dark energy, which is another way of saying 'we haven't a clue'. It might also offer an alternative to dark matter, at least concerning the lumpiness of the universe, since this can just as well come from the structure in the unobservable universe outside the event horizon.

A helpful comparison might be extremophiles. They live under extreme conditions, but only from our perspective. If they could come up with a name for us, they'd probably call us extremophiles. Same with the conditions in a Black Hole. To us, conditions there are extreme beyond measure (literally). But from the perspective of anyone or -thing living there, that's normal and we live in an extremely distorted spacetime.

I asked a question about this on the Science Ref Desk on 24 September 2005, after participating in this thread, which reminded me of my theory.

Later still, I heard that near the edge of the universe (as we know it), the speed at which stars move away from us is close to the speed of light. Which makes perfect sense to me. If you're falling into a black hole and look 'back' (which is basically in any direction from your perspective), you'll see that whatever is only just on your side of the event horizon is speeding away from you at almost the speed of light (although in 'reality' of course you yourself are speeding away from it; the object is also speeding towards the black hole and therefore yourself). Anything beyond that will be invisible because the light will never reach you. So the edge of the universe is just the event horizon of whatever it is we are falling into.

By the way, I don't necessarily suggest we're falling into a black hole. I suppose being attracted to anything sizeable enough will have a similar effect. And since everything is attracted to everything else there might not have to be anything special going on. Though if it's that simple I find it unlikely no-one will have thought of this before. Or have they?

As for other bases for the Big Bang theory:
- the background radiation would be the 'trickle' of light that only just makes it through the event horizon. Any changes in this will take forever.
- the abundance of light elements suggests a fairly 'young' universe, which would still be possible if we're in the middle of the Big Crunch. Although that is not my preferred explanation. Might another option be Hawking radiation? Black holes (inside 'our black hole'!?) chew up everyting, including the heavy elements, and spit out the remains in the form of energy, which can then condense into matter, light elements, starting the cycle again.

Other alternatives[edit]

Well, let me assume the Big Bang again for a moment. Two things could happen:
- Big Crunch; the universe collapsing back. Like I said, that explain a lot, so we might be in the middle of it. But it would take forever for the universe to completely collapse, do in effect it wouldn't happen. To an outside observer (if any could exist) we'd get ever smaller, but from our 'spacetime-distorted' perspective that would be the normal state of things; we'd still see an immensely big observable universe with everything moving at a (by definition) normal pace.
- Big Freeze; eternal expansion. Entropy would increase beyond measure. From our perspective that is (yes, that again, everything is relative; maybe I should call all this Dirk's Theory of Relativity :) ). From the perspective of whoever lives there, our lives pass by impossibly fast. Again, if we could observe each other (which seems impossible to me). 'Their universe' (being our universe at a later stage) would just go at its own pace. In keeping with this, the average temperature would approach absolute zero - from our perspective. From their pov, we'd be burning up.


   You can't have everything
   After all, where would you put it?

Quite Interesting[edit]

  • Roger Bacon.
  • Miguel Nicolelis: taught a monkey how to control a computer game purely through thought. A first step towards immortality. The second step would be letting information go the other way as well, ultimately leading to the mind spreading into the machine, so that when the wetware dies, the mind lives on (apart from a minor stroke). The idea that 'fairly soon' we might be able to achieve immortality is quite thrilling, to put it mildly. Imagine dying just before 'we have the technology'. Damn! Then again, if it works and religious believers are right, just imagine the fun they would have sitting up there in heaven, looking down upon the idiots who condemned themselves to eternal life on Earth. Damned! (literally) There's no winning this, is there?
  • Transhumanism: Related to the above. But the article refers to mind uploading and not a mind merger with a computer, as I envision (a bit more like Spock's trick). The problem with uploading your mind is that all you get is a copy of yourself and when the original dies, the copy may live on, but you are still dead. And where's the fun in that? Immortality through multiverse suffers from the same problem, unless in some weird way we are unwittingly aware (!) of our alter-egos. See also this thread at the science ref desk. And Blue Brain looks promising.
  • It is possible to predict seconds in advance what you are going to do. That is, if it's a simple task like pressing one of two buttons and you stick your head in an MRI scanner. At least, that's what they do in some institute in Berlin (don't know which - the BBC tv show on which I saw this didn't say. Probably the Max Planck Institute). The testperson was put in the scanner with a button in each hand and then had to randomly decide to press one of the buttons and then immediately press it. After a few times, they could locate a group of cells of which some would become active if he pressed the left button and an adjoining group of cells that became active if he pressed the right button. In this case, the cells told which button he was going to push 6 seconds (!) before he actually pushed the button. Makes one wonder what the brain was waiting for during those 6 seconds.
  • Professor Christof Koch has found that there are neurons that respond only to specific very familiar individuals. For example, when one person was shown hundreds of pictures, one neuron (almost) always fired when the actress Jennifer Aniston was in it, and never when she wasn't in it. (The only exception was a photo of her with Brad Pitt, when the neuron didn't fire.) In another person, such a neuron was also found, but it not only fired when he saw the actress, but also when he was shown her name. Koch finds this surprising, but I don't. What someone (or something) is is the collection of characteristics of that person. And the name is just one of those. I suppose that only if you see that actress frequently, a neuron will be dedicated to her, so the recognition process will speed up. Of course, the big question is what would happen if that neuron died. Would the person no longer recognise the actress? My guess is that he would have difficulty recognising her, but the combined characteristics would still be enough. If the actress were to be seen again several times, then again a neuron would be assigned to her, in this case quicker, since the 'association cloud' is already there.
  • DARPA Grand Challenge - cars that drive themselves. Even in built up areas, interacting with other road users. You have to see it to believe it.
  • Plen, a robotic equilibrium artist.
  • Pykrete appears to be quite amazing stuff. And it's simple to make they say, so I should give it a go.
  • Ice stalactite: the phenomenon itself is quite interesting, but it is amazing to watch, in the BBC documentary 'Frozen Planet'.
  • Mantis_shrimp: the best eyes in the animal kingdom and the strongest living thing for its size.
  • Immortal jellyfish
To be or not to be is too binary to be reality
  • Hcube fold.gif a nice aid for visualising 'the' fourth dimension, using a hypercube.
Make of this what you like. World Values Survey might help.

Wikipedia statistics and such[edit]


And of course the links in the title are also Quite Interesting, such as the first quote in the second link:

"But perhaps, you know, we should believe in Adam and Eve. Geneticists have established that every woman in the world shares a single female ancestor who lived a hundred and fifty thousand years ago. Scientists actually call her "Eve", and every man shares a single male ancestor called "Adam". It's also been established, however, that Adam was born eighty thousand years after Eve. So the world before him was one of heavy to industrial-strength lesbianism, one assumes."
   I'm way above being arrogant.
                                    Me

Quite silly[edit]

Chemical structure of 2-(2,5-bis(3,3-dimethylbut-1-ynyl)-4-(2-(3,5-di(pent-1-ynyl)phenyl)ethynyl)phenyl)-1,3-dioxolane. NanoKid for short.
  • The Droste-effect taken to a new level
  • Chick sexing - never mind the article itself, I put it here for the title. :)
  • Or what about these url's (courtesy of QI)? expertsexchange.com, whorepresents.com, therapistfinder.com, penisland.net, speedofart.com, powergenitalia.com
  • "The common theme in gibberish statements is a lack of literal sense, which can also be described as a presence of nonsense." - From the Gibberish article.
  • Funny signs (ignore the comments) My favourites: 008, 023, 024, 038. 044, 049, 068, 078, 080, 085, 087, 091, 092 and 097. And 126, which is a nice example of why you should ignore the comments - he didn't get the joke. Some more silly roadsigns. And the Magic Roundabout (Swindon).
  • Zablon Simintov has a separate article dedicated to himself based solely on the fact that he is the only Jew in Afghanistan. He is the caretaker of the synagogue. Well, he would be, wouldn't he?
  • The Thatcher effect.
  • The most useless machine ever.
  • How Pythagoras cost someone his job (which he shouldn't have had in the first place), from the personal website of Steve Baker.
  • One handy thing about religion is that if you want to have an opinion about something, you can look it up in a book. The problem is that you can usually look up just about any opinion, even conflicting ones. So you have to start thinking for yourself again. Bummer.
  • When the future president of the US wants change, you know the country is bankrupt.
  • IMDB-comment by BJBatimdb on Jolie in Changeling: "...her scarlet protuberances - often in the act of grief-induced quivering - intrude like two giant red jellies in a pot of porridge."
 "To be or not to be" is a multiple choice question.

 Assuming it's question number 2,
 then if "2b" is the answer
 then "not to be" is the answer.
           

 So "2a" must be the answer.
 So "to be" is the answer.
           

 So either "to be or not to be" is not the question
 or it's not question number 2,
 in which case none of this makes any sense anyway.


Imaginary company names (these two aren't by me):

  • Leftwing Airlines
  • Back In The Box funerals

Imaginary bandnames:

  • Pubic Enema
  • The Strolling Ones

Suggestions for lyrics:

  • Adam hasj it ... EC does it
  • Can Ada stand USA neighbour?
  • Too pissed to sip, too stoned to roll
  • Mankind, woman unkind?
  • Don't get mad, get odd
  • You son of a mother! (an odd possibility in AE)
   A fat woman gives warmth in winter
        and shade in summer.
                Toon Hermans

Jokes[edit]

Well, just one so far, apart from the two at the top and the two in the reference desk section and the one at the the end of the Quite Interesting section.

This is supposedly a true story. The US navy claims it isn't, but then they would, wouldn't they. :)

ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.
Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision."
   The early worm gets caught.
Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision."
Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course."
Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."
Americans: "THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT'S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP."
Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."


Quite untrue[edit]

bgcolor=eae6ff
This is not a drill.

A list like this is likely to be either very long or very short. At the moment it is very short. :)

  • U-571 (film)
  • The US beat the Germans in WWII. They didn't. The USSR did. 4 million German soldiers died on the eastern front. That's 80% of their casualties.
  • Nuclear power is cheaper than solar power. Impossible to know. It's only cheap when the construction cost is averaged out over decades, after which time solar power may very well be cheaper if finally it gets the same research budget that nuclear power has received so far (hundreds of billions €).


References[edit]

Circle
Circumference 2π r π d  
Area π r2 1/4 π d2  
Sphere
Circumference 2π r π d  
Area 4 π r2 π d2  
Volume 4/3 π r3 1/6 π d3  
SI base units
kilogram metre second ampere kelvin mole candela
SI-prefixes
kilo mega giga tera peta exa zetta yotta
10+/- 3 6 9 12 15 18 21 24
milli micro nano pico femto atto zepto yocto
The Planets (and the Sun and Pluto) (rounded figures)
  To Sun
(106 km)
Mass
(1021 kg)
Radius
(km)
Year
(earth days)
Day
(hours)
Moons
 
Sun 0   2.000.000.000     700.000 - 25  -  
Mercury 60 330 2.400 88 59  0  
Venus 100 5.000 6.000 225 -243* 0  
Earth 150 6.000 6.400 365 24  1  
Mars 230 640 3.400 687 25  2  
Jupiter 780 2.000.000   71.500 4.300 10  63  
Saturn 1.500 600.000 60.000 11.000 10  60+
Uranus 3.000 90.000 26.000 31.000 17  27  
Neptune 4.500 100.000 25.000 60.000 16  13  
Pluto 6.000 13 1.200 90.000 150  3  

*Venus rotates the 'wrong' way around

Some articles that are useful references (at least from my pov) and some stuff that I keep forgetting.

Hard sciences

Climate

  • Weather statistics for the Netherlands. At the bottom left fill in a period and you get to see the hottest (or coldest) years over that period. Fill in 1 jan - 31 dec and you get the hottest years. Note that 17 of the 20 hottest years were in the last 20 years. How fast does a climate have to change for such a dramatic effect? And if that has happened before in Earth's history, what were the effects? Most notably, how long did life take to recover?

Biology

History

Language

The basic colour variations:

00ffff 0088ff 0000ff 8800ff ff00ff ff0088 ff0000 ff8800 ffff00 88ff00 00ff00 00ff88
88ffff 88bbff 8888ff bb88ff ff88ff ff88bb ff8888 ffbb88 ffff88 bbff88 88ff88 88ffbb
008888 004488 000088 440088 880088 880044 880000 884400 888800 448800 008800 008844

And lists of lists and links to links and what have you. This is the deep end of Wikipedia:

Rules of thumb[edit]

  • If you spread out your fingers, the distance between the tips of the thumb and pinky is about 20 cm. At least in my case it is.
  • The horizon is about 5 km away. At least if you're of average height and at sea.
  • If you drop a stone into a depth, each second until it hits the bottom represents about 15 m. Or so I heard, but that is likely not true for the first 15 m.
  • If you stretch out your arm and spread your fingers vertically, the distance between the tips of your pinky and index is about the time the sun covers in one hour. Handy to have an idea of how long until sunset. Note that if you measure the distance to the 'true horizon' and you're at the equator that is also when it will get dark (quickly). Away from the equator that'll be a bit later, but then you'll have the longer dusk to warn you about the encroaching darkness.
  • If you spread your arms, the distance between the fingertips of the two arms is the same as your length.
  • Another oldie: The speed of sound is about 331 m/s, so thunder takes 3 seconds to reach you if the lightning is 1 km away. Of course, the next bolt of lighning could be 1 km closer and fry your brain.
  • The speed of light is almost exactly 300.000.000 m/s (about 1 million times faster than sound), which is just over 1 billion km/h.

By the way...[edit]

Ever noticed how on flat terrain rivers wind and roads are straight, while in mountains roads wind and rivers are (relatively) straight?
The reason is, of course, that water is good at travelling vertically, whereas cars are better at travelling horizontally. Of course, cars can also travel vertically, it's just that water is better at staying water after it has landed.

Countries I have visited[edit]

I have spent several years travelling, mostly on my own with a backpack and focused on seeking out hiking trails, but also delving into the local cultures, which is a lot easier when you're on your own. Hanging around towns and meeting other backpackers happens effortlessly, even if that's not what you're after. So I completely focused on hiking trails and smaller communities. Much more fun anyway. :)

Mostly in chronological order (based on the first visit).

Birthplace and residence
Flag of the Netherlands Antilles (1986–2010).svg
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Loads of short trips in Europe with family and friends (usually a week or two per trip)
Flag of Belgium.svg
Flag of Germany.svg
Flag of Switzerland.svg
Flag of Italy.svg
Flag of Yugoslavia (1943–1992).svg
Flag of England.svg
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Flag of France.svg
Flag of Spain.svg
Flag of Denmark.svg
Flag of Austria.svg
Organised trip through Africa in a truck (half a year)
Flag of Morocco.svg
Flag of Algeria.svg
Flag of Niger.svg
Flag of Burkina Faso.svg
Flag of Mali.svg
Flag of Nigeria.svg
Flag of Cameroon.svg
Flag of the Central African Republic.svg
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg
Flag of Burundi.svg
Flag of Tanzania.svg
Flag of Kenya.svg
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Various solo-trips (for a total of 2,5 years)
Flag of New Zealand.svg
Flag of Australia.svg
Flag of Indonesia.svg
Flag of Malaysia.svg
Flag of Singapore.svg
Flag of Thailand.svg
Flag of the Philippines.svg
Flag of Bulgaria.svg
Flag of India.svg
Flag of Mexico.svg
Flag of Belize.svg
Flag of Guatemala.svg
Flag of the United States.svg
Flag of Canada.svg
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Flag of Wales.svg
Flag of Ireland.svg
Flag of Northern Ireland.svg
Flag of Finland.svg
Flag of Russia.svg
Flag of Cuba.svg
Flag of Costa Rica.svg
Flag of Panama.svg
Flag of Suriname.svg

Note that I merely passed through Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg, Wales, Northern Ireland and the USSR (in the USSR I never even left the airport :) ). I also intended to 'merely pass through' Australia, but that took me two months because the country is so bloody big!
The countries I visited most are Belgium (I grew up near the border), Denmark (more than 10 visits to the Roskilde festival) and Spain (several holidays).
The countries I spent most time in (apart from Curaçao and the Netherlands) are Indonesia, New Zealand and Suriname (about three months each). Despite the distance, I visited New Zealand twice because it is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Other countries I want to re-visit are Indonesia (if only because I bothered to learn the language :) ), Cuba (because it is so completely different and for the music) and Costa Rica (another one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, although Panama is not that much different).
I still want to visit Southern Africa (including Madagascar) one day. And if I ever wanted to go to a really remote place, Pitcairn or North Sentinel Island might be a good option (but possibly a bad idea).