13 October 2003

Normalcy reasserts itself

The ice machine lasted nine days.

Maybe eight.

It was working Friday afternoon. It was busted this Monday morning.


This is HESTEC week here at UTPA. All the classes in the science building were cancelled, so I spent the morning in a symposium. The first, on mathematics, was quite good, describing a system for choosing start lanes in BMX racing. The problem was that in BMX racing, some lanes are better than others, and the old system allowed a contestant a chance of getting the worst lane repeatedly, pretty much killing your chance of winning.

Second talk was on nanotechnology and how organic chemistry might be used to make very, very small computer chips...

The third talk was the worst of the lot. It described remote sensing, primarily satellite imaging. It was a bad talk because there were no actual ideas. It was more a grocery list of satellites that provide remote data. And the slides had way, way too much text on them.

The final talk really picked up, though. This was from Jeffrey Glassberg, who is one of the creators of DNA fingerprinting and the current President (founder, too, I think) of the North American Butterfly Association. Lots of great pictures. He made the very interesting point that in places like the lower Rio Grande Valley, which is something like 90% Hispanic, the local membership in wildlife organizations, like the butterfly organization, or birding organizations, is almost the opposite of the local demographics! About 90% of local members are not Hispanic. Why that should be so is an interesting and difficult question. Is it just that the tradition of natural history is really one that was strong in England, but less so in Spain, and has really carried through Anglo-Saxon culture?

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