Mostly-Full or Slightly-Empty

Last night we were driving back from San Francisco (details forthcoming) when we spotted the moon a few degrees above the horizon. This was around 7:30, so it was still before sunset, and the moon was rising. We noticed that the moon was not quite full, with a little bite taken out of it at the bottom.

We wondered whether the moon was nearly full, or just past full.

I said, “There has to be a way to figure this out logically.”

My Dad said that this is an empirical problem, so he was doubtful we could reason our way out of it.

I said, “Well, we know that on average there’s more than one full moon per month, and so we ought to be able to figure out from that whether the moon rises a little earlier each day, or a little later. And if we know that then we should be able to figure out whether it’s nearly full or just past full.” I decided that since there’s more than one full moon per month, that meant that the moon was rising a little earlier each day, and that meant that that moon was not quite full.

About 20 minutes later I said, “The moon looks a little more full to me now, so I think I’m right.” Much laughter ensued.

I think my reasoning was a little off, mainly because what I really need to know is whether the moon rises more than once per day, and using “full moons per month” as a proxy for that is not right, because they’re not the same thing. Indeed, since our months are somewhat based on the lunar cycle, “full moons per month” is a circular argument. Well, sort of.

But it turns out I was right anyway, since the full moon is tomorrow.

Which goes to show once again that it’s better to be lucky than good.

Lunar Eclipse and Migraine Headache

We were fortunate out here in the Bay Area that this week’s series of showers halted long enough for the sky to clear up so we could view the total lunar eclipse last night. I saw it around 6:15 on my drive home, when the moon looked like it had a big bite taken out of it. Then around 7:40 I went outside and saw the moon was almost completely gone, with just a faint glow in the upper right to show it was there at all.

Very cool.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see any more of it because around that time my headache which had been lurking around since mid-afternoon turned into a full-blown migraine. Debbi took me upstairs and had me lie down on the bed, and I ended up falling asleep for some of the next two hours. When she came to bed around 10 I decided to turn in, too, and I got a full night’s sleep on top of the evening nap. Very frustrating since it meant I accomplished almost nothing that I’d hoped to do last night. I almost never get migraines, either. Much less than once a year.

At least the headache was completely gone this morning. That’s something.

Newton slept with me all evening while I was trying to shake off the headache. Debbi says the other three cats were mostly lying in the hallway outside the bedroom, and she had to step over them to come check on me. Very nice of them, guarding the door against intruders while I was sick!

Obviously the eclipse let out some evil spirits who got lodged in my head. Damn you, evil spirits!

Why Terrorism Doesn’t Work

Bruce Schneier summarizes an article on correspondent inference theory and why it helps explain why terrorism doesn’t work: Basically, because targets and observers of terrorism tend to believe that the object of terrorism is to kill people, rather than as a means to political goals, and therefore they disregard those goals when deciding how to react to the terrorists.

I’ve been enjoyed Schneier’s blog for several years now. I think what I enjoy about it is that although it’s a blog about security (in many forms), much of it concerns motivations: Why people act the way they do, and how their behaviors lead to interesting security issues and trade-offs. The principles that arise in the blog often seem appropriate in other avenues of life, or at least they’re worth keeping in mind.

This is analogous to why I feel my baseball fandom of the last 15 years has been not just fun, but useful: It’s given me a better understanding of statistics, and – maybe more importantly – a recognition that humans are very bad at recognizing statistical patterns without doing in-depth analysis. That’s definitely been a lesson I’ve been able to apply elsewhere.

Classic Car Recovered After 31 Years

What a cool story:

Since the summer of ’76, Ron Leung thought his stolen 1956 Ford Thunderbird was “like the Roman Empire – history.” That is, until he got a call from Palo Alto police Thursday, almost 31 years to the day after it disappeared.

Now he’s eager to get the car to Palo Alto from Southern California, where it was recovered, reportedly in good shape.

Stories of mysteries solved years or decades after they occurred fascinate me.