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Sunday, February 22, 2009

If you were standing on another planet in our Solar System, the size of the Sun's disk in the sky would be different than the size it looks from Earth.  Below is an image I made of how large the Sun looks from every planet.  Earth is shown in a brighter yellow to help your sense of scale.

From the perspective of lonely Neptune, our Sun just looks like a bright star.   Pluto is not included in the diagram, but its visage of the Sun is the same as Neptune's: a bright star in the distance.

I'm already freaked out by how big the Sun is as seen from Earth - imagine being on Mercury, confronted by that giant ball of nuclear radiation!  Its visible disk is almost 7 times bigger than it is on Earth!

Burton MacKenZie

p.s. Here is an earlier post about Mercury.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Last year I was playing with the automated Gender Guesser.  There were stirrings on the net that Ann Coulter, an american who makes a living by spewing controversial nonsense and hatred to the ignorant masses, was really a man.  I went to her website and input some of her posts into the Gender Guesser.

The Gender Guesser is not a predictor.  It cannot predict definitively whether or not somebody is a man or a woman any more than being a smoker predicts you will get lung cancer.  At best, it might give results like "In a room of 100 people, if they all wrote this way, 70 (-ish) of them would be men".  That is, there is a lot of room for error, nor can it predict an individual.

Nonetheless, as a lark I published its claim (with appropriate disclaimers of accuracy) that her own writings betrayed her as a man because of what the Gender Guesser reported.

Sadly, outside of short spikes of popularity, this has become my most popular post on my entire blog, a popularity almost exclusively based on daily google searches for "Ann Coulter is a Man" or "Is Ann Coulter a Man?".  I am not proud of this - my blog is mostly math and science based.  It is a thorn in my side that my most popular post is due to people searching for information on her true gender and that, on average, it far outcompetes my regular posts.  I considered removing the original post entirely, but that didn't seem right, either.  I was reluctant to even add this post, but in the end decided to publish the bizarre website traffic happenings that I've been seeing for months.  This has been going on for a while but I didn't want to lead in January by mentioning it.  Mentioning Ann is a bad Juju way to start a year.

Ann, I don't care if you're really a man or not.  If you want to say you're a woman that's fine with me.  Saying you were a man on the Lou Dobbs show didn't help, even if you were joking.  I really do wonder, though, why so many people every freakin day come to my blog from google searches wondering if you're a man.  WTF?  No, seriously.

Burton MacKenZie


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