Nerdy Stuff I thought You Might Find Interesting

This has been around for a while. You may wonder, how did the makers of this video create such a convincing set? How did they get such realistic costumes? This is what particle physics grad students do on their weekends…

Planet Money is a great NPR program that somehow manages to make economics interesting. They have some shows in the archives that explain some of the origins of the current recession… they even explain what credit default swaps are! This show is about a computer model that attempts to mimic the behavior of the global economy and what happens when someone is given license to change any parameters that they want to. The question is, given complete control over policy, OPEC , consumer confidence and even sheer luck resolving the European debt crisis, is it possible to get the unemployment rate back down to five percent in four years?

10/17/2012: I decided to start putting dates on these updates since they will otherwise look like an ever-growing list of indistinguishable content that sort of blends together. Now to the nerdy stuff that I thought you might find interesting. XKCD is a web-comic that some of my students follow. I’m not posting a link to it because some of the content is arguably not school-appropriate (somewhere between PG and PG13 if I had to guess), but I will say that the comic is brilliantly nerdy and well-known among the kinds of folks who like jokes that incorporate graphs and such. Matplotlib is a Python library that lets you make beautiful, publication-quality graphs using the computer language Python. But what if you want to produce graphs using Python that look more cartoon-like?

Enter XKCDify.

…Here is a hand-drawn graph from XKCD:

…and here is an XKCDified plot that was generated using matplotlib in Python:

May 9, 2013:

In Physics today a student asked what would happen if everyone dropped anvils on one side of the earth. All, 7 billion of us. It is not exactly the same question, but here is a related xkcd “what if”…pretty unexpected ending huh?


We talked about the momentum of a bb vs. the momentum of a train in physics a couple of days ago. Here is the “What if” that inspired that example.