Ballistic Monte Carlo Methods

This is a paragraph I never thought I’d see in the academic literature:

“[W]e advocate the use of ballistic-assisted (i.e. projectile-based) random sampling methods because they are both easily accessible and parallelizable. In particular, shotgun-assisted random sampling seems very suitable becaues of the presumed abundance of shotguns in cataclysmic times and the speed at which they can generate samples.”

- Vincent Dumoulin, Félix Thouin – “A Ballistic Monte Carlo Approximation of π

Awesome. That’d make for an amazing grant application.

See here for a summary article that explains things for non-mathematicians.

Edit: Somehow I borked the initial post by forgetting the title and screwing up a link. I’ve now corrected these errors. If you’re still seeing those errors in your feed reader, please refresh the feed.

Where Not To Go

A recent Fark thread about zombies brought disaster preparedness to the fore in my mind.

Specifically, it made me think about locations that, at first glance, may seem to be an excellent place to flee to in a disaster, but are actually a very bad idea.

One of the prime examples is a big-box store, like Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. Here’s my analysis:

Pros

  1. Large, windowless building. Rolling metal shutters allow entrances to be secured. Doors only open outwards, and are made of steel.
  2. Substantial reserves of food and water.
  3. Large, flat roof makes it easy to observe (and by extension protect) the surrounding environs.
  4. Large steel racks of goods can be used for various other purposes, including elevated sleeping platforms and barriers.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? However, if there’s a major disaster, there’s numerous cons as well:

Cons

  1. Most people are poorly prepared for an emergency, and so will flock to such a store if a disaster is imminent1. They’ll probably head in even greater numbers to such a store during a disaster (witness all the looting that took place in New Orleans after Katrina, for example).
  2. These stores have huge amounts of perishable products (e.g. meats, milk, etc.) that will rapidly spoil if the power to their freezers is interrupted. One would need to quickly remove these products from the store and deposit them a suitable distance away before they spoil, particularly if one is going to remain there for more than a day or two. Spoiled food can attract predators and harbor diseases.
  3. Sanitation is a problem. While one can flush a toilet by pouring water into it (useful if the water service is out), this wastes considerable amount of water. It also assumes that the sewer system is still operational, which may not necessarily be the case. Big-box stores tend to be surrounded by enormous parking lots, and digging a latrine through asphalt is quite challenging.

While a big-box store may appear to be an attractive place to go during a disaster, I submit that it’s a bad idea.

To me, it makes much more sense to be reasonably prepared at home — a week or two of food and water per person doesn’t take up that much space and isn’t that expensive. Get a few other basic supplies2 , like  flashlights, batteries, a water filter, some means of starting a fire, a shovel/entrenching tool, toilet paper, some cash, a tent and some sleeping bags, and you’ll be set to ride out just about any plausible disaster until help arrives.

If an actual zombie attack occurs, we’ll be screwed anyway.

  1. They always seem to buy bread, milk, and eggs. Why? When faced with a natural disaster, “french toast” is not the first food that comes to mind. []
  2. Firearms and ammo are assumed. []

Taking Things for Granted

It is high praise for utility providers when we take them for granted; it means they’re doing their job of providing uninterrupted, excellent service. When I turn on my faucet, I expect and receive clean water. I expect that the water going down the drain to leave my apartment in a sanitary way, to be treated and disposed of somewhere else. I expect that when I turn on the light switch, electricity flows to my lamp.

Short of very brief, tolerable outages (e.g. there was a several hour long power outage at my apartment complex the other day, due to equipment failure with Tucson Electric Power. They evidently repaired or replaced the equipment and had it back on within a few hours.), such utilities are normally extremely reliable and it’s only natural that we adapt to their presence and take them for granted.

However, if one is preparing for an abnormal situation — a natural disaster or zombie attack, for example — one needs to realize that such utilities will likely be interrupted and plan accordingly.

More posts on related topics soon.

Kooks

One of the great things about the internet is that it allows for fast, easy exchange of information with little regard for borders, censors, or other restrictions. Things like YouTube, blogging software, and effective search engines have allowed for some incredible content to be created and shared with others.

Unfortunately, it’s also resulted in kooks, who generally were shunned by real-world society (though there are a few real-life kooks, including a few “END IS NIGH”-type crazies wandering around the university with their signs), coming out of the woodwork. Take, for example, the crazy sprinkler lady — a look at her profile and the other videos seems to indicate she’s a bit of kook. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of science can easily see her various claims are utter bunk, yet she persists against all odds: clearly anyone trying to present an alternate opinion or use science is part of whatever conspiracy she wants to uncover.

In general, YouTube commenters are dumber than a bag of rocks and seriously make me weep for the future of humanity, but some just take the cake. For example, today I received a comment on one of my YouTube videos that (a) asked what aftermarket magazines I recommend for the Ruger 10/22 rifle, and (b) mentioned that the individual had found the “fastest” 10/22 full-auto conversion kit and to see the commenter’s profile for the video. Curious, I looked at the commenter’s profile, viewed the video, and was impressed by the cyclic rate of the rifle. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, so I replied to the comment and recommended a brand or two of magazines. The user replied via private message and then offered to sell me 10/22 full-auto conversion kits, to which I replied that since the machine gun registry is closed and I’m not a Class II manufacturer, I have no desire or legal ability to make such guns.

The user then replied via private message on YouTube with a multi-page message (see below the cut) that said that AIDS is a real-life “zombie virus”, claims to have been given “military intelligence” on the topics, quotes scripture to me, and recommends a variety of different firearms for anti-zombie purposes. It was incoherent enough to suggest that the user believes it and is also a total kook, rather than someone posting it for humorous or satirical purposes. I replied, politely expressed my disinterest and asked that they not email me. They then started posting comments on my other videos calling me a kook. Go figure.

Some days, I wonder how people like this can actually figure out how to get dressed in the morning, let alone work at a productive job to afford various living expenses. The message was so rambling and incoherent, I seriously wonder how they can function in normal society. Even more frightening is the fact that they likely vote with more fervor and regularity than your average person.

I’ve posted the kook’s message below the cut, but have “encoded” it using rot13 to prevent search engines from picking up on it, associating me with such content, and driving more kooks here. Just go to the rot13 website and copy-paste the text below into the field to “decode” it.

Continue reading