More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Important Stuff


Last Junkmail I mentioned the Powderpuff Girls DVD and the associated virus that Warner so kindly provided at no extra charge. I was wrong! I have since been chastised, e-lashed, harassed, and otherwise verbally abused for calling the Powerpuffs Powderpuffs. I obviously need to spend a full Saturday morning getting caught up with the rest of the world.

Discount Satellites

A couple of months ago I mentioned this article about a satellite that some students at the U.S. Naval Academy designed and built. They were planning to launch it in September. Click here for more info.

Well, they did and it works! The satellite hitched a ride on an Athena I rocket launched from Kodiak, Alaska on September 30. It's still going strong, even though they only expected it to last about a month.

The students who built this one have all graduated. The academy hopes to build and fly another satellite with a variety of sensors and communications systems. That sounds like fun.

Wind Chili

Now is the time of year that I traditionally whine and complain about the windchill factor and how the wind and temperature are more important and how dumb it is for weather people to give the windchill without the temperature, etc. So assume that I wrote 6 or 8 pages of persuasive gibberish on the subject.

Things are different this year. This year the wind has less effect on windchill than it has in the past, due to global warming, coronal mass ejections, and some new data.

This year some people finally got around to improving the windchill numbers. Randall from DCIEM in Canada (I forgot what that stands for, but it has something to do with weather and defense and health and snowballs) and Maurice from Purdue U. in Indiana came up with some better numbers for windchill.

The old windchill numbers came from research done in Antarctica in the 1940's. They took some containers of water and put them outside in the wind and measured how fast they got cold. This had the additional benefit of making the data useful for automobile radiators without antifreeze in cars parked into the wind.

The new windchill numbers came from people exposed to the wind. While this may be less accurate for radiators sans glycol, it should be a little better as far as people and exposed body parts are concerned.

One of my gripes with windchill factors has stemmed from the fact that windchill was supposed to be the temperature that the wind feels like on exposed skin. Since most people don't stay outside without any clothes on for very long in sub-freezing temperatures, the windchill factors should work better in the summer than in winter.

But the weather people prefer something to make the weather sound more severe so their listeners can go out and say, "It's bad. It's really baaaaaad," so they use heat index in the summer, ignoring the fact that the wind makes it feel cooler even when it's warm. Up to about 120F, anyway.

Anyway, this year the windchill is based on new data. They collected the data from people instead of from cylinders of water. They recruited some volunteers to walk on a treadmill at about 3 mph in a temperature-controlled wind tunnel. They did let them wear clothes, so the new numbers should apply in the winter. They attached lots thermometers in odd places to measure skin temperatures and internal body temperatures.

They did a lot of different tests, and they even splashed water on their faces sometimes. I think they did this when the volunteers started whining about being cold.

Somehow they converted the data they collected from volunteers into numbers based on wind speed and temperature. This was apparently based on the decibels of complaining during the tests and the severity of the volunteers' retaliation after the tests. Then they fit a curve to the data and came up with a neat formula that you, too, can use to calculate the windchill.

        Windchill = 13.12 + .6215 * T - 11.37 * V ^.16 + .3965 * T * V^.16
        (T = temperature in centigrade and V = wind speed in kph)

        If you prefer F and mph, here's the formula:
        Windchill = 35.74 + .6215 * T - 35.75 * V ^ .16 + .4275 * T * V^.16

However, as noted by the notorious J.P. Chandler, Curve Fitter Extraordinaire, the formula doesn't work so well if there's zero wind. For example, if the temperature is 32F or 0C with no wind, it comes up with 56F or 13C for the windchill. Maurice and Randall must have noticed this because they mentioned that you should not use this formula in less than 5 mph wind. And the formula is even worse in negative winds...

The windchill problem is not simple, even when there's a good formula that works in zero wind. For one thing, the wind speed is generally measured at 10 meters or so off the ground. Since there are things on the ground like houses and trees and caterpillars that slow down the wind, the wind at face level is generally slower than the reported wind. This wouldn't be hard to factor in, except that that local terrain has a big effect on the amount of surface friction. If the wind is reported at 30 mph in Amarillo or Barrow, it will probably be a lot stronger 5 feet off the ground than a 30 mph wind in Nashville.

Another problem is the fact that the 0 degree windchill may feel different based on the wind. If you wear a windbreaker in 0 degrees with no wind, it does a lot less good than it does in 0 degree windchill with a higher temperature and a 30 mph wind.

There are a lot more factors that affect how cold it seems, such as the amount of physical exertion, the amount of radiated heat from the sun, and the time since the most recent anthrax exposure. A single windchill number may be good for comparison, but if you're planning to stay outside in the cold for very long it's a good idea to know the temperature and the wind speed.

One thing they have added to the windchill table is the time it takes to get frostbite. That may not be overly accurate, but it's still pretty useful. You can't get frostbite in 35F temperature even if the wind is 60 mph.

Canadian windchill site:

U.S. windchill site: (One of these should work. I think they moved it because of too much traffic.)

How to Build and Atom Bomb

In 1979 somebody wrote a nice article for the Journal of Improbable Results (Volume 25, Number 4) called "How to Build an Atom Bomb." No too long afterwards, the internet came into widespread use, primarily designed as a more efficient means to distribute jokes, research, and other humorous writings. Being ideally suited for the internet, "How to Build an Atom Bomb" started flying around the world at near light speed and has been ever since. Here's a copy of the article.

Twenty-some years later in 2001, some idiots flew some airplanes into some buildings. In response, the U.S. President selected the most desolate country in the world and decided to bomb the heck out of it. This was not an easy task, since the Russians had first crack at it a few years earlier and took out most of the prime targets. News reporters from around the world joined in the fun, trying to make the bad guys look as dangerous as possible to keep up the ratings and beat their competitors to the scoop.

After the bombing let up in Kabul, and after the military had done their snooping around, a guy from London named Anthony ran across an abandoned "safe house" of the bad guys. He ran across a copy of the article from 1979 and promptly reported, "Times reporter finds blueprint for 'Nagasaki bomb'" and "Singed files left by fleeing terrorists.",,2001390014-2001395995,00.html

On BBC Television he quoted from the document "The device basically works when the detonated TNT compresses the Plutonium into a critical mass. The critical mass then produces a nuclear chain reaction similar to the domino chain reaction (discussed in this column, "Dominos on the March", March, 1968). The chain reaction then promptly produces a big thermonuclear reaction. And there you have it, a 10 megaton explosion!"

Homework assignment:  Select 8 contiguous words from the above quote and do a search on Google for the phrase. Enclose the phrase in quotes. Has anybody else ever seen this document?

I guess one of the bad guys had a sense of humor. If Anthony had read to the end of the article, he might have caught on:

        1. Let's Make Test Tube Babies! May, 1979
        2. Let's Make a Solar System! June, 1979
        3. Let's Make an Economic Recession! July, 1979
        4. Let's Make an Anti-Gravity Machine! August, 1979
        5. Let's Make Contact with an Alien Race! September, 1979

Busted Software

Last Friday there was a record software bust. $100,000,000 worth of pirated software being smuggled into the U.S. was seized by the Los Angeles Sheriff's department, U.S. Customs, and some other people.

I am sure they would never exaggerate, but the numbers don't quite add up. They said there were 31,000 copies of Windows 2000 and "tens of thousands" of Symantec's Anti-Virus software. I guess the biggest number for tens of thousands is about 90,000. So there may have been about 121,000 illegal copies of software. If it was a $100,000,000 bust, that would make an average value of $826 for Windows and Norton Anti-Virus. The AntiVirus software sells for $49.95 on the Symantec web site. I'm not sure what the going price is for Windows 2000, but I'm pretty sure it's a lot less than $800.

No matter what the numbers, it was a big deal. There was also $3,000,000 worth of illegal cigarettes. The bust capped an 18-month undercover investigation.,1283,48478,00.html

Creative Spam

I've gotten a rash of email advertisements lately, like how to get rich, how lose weight, and some occasional naughty stuff. Some of them are so bad I'm sure if I try to get removed from their list they'll realize there's a live person at the other end of the email address and send me more stuff. Some of them have a return address or a legitimate "remover" at the end of the email.

Then there are a few creative ones with "This is not unsolicited email" at the bottom. I guess it depends on how you define "is." They usually have a link you can go to in order to remove yourself, and it's invariably a dead link. These people get an A for creativity! At least they can't outwit my delete key. Yet.

To be perfectly honest...

Did you even notice that when you hear the phrase "To be perfectly honest..." it means there's a high probability of a whopper coming? That's not just a local language aberration. Several languages in both Europe and Asia use similar phraseology to alert the listener that there's an untruth on the way. They translate to "frankly speaking" or something similar.

Last week I drove from Las Vegas to Colorado last week and on the way, in order to get some culture and learn what I missed out on in humanities class, I listened to Homer's Odyssey. Even in 300 BC or 800 BC or whenever that was, they used the expression "I will tell you this and I shall hide nothing from you" to warn the listener that something of questionable truth is coming. I was really surprised that people were acting the same way that long ago.

The modern politicians have put a slight variation on this. They use the phrase "We have no evidence that..." I haven't quite figured out precisely what this means, but as near as I can tell it's equivalent to "I don't have a clue but if I did I'd lie about it."

Racing News

After the third day of the World Solar Challenge, the Nuna is ahead of the Aurora by 2 minutes, averaging 89 kph. Here's a drawing of the Nuna:

The World Solar Challenge is a solar-powered car race across Australia from north to south, about 3000km in all. The Dutch car Nuna is slightly ahead of Victoria's Aurora. M-Pulse (University of Michigan USA), Solar Miner (University of Missouri-Rolla USA), and SoMo (Solar Motions USA) were more than an hour behind the two leaders. 27 of the 34 cars that started are still in the race.

Current standings:

More info:

On the other side of the world, Matt and Steve from New Zealand won a rowboat race on Sunday. They started the race 41 or 42 days before. They went from Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Canary Islands) to Port St. Charles, Barbados, across the Atlantic Ocean. 33 other teams are still in the water, headed west.,1382,48345,00.html

There Are No Security Holes!

A couple of Junkmails ago, I included a link to an article written by someone from Microsoft on Microsoft's web site. The guy was complaining about how people keep announcing security flaws in Microsoft products, and how that can only help hackers. The next day, that article was missing from their web site.

I think this is the flaw he was talking about:

Microsoft later apologized because it turns out that they knew about this security hole a week before it was publicized. Online Solutions discovered the problem on November 1 and told Microsoft's Security Response Center. On November 9, after they never heard back, they published the problem. Coincidentally, later that same day Microsoft published an alert on the Microsoft web site. The patch (the link above) for IE 5.5 and IE 6.0 was issued by Microsoft on November 14.

Maybe Microsoft needs some homeland security.


Comdex was last week. It used to be the biggest trade show of any kind in the U.S. I don't think that's the case any more. They haven't announced how many people attended, which means it was really low. By really low, I mean probably around 100,000 people, which is still a lot of people. It's just a lot lower than the 175,000+ from last year.

Security was pretty funny at the show. On Sunday, the day before the show started, things were very serious. I took my sousaphone inside, but they made me stop and wait for a dog to sniff it. I wondered whether the dog was sniffing for explosives, drugs, or anthrax. They wouldn't say.

The first day of the show, I stood in line and had to wait to go through a metal detector. Someone glanced inside my backpack, but didn't check into it very well. Only exhibitors and press people were allowed to bring in backpacks. By the third day, everybody could bring in bags and backpacks, and I was taking my bicycle in with my backpack without being scanned, sniffed, checked, or even scowled at. By then it was all pretty normal, except instead of people standing in line for taxis, the taxis were standing in line for the people. That's a first at Comdex!

Some people are hesitant to fly on airliners. The politicians decided to make people feel more secure and got 4000 or so National Guard troops with guns to stand around airports and look for terrorists. Should we break the news to the politicians? Most people just don't feel very secure around machine guns, particularly when other people are the ones holding the machine guns.

I personally don't like it because they always yell at me for going somewhere they don't want me to be. I'd prefer covert surveillance. It doesn't make people nervous, it makes the bad guys less careful about being caught, and it's probably a lot more effective. But as usual, they didn't ask me.

In Las Vegas they've installed video cameras complete with wireless transmitters at most of the major intersections, pointing in all four directions. I'm not sure who watches them. I think it's a pretty good idea, but I think the majority of people I know don't like being watched and consider it an invasion of privacy.

       IMG_1858.jpg     IMG_1859.jpg

What was new at Comdex? Nothing you can't find on the web. I think that has as much to do with the attendance drop as terrorists. You don't have to go to Comdex any more to find what's new in the computer business.

I felt it a civic obligation to lend a hand at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office booth. They didn't ask my opinion on software patents.


Microsoft did attend the show, and they put up a few small signs outside.


Pictures of Today!

There are a whole bunch of pictures today, so I put them on a separate page.

(#) 1812, no rights deserved. Any duplication or distribution of this fine piece of junk is hereby uninhibited to the fullest extent of the slaw.

If you would like to sight up someone to receive Junkmail, you can do that here. If you'd like to read other Junkmails, you can do that here too. If you'd like to search for something you think I said in a Junkmail to prove me wrong, you can even do that here:

If you would like to stop getting Junkmail, please select one or more of the following:

        1. Click here
        2. Click here
        3. Click here
        4. Click here

I'm Bob Webster and I live at Have a good day!