In the brief interlude between my morning of debugging PHP code — Semantic MediaWiki isn’t compatible with Cite.php, the bastards! — and my afternoon of category theory, I’d like to call attention to a few items.

First, an observation: for some reason I can’t quite fathom, I was able to adapt myself to using HTML entities for punctuation marks, writing — for — and the like, but my brain didn’t process the fact that HTML entities also exist for accented letters. Instead of typing, say, à to get à, I would hit Ctrl+T to open a new Firefox tab, hit the Tab key to move to the Search bar, type a French phrase which I knew had the accented characters in question, copy the characters I needed from the search-result summaries, and paste them where I needed them.

Searching was easier than typing. Now, that’s either a sign of advanced Internet-induced brain rot, or an indication that our interconnected world has definitively left TwenCen far behind.

OK, it could be both.

Next, interesting items recently spotted on the Weboblagospherenet:

At God Plays Dice, Isabel writes about doing math in pen. One advantage the pen has over the pencil is that the latter must be sharpened, and if, in a fit of Norbert-Wiener-esque absentmindedness, one tries to sharpen a pen, one will probably be reminded of the error of one’s ways.

(Actually, I should remind Isabel and the Gentle Reader of the device known as the mechanical pencil, which suffers the downsides of graphite but requires only refilling instead of resharpening. Hey, we put a man on the moon — we can damn well make a pencil which clicks! In fourth grade, I discovered the style of mechanical pencil I preferred, with the lead-advancing click-switch on the side, and I haven’t deviated since.)

Alexey Petrov reveals a few choice “overheards” from the CHARM-2007 conference. My favorite is, I think, the conference speaker who was having trouble with the slide projector and said, “I’m not sure how to get to my conclusions now.”

Doug Natelson discusses a recent blurb from New Scientist — yes, New Scientist, and all that implies — about a purported claim of superluminal signaling via quantum tunneling. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yadda yadda; in this case, we might also make a request that extraordinary claims come with better journalism and concerted efforts towards clear thinking. The short version of Natelson’s take is that this is much the same story you get with classical electromagnetic waves in dispersive media: group velocities, phase velocities and all that. Here, you’re talking about quantum wavefunctions, which gives the story a neat twist. It’s a fun phenomenon, but it’s a long way from being shocking.