Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Awkwardness, part 14

As I was walking across campus today, I had an interesting social revelation. I passed by a girl that I 'kind of' know, meaning, we've met a few times, said hi a few times, but whose name I cannot remember. I noticed her just before we began to pass each other and I smiled and said hey under my breath. She must be more socially mature, because she quickly responded, "Hey! What's goin' on?" To which I replied, with no thought whatsoever, "Good."

Because we were both walking in opposite directions the conversation was (luckily) over.

The awkwardness was purely a personal experience.

From the ashes of a blown-conversation came forth my most recent social revelation.

We love asking meaningless questions, and we love responding with meaningless answers, but if you happen to respond to a meaningless question with the wrong meaningless answer, then you have committed a serious social faux pas.

How odd.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Excessive Economics

A Yahoo news article prompted the following ramble by me. Enjoy.

The American economy prides itself in being consumer based. It is driven by the 'Buy now, pay later,' and, 'You just might need this someday' mentalities. We're obsessed with showing off our fancy toys, even if that means weaving an intricate lie of pretended wealth (often built on a foundation of irresponsible debt). We're more content to replace a broken appliance then to attempt to have it fixed. We eat out more often because it is easier than making a meal at home, even if doing so costs many times the price of a home meal.

But the problem is bigger than just gluttonistic tendencies - our country not only encourages fiscal irresponsibility, it requires it for economic stability. After September 11th how did our government encourage us to show our patriotism? We were encouraged to go out and buy things! Spend, spend, spend - that's a good American. Support the economy!

I believe that as Americans become more frugal, quality of life will increase across all income levels. Americans can be happier with less - less stuff, smaller houses, smaller cars - and with greater expectations for those possessions.

But here's where the economists start freaking out. Daily, it seems, I read reports that "Consumer spending is down, alert! We're entering a financial crisis!" The American auto makers are breaking apart because (gasp!) people aren't buying new cars as much! (News flash people - in very few cases buying a new car is a financially good idea. It is almost always a better idea to buy a car a couple years old!) This desperation is exactly what is wrong with the economy - if the American people become more fiscally responsible then our economy collapses.
Our country is built on a sandy foundation - we require irresponsibility to prosper. It is this necessity for irresponsibility that is the cause of the widening gap between rich and poor. More and more the rich do not become rich by hard work, (there are, of course, exceptions) but instead by "working the system," i.e. benefiting from the mass financial irresponsibility of the populace.
Does capitalism require the irresponsibility of the masses to function? Is frugality capitalism's downfall?

Am I the only person puzzled by this?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Reply!

To my utmost surprise, the Chief Publicity Officer for invalidateprop8.org replied to my e-mail! Here it is:

Thanks for the message, Nick - in the postcard to the president we inadvertently failed to include "Jesus Christ" in the name of the church and have corrected that.

I know they prefer people to only use the full name and to abide by their style guide; their preferred name makes the church sound much more mainstream. We, however, prefer to use the name "Mormon Church" which is the name by which most people know the organization. It's a bit like how they prefer to use "homosexual" when referring to us, rather than "gay."

Best,
JIM

------------------------------
--------------------------------------------

Jim Key
Chief Public Affairs Officer
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
McDonald/Wright Building
1625 N Schrader Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028-6213

The original language of the website was:
"...Although we decry the reprehensible role the Church of Latter Day Saints leadership played in denying all Californians equal rights under the law..."

This has now been changed to:
"...Although we decry the reprehensible role the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leadership played in denying all Californians equal rights under the law..."

Success! A small victory for the church! Hooray!
*sigh* I feel good.

Proposition 8

Reading about the renewed (and strangely posthumous) opposition to California's new constitutional amendment defining marriage, I visited the following website:

http://www.invalidateprop8.org/

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I support the church's stance on proposition 8. However, I understand and sympathize with those who disagree with the church. In fact, they have my deepest respect. I see opponents of proposition 8 not necessarily as anti-Mormons, but as "anti-this-LDS-Church-stancers." Therefore, in an effort to help them increase their credibility, I sent their Chief Public Relations Officer, Jim Key, the following e-mail:

Hello,

On your web-site, http://www.invalidateprop8.org/, you have neglected to mention or use the full name of the "Mormon Church." The full name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, there is no "Mormon Church" in that no church by that name exists. Mormon is a nickname given to the LDS Church (how it is normally abbreviated) because of the Book of Mormon. 'Mormon' used to be a derogatory reference, but it isn't anymore.

For increased credibility and to separate yourself from the very vocal anti-Mormon crowd, I suggest you use the church's full name at least once, and for other references use LDS Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ. This would likely bring greater respect from members of the church, even if they do not agree with you.

For more information I recommend the LDS Newsroom Style Guide at this web address:
http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/style-guide

With Respect,

Nicholas G Herrick
[With my mailing and e-mail addresses.]

I received an automated e-mail in response, but hope to receive a real response eventually. (Although I suspect it's not likely - I imagine he is a very busy and sought after person at the moment.)

For the official LDS Church statement on this matter, released yesterday, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President of Awesome

In June it was hope,
now it's the real deal.

Congratulations America!


(I originally posted this picture June 14, 2008)

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm Published!

I am third author on a peer-reviewed physics paper this month! It is the result of almost two years of work. I have assisted in nearly every aspect of the research and am the only undergraduate author! All of the other authors are either Ph.D. candidates or professors. How cool is that?



Extreme-ultraviolet polarimeter utilizing laser-generated high-order harmonics

Nicole Brimhall, Matthew Turner, Nicholas Herrick, David D. Allred, R. Steven Turley, Michael Ware, and Justin Peatross
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602, USA


We describe an extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) polarimeter that employs laser-generated high-order harmonics as the light source. The polarimeter is designed to characterize materials and thin films for use with EUV light. Laser high harmonics are highly directional with easily rotatable linear polarization, not typically available with other EUV sources. The harmonics have good wavelength coverage, potentially spanning the entire EUV from a few to a hundred nanometers. Our instrument is configured to measure reflectances from 14 to 30 nm and has ~180 spectral resolution (λ/Δλ). The reflection from a sample surface can be measured over a continuous range of incident angles (5°–75°). A secondary 14 cm gas cell attenuates the harmonics in a controlled way to keep signals within the linear dynamic range of the detector, comprised of a microchannel plate coupled to a phosphorous screen and charge coupled device camera. The harmonics are produced using ~10 mJ, ~35 fs, and ~800 nm laser pulses with a repetition rate of 10 Hz. Per-shot energy monitoring of the laser discriminates against fluctuations. The polarimeter reflectance data agree well with data obtained at the Advanced Light Source Synchrotron (Beamline 6.3.2).
©2008American Institute of Physics

Friday, October 31, 2008

1 Year

This blog is 1 year old! Wahoo!

I Just Don't Understand

I said in a recent letter to the BYU Daily Universe:

"It is a constant source of amazement for me how the self-proclaimed "Religious Right" can justify their elitist positions concerning the poor."

I am now more confused than ever as I see people that I trust and respect vehemently defend a corrupt and flawed economic system. When our voices become more raised in the defense of our wealth than in "providing for the general welfare," I feel a profound and deep sadness. I believe that until we realize that economic, social, and cultural strength derives from how we treat the most-destitute members of our community, we will never become the America that we think we are.

The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. And we think this is the path to a strong economy? If so, then it is not an economy I can be proud of. Is an economy that depends on a large poor population any different than one that depends on slavery? Do we honestly believe that by making the rich richer ("trickle down economics") and keeping the poor poor ("raising minimum wage = inflation") our country will actually become better? Do we honestly think that it is a greater sin to raise taxes on the rich than it is to grind the faces of the poor? Do we really think that something as essential as the right to stay alive is to be subject to the selfishness of capitalism?

I fear that our phobia of communism is pushing us to place that we, in our right minds, do not want to be. When the most powerful country in the world still has widespread poverty, what is wrong? When the most productive economy in the world  shares a thousand mile border with a third world country, isn't there something missing? (And I don't mean a fence to keep the poor out.)

Am I the only American asking these questions?

Or am I just the only one not so distracted by maintaining my wealth that I don't notice all the suffering around me?

I just don't understand how good people can support this proposed economic system.

I just don't understand...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The (Slightly Boring) Life of a Missionary

Missions are great, but missionaries get awfully bored!

I know I resorted to some pretty wacky stuff to stay entertained during my free time:
  • Trying for hours to catch gophers on a string
  • Seeing how many cheerios "our" dog could catch out of the air at once (...by the way, it was 8)
  • Building a miniature wind-mill from a McDonald's toy and a dismantled CD-player
  • Growing Ivan the Ivy (he was such a happy potted plant)
  • Feeding our pet porch spiders
  • Learning to solve the Rubiks Cube in 1 minute and 42 seconds
  • Inventing a new martial art involving grabby things
  • And, perfecting the art of rotating my thumbs in opposite directions at the same time (mostly while tracting)
As evidence that I was not the only missionary to get starved for fun, I cite the following video:

Monday, October 27, 2008

M 42 - Orion Nebula

I'm getting better! For my second successful CCD photo my focus is much better and I improved my image processing skills a lot since last week (Notice the almost realistic colors!). I also took a long time polar aligning the mount to get the scope to track more accurately.

This picture is an LRGB composition with the green frame re-used as the luminance data. I spent over 12 hours on this picture! But that's not the actual camera time. I worked on a lot of different elements along the chain necessary to take a great picture, such as: better polar alignment, better telescope tracking, better focusing, and better image processing techniques.

Over the past week I spent four nights using telescopes until very late at night. It seems I've gotten into a weird state: during the day I read about astrophotography incessantly, and at night I'm up on the deck till the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps I've been infected with some strange disease.... I'm headed up there again tonight.

M42 Orion Nebula
Pictor 416XTE on 12" f/10 LX200
40 sec x 4 green, 40 sec x 2 red binned 2x2, 30 sec blue binned 2 x 2
LRGB Processed using Maxim DLL 2.11 and Astroart 4.0

Friday, October 24, 2008

First CCD Photo

This is my first tricolor CCD astrophoto. I took it last night from the BYU Astronomy Observation Deck.

Ya, sure, there's a lot of noise, and the stars aren't exactly point-sources, but hey, for my first time it's not bad!

M57 - Ring Nebula.
Pictor 416XTE on 12" f/10 LX200
30 sec x 3 green, 30 sec red, 30 sec blue, 30 sec beta-N
Images processed using Maxim DL 2.11

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm Really Sorry About Your Goats...

I had no idea. I'm so sorry. =(

Not Enough Fun

There's this little flash game I've become quite entertained by as of late. It's called Desktop Tower Defense.

(If you click here you'll never make it through your homework again... I promise! Fair warning...)

Basically you set up little mazes and cannons to blast little blobby "creeps" as they try to move across the screen. I've beaten the Easy, Medium, and Hard levels, but I'm struggling on a few of the Challenge levels.

So when I get tired of trying the Challenge levels over and over again, I try one of the Fun levels. Well, apparently in my last game I didn't have enough fun, because here's the screen after I lost.

LDS Environmental Stewardship

Here's a survey opened today asking members of the LDS church about their opinions concerning environmental stewardship. It doesn't take too long, if you have a moment you might enjoy taking it:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Biggest Joke on the Duck Ever

Mitch Hedberg is pretty much the funniest guy in the whole world.
We share a deep love of ducks.

video

Idea

I woke up this morning with a great idea for a post.

But now I have no clue what that idea was.

...

It probably wasn't that great of an idea anyways.

Bearding

Here at BYU men aren't allowed to grow facial hair. (Who knows why...)

But I filed the piles of paperwork, met with a ruthless doctor, and paid an exorbitant amount of money (because I wouldn't sleep with anybody... otherwise it would have been free...) to acquire my very own beard card.

Yes, you heard correctly, yours truly has a beard card!

I think I will enjoy this bearding experience immensely.

I'm feeling more apostate already...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Social Uncertainty Principle

We're all familiar with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. But, in case you are so very abnormal as to not be familiar with it, here's an overview.

In the realm of the very small, particles behave far differently than we, in our gigantic, obese world, would predict.

The Uncertainty Principle states that for all mass (large and small) you cannot accurately measure position, x, and momentum, p, with better accuracy than Planck's constant divided by 4π.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Where momentum is equal to mass times velocity, p = mv, and Δ (delta) denotes the uncertainty of the quantity.

This means that it is impossible to know the exact position and the exact momentum of any object! The more you know about an object's position, the less you know about it's momentum. The reverse is also true, the more you know about an object's momentum, the less you know about it's position. You can't know where it is and how much it weighs at the same time!

The reason that we, as the gigantic obese people that we are, don't notice the Uncertainty Principle in our daily lives is because the quantity h is so very small:


Because h is so small, in our realm of bigness we don't care about that level of accuracy. It would be the equivalent of knowing our velocity, mass, or position to the 34 decimal place - nobody cares! But with atoms it does matter - in fact, it matters a lot. Thus the importance of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.



So we arrive at the purpose of this blog entry. My physics professor has recommended an addition to the laws of the universe.

The Social Uncertainty Principle


Where P is one's knowledge of physics and S is one's aptitude toward social interaction.

According to this law, as knowledge of social interactions increases knowledge of physics decreases. Conversely, if knowledge of physics increases then knowledge of social skills decreases.

It is for this reason that I must get married young before I learn too much physics.

Otherwise I'll never stand a chance.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Dream

Last night I had a dream that if you wore a yellow hat you could teleport anywhere instantly. Then, as I was standing in the shower this morning, it suddenly occured to me,

wouldn't you get fat?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Staying Informed

This isn't a political blog, but I just couldn't resist. For all you Palin supporters out there, she seems like a great governor, but wow, she's a joke when it comes to being the Vice President. As evidence, I cite the following video:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photos that Changed the World

Some of these photos are wonderful, some are chilling
all are awesome.*

Stopping Time
Dying Soldier Hangs to Priest
Starving Boy and Missionary
Last Jew of Vinnitsa
Niagara Falls Frozen
Lynching of Young Blacks
Notice the looks on their faces.Starving Child and Vulture
The Baby Hand
*as in: causing one to awe.

Storming the Brain

I'd like to write a new planetarium show. My previous show, The Universe Near and Far, seems to have been a success. People almost unanimously love it and I've been asked twice to present it to special VIP planetarium crowds.

But, that show was written as a group - me and two friends. You see, I want to write a show that's completely mine, but I can't seem to decide what to do it on!

So here's a few ideas I came up with the other day. I'm interested in seeing which of these you like. I have three basic show ideas, but I can always mix and match if you like elements from different suggested shows. If you don't know what some of this stuff is, then just assume it's really cool because I'm not going to have anything lame and boring in my planetarium show.


Science Fiction and Science Fact – What a strange place we live in!
Themes:
Science Fiction
Science Fact
Science Unknowns
The future…

Physics in space

no sound
explosions yes
laser beams “instantaneous”
inertia! Pesky inertia.
speed and traveling the distances
tachyons, transporters, tractor beams, force fields, holo-decks, replicators, subspace, and other mostly unrealistic Star Trek technologies

Huge Science Fiction (perhaps science future?)
Dyson spheres
Interstellar travel STL (slower than light)
Interstellar communication
Extra-solar colonization
moving through the 4th dimension

Strange Universe (Facts)
special and general relativity - 4 spatial dimensions
black holes
light
drake equation

Astronomical and Physical Mysteries
basic assumptions of cosmology
- physical constants
- homogeneous and isotropic universe
dark matter/dark energy
future of the universe – shape of universe
magnetic monopoles
anti-matter distribution
gravitational waves
Higgs boson
extragalactic GRBs
grand unification theory


Man’s place in the universe
Themes:
God is not just the god of this world
“Worlds without number have I created”
The amazing fact that life even exists – let alone us!
The creation – from beginning to end

Movie: Scaled zooming from the milky way all the way to the planetarium

The Creation – How we and everything we’re made of got here
Big Bang
Formation of galaxies
strange early universe phenomena
quasars
giant black holes
blazars
formation of stars
stellar evolution
system formation
earth’s formation
- habitability zone
- the moon
- tides
- meteoroid shield
- rotational tilt
geology
life (woah!)

Aliens and such

Drake equation – an equation predicting extra-terrestrial intelligent life
Size of the universe


What is all this astronomy stuff?
Themes:
So, you don’t know a thing about astronomy…
Why astronomy is as cool as it is.
Why we should care.

Elements:
What is?
- the universe
- galaxies
- stars
- nebulae
- planets
- constellations

Life? What the heck?

Weird but True!
black holes
pulsars
supernovae
quasars

Other
Where are we in all this?
Why should we care?
Something dramatic.

A coronal mass ejection in false color
A coronal mass ejection in false color.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Zion Afar

Zion afar begs us to rise
To resume
To push on
to come to her gates.

Our hearts would rejoice
upon seeing her face.
So fair
so pure
we long to be there.

The world drags us down
it pulls at our feet.
Distracting our eyes
haunting our sleep.

Babylon is calling
the drums are so loud!
It lures us
It taunts us.

So many travel there.

We stand here between
the mountain and the gulf.
Zion afar,
Babylon so close.

Our hearts yearn for freedom!
Our bodies beg for pleasure.
Our feet fear the journey.
Our souls long for home.

The sun has come out!
A break in the storm.
Afar, on the hill
the gleaming city – our home.

Zion afar calls us.
She begs us to rise.
To resume
To push on
To enter to her gates.

The distance to home
doesn’t seem so far.
Perhaps possible
Perhaps passable,

To Zion we will go.

But the drums from below
echo up to our ears!
The cries of the crowd.
The jeers of our peers.

The path is so steep!
The way is so far!
Yet Zion is calling.
Our friend, our love.

Our heads may sway
our legs may grow weak
but it's Zion we desire!
To Zion, we will go.

Our heart pulls us up
away from the din.
Their cries are so loud!
Yet we do not belong.

Our home is up there
Where the air is so sweet!
Where the light is so pure.
Where our friends wait to greet.

Our friends – true friends
Live inside of her gate.

Still behind us the pit,
the tumult so deep.
Above us the hills,
the land so sweet.

Our hearts, so impure,
still long for repose.
To Zion
...To Jesus
He’ll show us life there.

By Nicholas Herrick

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pythagorean Theorem - Reprise

I have a counter that tracks how many visitors come to my blog, the city they're from, and how long they spend reading, among other things. It's all pretty generic information but it gives me a fun activity to look and see who's reading. An interesting trend started popping up a few months ago and I have finally tracked down its cause. Check out some of this data:

Visit Length of Unique Visitors

"Now Self," I asked myself, "Why are so many people visiting your blog for less than 5 seconds? Don't they like your blog? Don't they find it incredibly interesting? What are you doing wrong!?"

Well myself decided to find out what was going on. Here's the answer:

Entry Page of Unique Visitors
91nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/03/pythagorean-theorem.html
50nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/
13nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/04/lds-vs-flds.html
6nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2007/10/zion-in-midst-of-babylon.html
3nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/08/evil-101.html
3nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/07/dramatic-breakup.html
3nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008_04_01_archive.html
2nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/08/serenity-of-sung-song.html
2nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/05/mars-polar-bears.html
2nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html
2nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2007_11_01_archive.html
2nickolaspickolas.blogspot.com/2008/08/modern-mysteries.html

Fifty percent of unique visitors to my blog are entering the site on the Pythagorean Theorem entry and most of these people stay for less than five seconds!

Granted, the Pythagorean Theorem entry is quite short, but it takes a little longer than five seconds to read it.

"Self," I asked, "What on earth are all these people doing?" Myself replied by doing a Google image search for "pythagoras," and lo-and-behold my blog - my little ramblings and amblings - came up ninth, NINTH! Try it for yourself! (Or just click here.) Isn't that neat? Who woulda thought I'd be famous. Wow.

Kinda makes me think I should put a real proof up...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gas Prices

I think this chap has a good point:

"I suspect that if I stood next to the yogurt case in the supermarket for five minutes every week with nothing to do but stare at the price, I would also know how much it has gone up — and I might become outraged when yogurt passed the $2 mark."

I, for one, am not too angry at the higher gas prices for a few reasons:
  1. I was prompted to finally sell my old, undesirable, and semi-gas guzzling truck for a much cooler, sportier, and gas efficient car. (And unlike the article, didn't lose money doing it!)
  2. I have been waiting for a long time for Americans to wake up and realize how easy we've had it for the past twenty years. Gas in Canada has been $4+ for years and I hear Europe has been even worse. But these people have gotten used to it, bought fuel efficient cars, used public transportation, and (gasp!) walked more. Meanwhile, our greed for cheap petroleum has drawn us into a series of frivolous Middle Eastern conflicts while simultaneously given ample reason to neglect developing quality domestic mass-transit systems.
I plan to write more about this subject because I think and read a good deal about it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Oatmeal Creme Pies

I love oatmeal creme pies. I can eat an entire box in one sitting, and have found that they work equally well for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between. If I take my hourly wage, subtract tithing and taxes, divide by the cost of one box of Oatmeal Creme Pies, and multiply by the number of pies per box, then that means that I can eat 84 oatmeal creme pies per hour 8 hours a day. Since most human beings work 8 hours a day, sleep 8 hours a day, and dink around the other 8 hours, every 42.9 seconds during my dinking-off hours I can consume one pie. Setting a timer to go off every 42 seconds would make life simple while saving 10 pies per day from the extra 0.9 seconds every minute. These surplus pies I would save and in about two years time would have enough Oatmeal Creme Pies for a year's supply of food. Face it, would you rather eat wheat or Oatmeal Creme Pies when the world goes kaplooey? These things will last forever.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Beauty of Silence

People often ask, "What is your favorite type of music?" These people usually anticipate a conversation about Blues Traveler, Weezer, or the Barenaked Ladies (all of which I enjoy) but this question puts me in a tricky situation! Wanting to remain cool (of course), I am somewhat shy to reply that almost all of the music that I listen to is choral! Always a conversation killer, I’ve discovered that very few people my age enjoy choral music to the extent and near-exclusivity as I do.

To prove my point, I bought a new car a few weeks ago (not really new, but new to me) with a premium sound system. I believe that the most effective test of a speaker system is, in fact, fine choral music! When sung with dramatic dynamics and featuring exciting writing, choral music will test all of the important aspects of an audio system. I've often been disappointed with speakers that didn't quite carry the beauty of a high soprano or the rumble of a deep bass section. A good speaker system can handle this range of pitch as well as the extreme dynamics indicative of top-quality choral music.

Back to my original point - in my opinion, the best music in the world is first-class choral music. Why do I think this? Keep reading.

I began singing my freshman year of high school where I discovered my initial love for the art. I didn’t immediately find the joy of listening to choral music, only performing it. Chanticleer’s Sing We Now of Christmas was the first CD I ever owned. I listened to it year-round nearly nonstop; yet, this love for a particular CD didn’t evolve into a greater love of choral music until later.

In the summer of 2004 I "discovered" the Brigham Young University Singers. On a trip to upstate New York I purchased one of their CDs entitled “Songs of the Soul.” Later, at my home in Virginia, I played the CD on my living room stereo while I talked to my family. It wasn’t long until we stopped speaking entirely and sat transfixed at the beauty we were hearing. More specifically, for fourteen minutes and fifty-five seconds we were silenced by one particular track, When David Heard That Absalom Was Slain.

When David Heard is a four-part a cappella masterpiece composed by Eric Whitacre. It relates a single heartbreaking verse from the Old Testament of David’s terrible grief upon hearing that his son, Absalom, has been slain. Absalom had rebelled against his father, formed an army, and attempted to take the kingdom by force. Of necessity, David sent an army to stop him, but gave very clear instructions not to harm Absalom. The King’s army was victorious but, disobeying orders, killed Absalom. In his grief, David shuts himself in his chamber and cries,

My son, my son Absalom!
...
Would God I had died for thee!


From this breathtaking story Eric Whitacre created the most wrenching and beautiful piece of music I have ever heard. In my opinion, it is the best in the world.

After discovering When David Heard, I fell in love with it. The painful harmonies and staggeringly beautiful melody stayed with me for many weeks. It was in my mind when I received my endowment at the Washington D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To this day I associate this song with that most influential moment of my life. It has become the only song that I avoid listening to for fear that it will become too commonplace to me – that it will lose its sacredness - and sadness.

It was a few years later that I learned the story behind When David Heard. BYU Singers, the performers on the CD, had not simply found the piece and recorded it. The composer, Eric Whitacre, had written the piece specifically for the Singers, and more specifically, for their director Ronald Staheli. Dr. Staheli’s breathtaking conduction of When David Heard arose from his grief at losing his son in a car accident at the prime of his life. For this, Mr. Whitacre “dedicated [it] with love and silence to Dr. Ronald Staheli.”

Following the summer of 2004, I served a two-year mission for the LDS Church. It was during this time that my love for choral music expanded from When David Heard to include other types of choral work. I exhaustedly listened to every recording I could get my hands on from the Singers, as well as other BYU Choirs and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was in the reverent silence of a missionary’s life that I grew to depend on the beauty of choral music.

The collective music of the BYU Singers has lifted my heart to rejoice and enlightened my mind many times since then. I have since listened to every CD they have produced - some of them dozens, if not hundreds of times. I have been to their rehearsals and recording sessions. I’ve acquired and scoured their archival CDs, and befriended many members of the choir. I’ve listened to dozens of concerts both from the audience and from the stage. I have found a deep love for the BYU Singers, and easily consider them the most beautiful musical ensemble in the world.

Upon returning from my mission I auditioned for the BYU Men’s Chorus, which I had been a member of during my freshman year of college. To my surprise and exultant joy, I instead found a spot in the BYU Concert Choir. This exquisitely beautiful mixed choir, conducted by Rosalind Hall, has recorded wonderful CDs and holds a very special place in the BYU choral program. To many this choir is the training choir for BYU Singers.

So here I find myself in the summer of 2008 following a year and a half in the Concert Choir – agonizingly close to my dream. The most beautiful choir in the world is only a few tenors away. Last year I lacked the courage to audition, but in April I had a preliminary audition with Dr. Staheli. It went very well and I am now waiting to see if I have made the callback list. Callback auditions for Singers is a very intimidating proposition – last year a stack of challenging music was assigned and a few days later auditionees were required to be able to perform it! The final requirement for entrance into the choir, despite a candidate's long resume of choral experience and musical expertise, is whether or not his or her voice fits in with the BYU Singers sound. Vocal parts have only four to six singers making blend essential. Many fantastic singers have been rejected from the choir because the beautiful sound they have developed is not the exact sound required by the choir. It is this fear that keeps me up at night!

By now, you will have surmised that one of my life goals is to be a member of the BYU Singers. Is this an unreasonable goal? Probably! When I conceived it in the summer of 2004, it definitely was. But over the past four years, it has become increasingly more possible. I don’t fear rejection this fall, or next, as I am willing to audition many times if necessary to get in. My greatest fear is that if I do get in that following the experience I will lose my love of the BYU Singer sound. I have found that I become much more critical of a choir’s recordings once I’ve been in the choir and am familiar with all of their typical mistakes! Will membership in the choir be worth the potential loss of my love for their music?

Well, obviously the allure of performing with the choir trumps that fear, but it still remains in the back of my head – a risk I am willing to take. For now, I hope to make the callback auditions, do well, and become a member of the choir. It’s a long shot, but for the first time in my life, I feel that it’s not so long.

So why have I put all this into my blog? Well, what are blogs for, but to write stuff like this? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I also somewhat want to share the beauty I’ve found in choral music with others. A few weeks ago I added a fancy little application on the right side of this blog for visitors to listen to some of my favorite songs. When David Heard is there.

I won’t beg you or even ask you to listen to it, but it is there if you’re intrigued.* If you do listen to When David Heard, do it right - listen alone, in a quiet room. Give enough time for the entire song without interruptions and try to concentrate on nothing else. If you listen with your eyes closed and with an open heart perhaps it will bring tears to your eyes as it has to mine many times.

*I grew tired a long time ago attempting to persuade people to do things that are good for them: A natural result of a mission? Or just a natural result of lame friends who will never do anything fun?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Modern Mysteries

A Few of the Most Pressing Mysteries of
Modern Physics

....Our ancestors wondered why the planets move the way they do, or how magnets work, but we have a slew of mysteries ourselves! Sure, these mysteries aren't completely encroaching on our daily lives, but they're HUGE mysteries nonetheless. Take a look at some of the subjects your children will take for granted:

7. What is the shape of the universe?
By shape, astrophysicists mean what will eventually happen to the universe. Will it continue to expand forever until everything freezes over (including hell)? Or will the expansion slow, stop, and then reverse until the universe ends in a Big Crunch? Newer and better telescopes, both ground and space-based, will answer this question...

6. Magnetic monopoles
Maxwellian electromagnetic principles state that magnets will never have monopoles, meaning that there will always be a north and a south pole. No matter how small you cut a magnet, it will always have a north pole and a south pole. Well, solar physicists observe magnetic monopoles as the source of coronal mass ejections! How does this fit into modern physics? It doesn't!


5. Where did all the anti-matter go?
Cosmologists (astrophysicists on drugs who specialize in Big Bang Theory) say that matter and anti-matter should exist in equal quantities. If so, where did all the anti-matter go?

4. Grand unification theory
Einstein died trying to solve this holy grail of theoretical physics. What's the problem? Try sometime to use quantum mechanics and general relativity at the same time. It doesn't work! These two methods work fantastically well for the very small (quantum mechanics) and the very large and massive (general relativity), but what about the very small and massive (like black holes)? The answer may lie in the 11 dimensions of string theory, but folks have been working on that for decades... gravity sure is a pesky little thing.

3. Source of extragalactic gamma ray bursts
Gamma ray bursts are the brightest events in the universe (so far), yet we still have no idea what produces them! Anti-matter reaction? Two neutron stars colliding?
.
2. Coronal heating - 1 million degrees, what the heck!?
The "surface" of the sun, called the photosphere, is a cool 4500°K. Yet over the next 2000 km in altitude the temperature rises to an astounding 1 million degrees! Why? Nobody knows! Perhaps the answer to this question will finally open the way to profitable fusion reactors here on earth...

1.
What is dark matter and dark energy?
We know it's there. It makes up 95% of the mass of the universe. Right now, we have no clue what it is. Just that it is. Now, if that's not a mystery...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Evil 101

B.A. in Evil Mastermind

Department of Dictatorial Sciences
College of Tyrannical Studies

Brigham Young University


For students entering the degree program during the 2008–2009 curricular year.

Program Requirements: 55.0 – 60.0 total hours.

Complete the Following:
101. Megalomania and You (1:1:0)
An introduction to careers in evil.
105. History of Tyranny (4:4:0)
Survey of world tyrannical empires.
106. Historical Tyrants (4:4:0)
In-depth historical analysis of their motivations, methods, and management styles.
180. Introduction to Torture (2:2:1)
Its history and theory.

205. Classic Historical Blunders (3:3:0)
Asian land wars, hot lava, and democracy.
206. Never Invade Russia in the Winter (3:3:0) (part 1 of 2)
210. Laughing (1:1:1)
Methods of diaphragm, pitch, and tone control.
220. Intermediate Torture (2:2:2)
Hot, cold, and sharp things.
224. Secret Agents (1:1:0)
How to kill first, laugh later.
225. Personal Persona (2:2:0)
Your uniform, facial hair, and office space.


301. Public Relations (3:3:0)
How to make good people think you’re good too.
302R. Advanced Public Relations (2-4:4:2-4)
Practicum in propaganda.
307. Never Invade Russia in the Winter (3:3:0) (part 2 of 2)
350. Natural Resources (2:2:1)
Effective use of sharks, oil, and plutonium.
360. Oppression (2:2:1)
Effective use of basic human needs.
371. Blitzkrieg (3:3:0)
Its history and modern potential.


410. Effective Exploitation of Interpersonal Relationships (3:3:1)
Basic manipulative principles including ransom, hostages, and threats. Lab included.
416. Advanced Torture (2:2:2)
Annoyance, audacity, and fallacious statements.
425. Personnel Management (3:3:0)
Intimidation in the workplace.
426. Advanced Personnel Management (3:3:0)
How to not kill all your useful staff.
480. Superweapons (3:3:0)
Lasers, missiles, and space.

498. Senior Thesis (3.0-6.0)
Small scale ascent to power demonstrating methods learned. Examples include, but are not limited to: student government, workplace cout de ta, school board, small country, etc.

Recommend courses
Geog 120 (3:3:0) Geography and World Affairs
ArtHC 111 (3:3:1) Introduction to Art History
Hum 250 (3:3:0) Introduction to Interdisciplinary Humanities

Physics = Awesome ≁ Practical

A few things everyone should own:

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Joy

I am happy.




..........
It has been awhile.

.......... I've missed it...........




I am genuinely happy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dramatic Breakup

And now, a dramatic reading of a real breakup letter from a real person:

http://youmakemetouchyourhandsforstupidreasons.ytmnd.com/

"...i dont care what your stupid friends say you make me touch your hands for stupid reasons u accidentally say you hugged me i will never like you again I HATE YOU I HATE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THIS D%#* WORLDDDDDDDDDD id rather date a spider or a rat den u ur soooo ugly and fat !!!!!!!!!!..."
Note: This audio clip contains foul language, but is hilarious.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dragon Dissection

I'm in a little comedy right now: The Fatted Dragon. It's part of the New Play Project production Long Ago and Far Away.

I play a low-confidence serf in a seemingly collapsing marriage (but which is actually going quite well) set in the fantastic (fantasy) middle ages.

As part of the play, I comedically dissect a dragon, gradually pulling out a pulsing green organ, a giant heart, random entrails, and lots of bones. It's all kinds of fun!

Any and all should come, tickets are only $5, and the show runs through this weekend. With seven short plays total, you're bound to find something you like, even if you don't think I'm very funny!

Visit New Play Project's website for showtimes and ticket sales.

Read a review of the show by a BYU English professor.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Digging to China

Remember when we were kids and we always talked about digging a hole to China? Well, it turns out (like most everything we believed as kids) that we were completely wrong. From almost anywhere in the continental United States, if you dug a hole straight down, you would end up smack-dab in the middle of the Indian Ocean. A few lucky children would actually have been right:

Digging from 20 miles southest of Lamar, Colorado you'd pop out on this little desert island in the middle of nowhere. (Notice the small town on the northeast shore? Also notice the lack of a name.)

About 10 miles southwest of Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, you'd get lucky and hit this beautiful little volcanic island.

Definitely the prettiest place you could dig to from the continental US is this beautiful, snowy, Antarctic Island. You could get here if you started digging from Northern Montana.

Other than those three locations, is seems that anywhere else in the Continental US you dig straight down from will land you right smack-dab in the middle of the ocean.

But what about Alaska and Hawaii? I'm afraid Alaska doesn't help you out much either. Most of Alaska will land you in the Indian Ocean as well, except for the very northern-most tip, which will get you to Antarctica.

Now, Hawaii, that's a place to dig! Straight down from Hawaii is the exotic land of Botswana, Africa.

I'm sorry to have burst your childish dream of digging to China... Later, I'll destroy your childish ideas concerning Columbus "discovering America," space being a "vacuum," and the more-often-wrong-than-right rule of "i before e except after c."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Best of Craigslist

I couldn't help it, I must cite these hilarious craigslist ads I found whilst browsing around:

Craigslist Adventures

A couple of buddies and I are looking for a house to live in this next year.

I posted an ad on craigslist, hoping someone will contact me and I won't have to search much (I sure get tired of apartment hunting!).
http://provo.craigslist.org/sha/756918298.html
permalink

Then I had a fabulous idea.

I posted another on craigslist, again, hoping someone will contact me and I won't have to search much (I sure get tired of wife hunting!).
http://provo.craigslist.org/msr/756923228.html permalink
*This link might not work for computers and networks with an internet filter, try the permalink.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Al Qaeda is Stealing our Helium

Did you know?

Helium doesn't change the pitch of your voice? It really only changes the timbre. The speed of sound is three times faster in helium than in normal atmospheric air - faster speed means increased resonant frequencies, which means "higher" timbre. It does the same thing in wind instruments!

Carbon hexafluoride lowers the timbre of your voice? Just like helium, (except the opposite) the speed of sound is changed - this time decreasing the resonant frequency.

At normal pressures, helium will remain a liquid at absolute zero.

Helium is most commonly used in hospitals. (To supercool magnets in MRI machines.)

Of all the elements, helium has:
  • The highest work function
  • The highest heat conductivity (at the lambda point)
  • The lowest boiling point, and
  • Near-infinitely small flow viscosity below 2.17K (the lambda point).
In normal bloke talk, helium is:
  • The most harmless element
  • The most surprising element
  • A gas the longest (gets the coldest), and is
  • A very picky element (no holy containers - not even if you buy them in Jerusalem).

The Conspiracy


Helium atoms have a higher average velocity than the earth's escape velocity.

Since January 2008, helium producers worldwide have raised their bulk prices by 50%.

Currently there is a helium shortage in the world.

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe.

The U.S. produces 90% of the world's helium.

What does all this mean?
1) Nick has been working on his liquid helium research too much, and
2) Terrorists.

For more interesting and somewhat amusing anecdotes concerning liquid helium and my other noble gas adventures, stay tuned. For now, the liquid helium research is SECRET... so that the terrorists don't find out...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mars Polar Bears


A new lander arrived on Mars today - the Phoenix Mars Lander. I spent quite awhile watching the live coverage of the landing. The first pictures of the Martian north pole have been beamed back and show a curious white object on the horizon. Already this is raising some speculation. Is it the lander's parachute off in the distance? Or is it an error on the ccd readout? Well, I don't believe either of these. I think it's a polar bear running for it's life. (Wouldn't you run away if a rocket came blasting out of the sky and landed right in front of you?)

Ode to Stalking

By Nicholas Herrick
This poem is lovingly dedicated to all the girls I've ever stalked on facebook. (namely, Jessie)

An astronomer’s night,
Though cold, and quite lonely,
Is to some, a delight!
Though, particularly for the homely.

These homely blokes,
who own telescopes,
stop acting so comely
when they get real lonely.

These strange types come out,
and go lurking about,
Peeking here, peering there,
of them, you must beware.

But please, don’t forget!
Who else occupies these nights,

Studious,
Tranquil,
Amiable,
Lionhearted,
Kind,
Empathic, and
Respectable
Stargazers are about,

often cursing your porch lights.

The difference, you see
Between a galaxy and a tree,
Is a slight angle
Some elevation
Just a few degrees.

S
o if you’re not careful,
And your gradient strays
You’ll find yourself peaking
On a far different display!

Hey! Fetch my rifle!
It’s in that big locker.
Look! There’s the Tom!
We have ourselves a stalker!”



So if at night you’re lonely
Leave your trench coat on the hook,
Stay inside.
It’s warm in here,
And instead,
try facebook.

---------------

For the record, I have never actually stalked anyone... except for facebook stalking... which isn't really stalking because everybody does it.