Saturday News ABCs: Ada, Brands, Crap, Dentists, and Economics […and Fillipenko]

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and it’s hot outside, so what better than some nice cool, umm, stew that’s been simmering on the stove all week:

  • On The Wings of Ada. When I was getting out of college, object oriented programming was just entering the lexicon, primarily through the facility of Ada, the supposed DOD standard programming language. Here’s an interesting article on the Boeing 777, and how it flies on 99% Ada… and why Boeing feels that was a great decision for the aircraft. Here’s an interesting line from the conclusion: ” The trend towards more reliable hardware and software are revolutionizing aviation and can be found in aircrafts other than the 777. The systems in the cockpit talk to the other systems through the programming language, and in new airplanes, such as the Beechcraft 400A, the Learjet series, and some English jets, the language of choice is Ada.”
  • Branding Ain’t Just For Cattle. If you grew up in California, you knew there were two state University systems: The University of California (which were all UCxx, except UC Berkeley, which views itself as the University of California), and the California State University. It seems that the Cal State campuses are now concerned with branding, and each has their own identity. Some are xxxx State (e.g., Sac State, Long Beach State); others are California State University xxx (e.g., CSUN), and others have other identities (Cal Poly, California State College, and the Maritime University). Others are confused, such as CSULA which is worried about being confused with UCLA, at least in terms of acronyms. Of course, no one asks the California University in Pennsylvania.
  • In The Pipes. What’s something you depend upon everyday, but probably never think about? The answer is the sewer system, and here’s an in-depth exploration of the Los Angeles sewer system. The city alone has over 6,700 miles of sewer pipes, some going back to the 1880s. More importantly, the city doesn’t know where all the pipes are. Archival data is being gradually imported into a publicly accessible online directory called Navigate LA, which is managed by the Bureau of Engineering, but there are still plenty of gaps. One major part of the sewer system that has not been accurately mapped is the only way to access them: manholes (or the more proper term, maintenance holes).  (Note: the site displays a lot better in Chrome)
  • Be a Dentist. If you recall the song from Little Shop, Dentists love pain. People still thing of the dentist as painful, but they don’t realize how good they’ve got it. Here’s an article that explores what it was like to go to the dentist in the days before Novacaine. There was the belief that cavities were caused by worms. Often, practitioners would try to smoke the worm out by heating a mixture of beeswax and henbane seed on a piece of iron and directing the fumes into the cavity with a funnel. Afterwards, the hole was filled with powdered henbane seed and gum mastic, which may have provided temporary relief given the fact that henbane is a mild narcotic. Many times, though, the achy tooth had to be removed altogether. Some tooth-pullers mistook nerves for tooth worms, and extracted both the tooth and the nerve in what was certainly an extremely painful procedure in a period before anesthetics.
  • Quitting Smoking. This week, the CVS Drugstore chain stopped selling cigarettes. Given that they make 3% of their profit from ciggies, one might wonder why? The simple answer is Obamacare. More specifically, there’s more money to be made from healthcare than nicotine. This article has more. In short, CVS is rebranding as CVS Health, expanding its “Minute Clinic” network, and making groups with doctors to package prescription coverage with health plans. This emphasis (which is growing) is undercut if they sell cigarettes. So out go the cigarettes. Now, if they could only get their pharmacists to be efficient!
  • [ETA] Looking at the Stars. [When I wrote this up earlier today, I knew there was one article at work I had forgotten about. This is it…] No, I’m not referring to the nude pictures unleashed this week on the Internet. Rather, I’m referring to an article I saw earlier this week about UC defunding the Lick Observatory, and how it has got astronomers pissed. This includes the brother of a co-worker, and someone that my wife did science camp with when she was younger — Alex Fillipenko. Basically, the UC budget has been cut, and so UC is cutting funds for their only student-operated observator. This is the only observatory where UC students can schedule time and do research, and learn about the stars. As someone who works in the space field, this has me annoyed; as a UC grad and the parent of a future UC grad (although different UCs), it expresses a wrong attitude.

Music: Latin Brass: Barrippi Mompo (John Evans)