“I have the stripes, but where is the zebra?”

October 29, 2009

piglickerHi Everyone.  Sorry I haven’t posted anything in the long time.  My apology is a post that even longer and more meandering than usual.

I’m at Indiana University for the Biocomplexity X workshop on Quantitative Tissue Biology and Virtual Tissues.  It’s been great — perhaps because there are many physicists converted to biology.  There have been several talks that touched on non-linear elasticity, though most people’s background is in foams and not granular matter.   Rene Doursat gave an especially good talk today on agent-based models of morphogenesis in which he mentioned another alleged quotation, attributed to Alan Turing, who made either the titular comment or said “The stripes are easy, it’s the horse part that troubles me!” in reference to the ability of certain systems of equations to create seemingly biologically-relevant patterns without necessarily providing biological insight.  Brad has Read the rest of this entry »


Bunton’s Winter CD: Track 9

September 23, 2009

Every so often I make up a mix CD of my favorite songs at the moment; mostly new songs, but with some old songs sprinkled in for flavor. I thought it’d be a neat feature of this new blog to go through, song-by-song, and explain a little about why it appeals to me.

iron_and_wineI first encountered Iron & Wine on the soundtrack to Garden State (thanks, Brian). I didn’t realize that “Such Great Heights” was a reinterpretation of a Postal Service tune, and hearing it first I actually prefer it. In any case, I was taken with the singer’s unique voice, but I wasn’t moved to act on it.

Soon after I moved back to South Carolina, I discovered the KEXP Song of the Day podcast. Every weekday, a free mp3 selected by the staff at one of the arguably few “real” radio stations anymore, KEXP out of Seattle. One of the first songs I downloaded was “Boy with a Coin” (video) by Iron & Wine, from his album The Shepherd’s Dog. It’s addictive and glorious. Two years later, it’s still the most-played song in my iTunes. I still haven’t found a single thing he’s sung that I haven’t enjoyed, but for some reason I haven’t purchased any of his albums.

Next time: perhaps the most over-played song in recent memory

Our Shrinking World

July 24, 2009

The schools of Duke and Coastal Carolina continue to get closer together. The first overtures were made when I went from graduate school in the Triangle to a job in the Grand Strand. Since, the link has remained strong. John and Ann visited in the spring to speak to my physics seminar classes, and I’ll be venturing back up to Duke very soon to collaborate with my former advisor, both activities I hope will become standing. An extensive interstate system will simplify the route between home cities. But perhaps the most important link between the two happened just this past week: CCU just got its very first Jimmy John’s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bunton’s Winter CD: Track 8

April 29, 2009

Every so often I make up a mix CD of my favorite songs at the moment; mostly new songs, but with some old songs sprinkled in for flavor. I thought it’d be a neat feature of this new blog to go through, song-by-song, and explain a little about why it appeals to me.

kooksNext up is another track from The Kooks. Actually, this song and the other one are fairly interchangeable in terms of how much I like them. The thing about this band—at least their first album—is their phrasing, both lyrical and musical. It’s so much fun to sing along to. Unfortunately, their second album Konk wasn’t quite as whimsical. Sophomore slumps are common, and it’s not just the artists’ faults. The label and their marketing teams deserve some of the blame, and this case is no different. The general public probably didn’t notice any advertising for the album, but many of the music outlets I kept up with had interviews and stories involving this band that I thought was out of character for them. Maybe all the fame, or more probably the pressure that comes with it, got to them.

Next time: an addictive, soulful tune from a fellow statesman

Durham to Myrtle Beach: 200 miles

April 1, 2009

In honor of the Spring Break season, I hereby off you, Dear Reader, a simple way to travel from blustery cold Raleigh/Durham, NC to the party mecca of Myrtle Beach, SC.

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A Motley Crue of Toxicologists

March 15, 2009
Motley Crue Still Exists -- Who Knew?

Motley Crue Still Exists -- Who Knew?

Three years ago this month a phalanx of Duke physics grad students, including most all Lunchtimers except “field theory” Brian descended upon Baltimore, MD for the American Physical Society‘s “March Meeting.” At the time most of us were desperate to find post-doc positions or other jobs given that in January several of us had been told there was no funding left to continue our research past May.  I must have gone on a half-dozen interviews myself, including a memorable one for Wolfram’s theory group.

(Incidentally, nuclear people do get to go to an APS meeting every year, just not the “March Meeting.”  They have to settle for the “April” meeting, which this year is May 2-5.)

Little did I know that three year’s later would find me with a permanent job (inexplicably in toxicology) attending another March conference in grey and chilly Baltimore.  This time around I’m here for the Society of Toxicology‘s annual meetingRead the rest of this entry »

Right Red Said What?

March 6, 2009

Red Right Turn ArrowMy well-known hatred of the modern implementation of traffic lights (for which I am sure future generations will mock us) notwithstanding, a recurrent question at lunches past involved the meaning of the red right turn arrow in North Carolina, especially the one located at the I-40 exit to RDU Airport (#295b).

The basic question is this: If a red right-turn arrow means the same thing as a typical, circular red light — for which you are allowed to make a turn after coming to a stop — then why would they have the red arrow?  Certainly most drivers treat it as typical stop sign, but sometimes someone will, in my opinion quite reasonably refuse to turn despite blaring horns from the ever-growing queue behind them of drivers trying to get the airport.

As with many things in this great nation, this law varies randomly depending upon state:

Map showing right turn on red arrow is legal in North Carolina and some other states

Fortunately for RDU drivers, North Carolina is one of the states that allows right turns on red arrows. Unfortunately for anal-retentive physicists, this means that red right turn arrows are nearly degenerate with the only possible additional information being that they indicate that a lane is turn only when red.  At least we’re not the only ones who get confused, the News and Observer blog post I linked to above follows a history of similar posts.

Unlike the behavior of the typical, dangerously unaware, vigilante drivers you sometimes find in Durham (thanks in part to the idiotic “Pace Car” program whose Google Page Rank I will now tag with the word “douchey“) confusion in this case would seem rest at the feet of the NC DOT who feels the need for redundant signage.  So I won’t honk at someone as they make me late for a flight, but I certainly wish they’d phase out the red right turn arrow.