### Sagowab

I'd like to start an association called Scientists Against Green On a White Background. We'd have semiannual SAGOWB (pronounced Sag-o-wab) meetings at AAS each year. We'd apply for NASA and NSF funding to go around to various departments and teach people not to plot their data as green on a white background. We'd talk about how when you use green on a white background in the figures in your paper, the data become invisible when printed on a black-and-white printer.

It would be a heck of a movement. No more would the colloquium speaker have to say, "And as you can see from this figu--uh, oh. Well, it doesn't really show up, but if you could see it, my data clearly show that..."

To demonstrate the problem, look at the following figure and squint your eyes slightly to simulate a typical computer projector. As another test, click on it and print it out on a B&W printer. Hilarity will ensue!

erinjohn said…
even i know better than to plot with green on white background. DUH?!?!
mquinn said…
I'm in as long as I can still write web pages with dark blue text on black backgrounds.
JohnJohn said…
Unfortunately, knowing is only half of the battle. It's not like these people haven't seen an illegible plot in a talk before. Come on astronomers, we can do better than this...

Sorry Quinn, dark blue text on a black background will not be allowed by our bylaws.
jcom said…
Amen.
mama mia said…
does that green print say "please don't be part of the problem"? if so, perhaps my eyes aren't as bad as I thought!
Anonymous said…
Can SAGOWAB also ban unnecessary use of slide transitions in power point slide shows. The one that sounds like a race car screeching as the slide zooms in from the left slowly kills me every time it happens.
JohnJohn said…
Amy: Hahahahah. Gotta love the powerpoint.

Marie: Yes, the green text kindly asks you not to be a part of the problem. You don't have to have poor eyesight to be forced to read it. That's the point!

I think I'll open up SAGOWB to be a general organization of people against poor data presentation. Blue on a black background, red on a blue background, blinking GIFs on webpages, thin plot axes, distacting slide transitions, Comic Sans font, etc.
mama mia said…
But I live in a Comic Sans world! help me!
Marshall said…
Blue on black is the worst! Especially if the projector is kinda dim. There were some egregiously, wretchedly illegible talks at the CFAO retreat this past weekend.

If SAGOWB ever hires a lobbyist, he/she could pester Apple to make Keynote forbid users from ever choosing terrible color combinations. Draconian enforcement of tasteful design! ...then again, if Apple really believed in tasteful design, they'd never've shipped the transparent menus in Leopard. What the heck is up with that?!?

The master of awesome talks is Mate Adamkovics. His talk was full of so much Keynote goodness and plots so spiffy you'd never believe IDL made them, that Fitz and I independently cornered him during the coffee break afterwards to quiz him on how he'd done it. Oh, and his science results were pretty nifty too. :-)

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…