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Submission + - Using Computer Simulation: In Search of the Perfect Curve Ball 1

Esther Schindler writes: We tend to think of computer simulation being used for scientific and industrial purposes. What if the technology could be used to, say, improve the performance of a Major League Baseball pitcher?

Over lunch, several Convergent Science employees – who happen to include fans of the St Louis Cardinals, the National League entry in this year’s World Series – came up with the idea of using the software to simulate Wainwright’s curve ball, says Rob Kaczmarek, the company’s director of sales and marketing. “Of course, [the Cardinals fans] went on and on about how Wainwright was going to demolish [the Red Sox] with his curveball. The seeds of simulating just what’s happening in that curveball were planted that day,” he says.

The simulation starts by subdividing the 90 feet of air from the pitcher’s mound to the plate into tiny cells, then simulates the ball cutting through these cells, and calculates the effect of each cell on the ball’s motion. "Wainwright, his pitching coach, or any other pitcher could use this tool – theoretically, at least – to analyze his motion and figure out the ideal release point (to the extent, of course, that any human can repeat a motion and release to the point of perfection every time)," writes Ron Miller.

Miller explains what that one company is doing, and briefly compares it to other options (in baseball and other sports) for analyzing performance in the effort to be just that little bit better. (He does not, however, delve into the topic of whether there ought to be a limit on such efforts; Malcolm Gladwell discussed that elsewhere in MAN AND SUPERMAN: In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a sporting chance?.)

Comment Re:The answer is SIMPLE (Score 1) 786

Again, that's something that a I find somewhat surprising. By politician standards, Obama's (or at least some suitably-empowered flunky's) level of expertise is high. And this is sort of a Big Project for him, politically. I would have expected careful selection of contractors, and contractors placed on notice that Hell Hath No Fury like the customer if they fuck this one up.

Comment Re:Government Agency (Score 1) 786

Actually, what he said was more along these lines:

"Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."

"Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

Just for fun, count how many times Kennedy used the word "we" in that speech.

If he had made that speech today, half of the Internet would be claiming that JFK was a nut who was taking credit for the entire space program:

"But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.

"I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute."

Comment Re:The answer is SIMPLE (Score 4, Interesting) 786

The thing that's interesting about the 'blame the developers' position is that, in the run-up to the election, it was generally demonstrated that Obama's tech (management) chops were head-and-shoulders above his opponent's. (Obama's election-information-system-thing was called 'Narwhal', Romney's 'Orca'. Arstechnica has some good coverage of the two; but you can google around for other info. In short, though, 'Narwhal' was considered agile, cloud-architecture-oriented, etc, etc, etc, modern buzzwords, and brutally outperformed the competition.)

Given that healthcare reform is Sort of A Big Thing (even if the result he got is basically Romneycare, as it exists in MA from before Romney's conversion to the idea that it threatens the fundamental underpinnings of America), I would have expected that an IT project in support of it would have been running in skunkworks mode from pretty much the moment of the election, if not before, and that absolutely every effort would have been made to assure success.

Comment Re:Enough already... (Score 1) 215

Correction... WE know all about the intercepts now. But the mass audience the Guardian wants to reach isn't as well informed.

What that puerile bitch Snookie is up to (and like-minded garbage) is sadly much more important to them.

The minority who try their best to be aware don't deserve to reap what the majority have sown.

Comment Re:Who Says they Never Paid for those Nukes... (Score 1) 215

Pardon me but the ONLY rule for criticizing Israel while not getting branded an anti-semite is... not criticizing Israel.

Fixed that for you. And I'm serious - this isn't about actual antisemitism, it's about suppression of criticism by claiming racism.

It's standard fare in politics sadly. If you want immigration laws (even just existing ones on the books) to be enforced, you're racist against Mexicans (an accusation made by people who have never reviewed Mexico's much stricter immigration laws!). If you criticize Israel, you're an anti-Semite. If you're against President Obama's politics or Eric Holder's actions, you're racist against black people. Etc etc. I wonder what such people would say if we ever developed a real problem with millions of white Canadians illegally entering the country, but I digress.

It's a cheap way to shut down all reasonable discussion and put the other person immediately on the defensive, trying to disprove a negative. It comes from people who don't want reason and logic to enter into the discussion because these are threats to their position, a position based on self-interest and not based on what makes good policy or which view is closest to the truth.

A side-effect I consider intentional is that the obsession with group identity is a direct assault on the concept of individuality. Real individuality is a strong threat to the main method of politics today, which is to divide people into multiple groups and gain power by promising to protect each from the others.

Comment Ummm... (Score 5, Insightful) 786

Just for the sake of perspective, 'big government' didn't "just put a man on the moon", it was an iterative process going all the way back to the experience of the Nazi war criminals we hastily whitewashed, up through a variety of incremental improvements and test designs (along with various accidents, some fatal), until we get to the Apollo missions that everyone actually remembers (and some of those had Issues as well).

Apollo 1 didn't, exactly go so hot(well, it actually went pretty hot indeed), and at least 5 others were killed in jet-based training.

Gemini 8 almost went rather badly, Apollo 12 was struck by lighting, Apollo 13's multiple issues are well known, Apollo 15 had parachute problems.

An assortment of workers and techs have also snuffed it in ground based accidents while working on space launch hardware.

This is not to say that the healthcare.gov rolllout was a success (it wasn't); but website launch failures are pretty boring as failure goes, everyone from small-business intranets up to major web companies seems to fuck them up on occasion. The bigger question will be time-to-fix. To use TFA's own analogy, you could have written "Why can't big government launch a rocket?" when Apollo 1 rather embarassingly caught fire on the ground, reducing the entire crew to charred corpses, because it had been filled with pure oxygen and improperly passivated. As we now know, they can, just not on the first try.

Comment Re:Since when is money laundering a "loophole"? (Score 1) 406

Money laudering in US politics hit the big time during the Watergate scandal. Details are never quite clear, but basically CREEP -- the Committee to Re-electe the President -- funnelled a then extraordinary $60 million or so through mexico to help fund Nixon's relelection campaign. Some of this money was used to finance dirity election tricks, rat-fucking, a famous letter which caused a governors campaign to implode I believe, and of course the watergate bugging itself and related operations.

Nixon won the 1972 election campaign.

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