Physics 101

 
Have the laws of physics changed since I was in high school?
 
I liked the way the article started, with the point about white roofs keeping the place cooler in the summer because they reflect away light. 
 
Black is the most efficient transmitter and receiver though of heat.  That’s standard "black body radiation" physics.  Materials emit heat that is dependent on the temperature of the material. 
 
We have to carefully distinguish between issues such as convection heat exchange (from direct contact by air or water), conduction heat exchange from direct contact with things other than fluids, and radiation heat exchange with the absorbtion or emission of heat energy.   Normally a person’s heat loss when a person is losing heat is about 55% emission of heat energy.  That is one of the reasons why the air can be warm inside and winter but you can still feel cold if the walls are cold.  Warming the air mostly affects heat exchange by convection. 
 
White is an insulating color.   Now, if you are living in Florida or Southern California maybe white would keep you cooler in the winter.  But if you are in some snowy area in the north, having black outer surfaces that transmit the heat that you want inside with maximum efficiency would be bad and having a surface that would be terrible at emitting black body radiation (there should be degrees of this- some white things should emit less heat than others depending on areas of the spectrum that we can’t see).
 
Sure, white won’t absorb as much sun power in winter when the sun is up and the sky is clear and if the surface is facing the sun unobstructed.  But that is only one issue with heat exchange.   In cold places in the winter keeping the heat inside is generally more important to emphasize than trying to absorb more.
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2010, the boring year

Not much happening so far other than football, and now that it is down to the Colts and the Saints all the interesting storylines are dead.   I wanted to see Favre smack down the over-rated Manning.  Oh well.
 
Haiti is part humanity reaching out, part macabre news spectacle.   Hard to comment on it without considering it in the detail of what is going on at street level.  A small fraction of the amount spent on imperialist conquests in the past ten years could have built it up to a better standard and vastly decreased the damage.  Nice to see that we’ve got our priorities straight.   
 
A fact of life with the world’s population spreading everywhere is that it will increasingly difficult for there to be a volcano, earthquake, storm or other problem to occur without affecting a lot of people.
 
Hard to analyse what is going on in Haiti as co-ordinating a relief effort is all about logistics.  Reducing the effect of inertia is one issue.  I would see the goal as being able to put 10,000 people on the ground anywhere in the world within 24 hours because these kinds of operations are very time sensitive.  It would be expensive to have that kind of team around but in the context of huge military budgets it really isn’t that much. 
 
In other news, the Republicans may have bailed out Obama with his health insurance reform.  Now they can be blamed for defeating it if they filibuster but the Democrats then wouldn’t have had to prove the changes would work.   I call it health insurance reform rather than health care reform because that is really most of what is going on.   Canada’s grossly inefficient health care system already gives universal health care coverage at around 60% of the cost of health care per capita in the US.   Much of health care for those that can already afford it is expensive junk science.   The target should be around a third of Canada’s costs with universal coverage.
 
The most efficient probably is some form of two tier system because if high rollers pay a premium out of their own pockets that frees up public money to treat others.
 
The Republicans are annoying as ever with their nonsense about death committees that would decide who to treat.   There has to be some element of that.  Even if death can be avoided for a time every story has the same ending.     How much do you spend to save a life? 1 million? 10 million? 50 million?  And at what probability of success?  There’s obviously going to be a point at which it doesn’t make sense.
 
Presumably the death committees that the Republicans keep yapping about would have some sort of objective criteria.   I presume that the Republicans view their present system where health decisions are made based on social class, which often means by race, as preferrable.  I think that the Democrats should be pointing out that is the Republican’s real position- the system should spare no expense to preserve their white country club buddies a little while longer even if the hope is faint, and if that means that blacks and hispanics with treatable illnesses go without, then so be it. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Underused play- forcing fumbles

Well, the Vikings were sufficiently dominant that after 4 turnovers it was close and the next one finished them.  Not often you see that many blunders, 6 fumbles and 2 interceptions, and the game goes down to the wire.  Without that its’ probably 45-28 Vikings.
 
I hope they don’t give up and retire.  They should still be the early favorites for next year.  The top contender doesn’t win every year.  That’s the way it is.  Not even Joe Montana won 4 years straight. 
 
I hate the retirement talk.  Teams ought to rent a private island with no TV and radio in case they lose and head straight there on a plane if they don’t win.  Career decisions shouldn’t be made in the heat of a tough break.  Why is it that you feel the heat to retire when a conference finalist but not so much if your team goes 1-15? The media are funny that way.  You don’t get the Superbowl and the press machine decides its’ time to call it.  Don’t get in the playoffs and by the wild card game people forget you exist.  Best to remember nobody kicks a dead dog. 
 
 

Least useful or most useful composite stat?

I was searching for a way to make a more objective comparison of NFL team strengths a few weeks ago for playoff predictions.  Initially I was thinking about total points differential, and the concern with that is that it undervalues defense although it is a good measure.  A team that outscores its’ opponents 350-250 is a more likely winner than a team that outscores opponents 500-400.   If a team were to outscore opponents 100-0 over a season it would never lose.  So I thought about points scored as a percentage of total points scored in the games.
 
When I first looked at the results I thought that I’d come up with the most useless statistic ever.  The top teams were all huddled around 60% and some of the teams with better records were lower in the score.   It was strange in a way- regardless of the difficulty of the schedule, the ups and downs, whether the team pulled its’ starters or whatever, the result was about 60%.  It might be a measure of where top players think that they are doing good enough- they outscore opponents 21-14 or 30-20 on average and if they go over that they ease off the gas a bit or if they start to slide below that they think they need to pull up.  It might be a measure of what you could call the slacker effect.
 
Looking at the results again though it is interesting in light of the playoff outcomes:
 
1. GB   60.8
2. Vik  60.1
3. Pat/Rav 60.0
5. N.O. 59.9
6. Jets 59.6
7. Dal 59.1
8. S.D. 58.7
9. Colts57.5
10. Phi. 56.0
11. Card 53.6
12. Beng. 51.2
 
Green Bay is a little higher because they played all out to the end, teams that rested starters dropped at the end.
 
The bottom half are gone except for the Colts.   Some time I’ll have to see if it is a good predictor for other years.
 
Use this ranking and the only upsets so far are the Cardinals over Green Bay and the Colts over the Ravens.  Note the quarterbacks involved.
 
 
 
 

And about Drew Brees…

Brees  is unproven so far in the postseason- 4 games total, 2-2.  If he gets the Superbowl this year he will have had to get through Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and probably Payton Manning, three future first ballot hall of famers who are still in top form.   If he can run that gauntlet he’s earned his spurs.

Enough whining about Favre and Childress

Many questioned the wisdom of Childress recruiting a quarterback with most of the offensive records in the position and that has tended to carry the teams that he has been on and made everybody around him better. 
 
The truth is though that football is about dynasties and quarterbacks.  It’s hard for a quarterback to go very far without a dynasty and it is hard to make a dynasty without a good quarterback. 
 
In the past ten Superbowls there were 20 positions total for starting quarterbacks, 1 for each team.  Brady was 4 of those and Warner was 3.  Combined those two were more than a third of the Superbowl quarterbacks in the last ten years.  Add in what’s his name from the Steelers, who isn’t quite in the same class and you are to 9/20, with 6 of 10 Superbowls. 
 
Superbowls are mostly about repeat business, especially for the winners.  For 43 Superbowls there were 86 starting quarterbacks.  Of those 86 starting positions, 51 were occupied by quarterbacks who went to the Superbowl more than once and they account for 30 out of 43 wins, over two thirds. 
 
21 Superbowls, almost half, were won by quarterbacks with 3 or more appearances, who occupied 37 of 86 starting positions.  25 starting positions were taken by quarterbacks with 4 Superbowl appearances or more (6 people), who account for 15 out of 43 wins.
 
The top 10 teams for Superbowl success have won 35 of 43 games.  Of 86 Superbowl teams, 47 were teams with 5 or more appearances and 64 by teams with 4 or more appearances. 
 
The 18 teams that have 2 or fewer Superbowl appearances have 5 wins between them. 
 
The dynasties’ successes tend to be crammed together.  You get the QB and his team at the top of his game and win 2-4 times in a 5 year span and you’re done.  Then you usually rebuild.  John Elway waited through the rebuilding period and went back to the Superbowl to win twice years later, but that is an anomoly. 
Those two Elway eras were crammed together bookending his career, not spaced out.
 
In the 70’s, two teams combined for 6 bowls.  In the 80’s, again two teams combined for 6.  In the 90’s, two teams combined for 5.  In the 2000’s, two teams combined for 5.  In any given ten year period you have a very few dominant teams and quarterbacks and everybody else is like hyenas waiting for the lions to leave a carcass so they get a turn. 
 
WTF matchups like the Buccaneers vs. the Raiders in 2003 don’t happen very often.  Around half the time the dominant teams from one conference will screw up and some less accomplished team will heroically make it to the Superbowl and heroically lose.  Same thing happens in hockey. 
 
For non-favorites to make it from both conferences is uncommon. 
 
When I say non-favorites, I’m talking about teams without a track record of postseason winning.  You don’t get spotted any yards or points in the playoffs for having the top record in your division.
 
So here is the deal as Childress no doubt saw it- at any given time there are maybe 4-5 quarterbacks that have a serious chance of winning a Superbowl in the absence of a fluke.   His Vikings are hungry and peaking and he needs just one or two more pieces, including a quarterback that can win it all.  His options are:
 
a.     Get Tom Brady from New England;
b.     Get Payton Manning from the Colts (although he’s not the best choice);
c.     Get Kurt Warner from the Cardinals;
d.     Get Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay (although he couldn’t have known the potential before this season);
e.     Get Brett Favre on free agency.
 
Drew Brees hasn’t proven enough and what’s his name in Pittsburgh is carried by his team, but has won two bowls and either would be an semi-plausible plan B, as would be the younger Manning, although it would be improbable that their teams would part with them either.
 
In other words, Childress could play "safely" and get some young, middling quarterback or speculate on a rookie and probably win 9-11 games per year for a few years, go one or two rounds in the playoffs twice, and then go into rebuilding.  No Superbowl for 8-10 years in the next rebuilding unless he hits the jackpot on some young quarterback. 
 
Well, there’s nothing safe about deciding to lose.  He chose the only available route to a Superbowl.  Nothing illogical about that.  Unless you have a top team and top quarterback your Superbowl hopes are a Hail Mary. 
 
A big problem with getting the top quarterbacks is loyalty.   The best have a commitment.  Favre tried to come back to the Packers but was rebuffed.  Warner flirted with the idea of going to San Fransisco for a big raise but stuck with his Cardinals.  McNabb wants to stay with Philidelphia although he will probably never win a Superbowl there, they already peaked.  
 
The way for a team to get Kurt Warner, if possible, is to offer a trade of some kind.  If he thinks it’s for the good of the team he might accept it- although he might still not want to go because he’s that kind of guy.  For the top guys the team is like a marriage. 
 
The rest are pretty much unavailable. 
 
That’s one reason why Tony Romo’s job is safe.
 
There is also that Troy Aikman started his career with a 0-11 record as a starter, with 9 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  The next year he went 6-5 in games he started and got knocked out of the playoffs 38-6 by the Detroit Lions.  The year after that he won the Superbowl, one of three, and now he’s in the hall of fame. 
 
The highest that Troy Aikman ever got was  3445 yards and 23 touchdowns in a season.  Tony Romo has topped both for each of the last 3 seasons. 
 
Of course the grinding game used to mean more than it does now, but that also diminished the role of the quarterback from where it is today.  Things have to be kept in perspective.
 

Things getting more anti-climactic towards Superbowl

Well, the Chargers knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs again.
 
Given the hot streak and the past victories against the Colts I was expecting them to lose at the Superbowl, but at least put on a good display. 
 
Philip Rivers has improved a lot but I put him in the same category as Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb- a good, solid quarterback who will have a long and successful career that is unlikely to include a Superbowl, or one at best when the stars are in alignment.   
 
Guys like that put a team in a really tough spot because the odds are that if you get a replacement the replacement will be worse.  You can’t tell for sure who is going to be good.  Chemistry is huge.   For trades and free agency stats are an illusion.  Until you see the fit, you are really paying for something unknown.  A Chad Pennington can be appalling with the Jets and then take Miami to 11 wins the following year. 
 
The Chargers now have to prove that they can beat somebody other than the Colts in the playoffs.  I’m downgrading them for next year for playoff runs. 
 
It looks like maybe they need a new kicker.  3 missed field goals in a 3 point game?  He hits one of those and it goes to overtime and I like the Chargers’ chances better.  He hits the 36 yard one and the 40 yard kick and they win and probably go on to the Superbowl.  
 
Linemen need to be emotional.  Kickers I think need to be icemen.  They don’t have to do anything fancy, they just have to perform exactly like they do in practice. 
 
Having one of the Chargers wide receivers arrested a few hours before the game doesn’t help either.  Your team doesn’t need that kind of distraction right before the big game. 
 
The Vikings-Cowboys game went as predicted.  If there isn’t any imbalance in your favor you ought to be losing every time unless the opposing team takes a day off.
 
Speaking of days off, how about that Cardinals defence? I kept hearing about how they were so improved from a year ago.  Then in the Saints game I heard a lot about how they were injury depleted.
 
What actually happened was a continuation from the previous game.  I would have expected them to snap  into shape after what happened with Green Bay.  Instead we got more of the same and worse.
 
Running by people instead of tackling them, hitting them but not extending their arms to tackle- it was a complete gong show.  Supposedly a lot of their contracts were up at the end of the season.  Maybe they didn’t want to risk getting hurt by going all out and then not get another contract.  If so, I hope their employers current and prospective review those tapes.  When you put the team second in the post-season, especially when you have a legitimate shot at winning it all, that’s just wrong.  
 
It may be that they overpracticed and got tired out- some teams make the mistake of doing that.  Practice makes perfect to a point, after which you get diminishing returns and practice makes sleepwalking.  I think the Browns and the Raiders had some issues with that this year.   But for the Cardinals, that still doesn’t explain forgetting how to tackle.  Where they too tired to raise their arms?  
 
The Colts over the Ravens was one that I could see.  There’s no match on talent, just a question of whether the Colts would play playoff football.  They usually don’t.
 
Apart from the problems on the Cardinals’ defence I think that the Saints’ coaching staff did a hell of a job preparing their people to be game ready.  After five dud games and looking at what happened the previous week, I can imagine how the pep talk went.  "You see what they did to Green Bay last week? The Packers, one of the best defences in the league?  They shredded them.  You play like do did the last 5 games and they are going to f-ing destroy you.  The final score is going to be 80-3.  You’re going to go around in the off season with bags on your heads.  You see what Aaron Rodgers did?  He blew away the Green Bay passing records.  He got the Green Bay record for points scored in a game.  That wasn’t enough.  Now, we can win this thing but if we are going to do it I need 100% of what each and every one of you has got and that’s the only way it is going to happen."
 
If the Cardinals defence showed up that could have been a hell of a fight. 
 
Unfortunately the Saints have inherited the Cowboys jinx.   Sports writing is a lot like stock market reporting.  Whatever has been looking good for the last 3 days gets lauded as the wave of the future with inevitable success after success leading off into the sunset.   The Packers got that jinx too, with people talking about them as favorites to make the Superbowl before the first playoff game.  Never mind that the Vikings had beaten them twice when they both brought their very best game and played like a playoff.   A legit contender, yes.  A playoff quarterback, yes.  Rodgers will probably win more than one Superbowl.   But Favre and the Vikings are clearly better.   The Cardinals were also better.
 
Generally one game isn’t going to prove anything one way or the other and so while sports writers may be tempted to anoint whoever won their last game convincingly as the next big thing, you really need to look at around a five year or more track record to get a really good idea.   And so I’ll pick Warner until he loses, Favre until he loses, Brady until he loses, the Steelers until they lose, etc.  Similarly you pick the Colts and the Cowboys to lose, until they turn their track record around.
 
And if a team wins after showing a whole new array of tricks, that may get them a game but for the next opponent their cards are face up on the table unless they come up with further refinements.
 
There are also the elements of self fulfilling and self falsifying prophecies.  Puff a team’s ego up too much and your predictions that they are going to win become self-falsifying.  If they start to believe the BS and that they are heading for a coronation they will be knocked on their butts. 
 
Depending on the character of a team it might be better to think that they are slightly better, equal or slightly worse than the opponent.  You don’t want them feeling either hopeless or invincible.  Some people thrive on being underdogs.  Others like the feeling that they are better but challenged.  And at best you are only a fraction better.  If you can get a step or half a step on your matchup one play out of four, that’s a hall of fame career.  And the reason that you’re better is because you can stretch for that extra half a step.  If you don’t stretch yourself and make your match stop you, you’re just another jersey.
 
Having weathered a potential storm with the Cardinals and hearing all of the coronation nonsense the Saints’ coaches have their job cut out for them.  Big league players have big league egos and it can be too easy for them to develop a bad case of hubris.  Winning at the top, especially late in playoffs, is never easy.  It’s around 40% skill, 20% luck, and 40% who wants it more. 
 
The Vikings are maybe the best franchise to never win a Superbowl.  They are hungry.  Their fans are hungry.  They’ve been so close so many times.  The team and the fan base want it more than anybody else. 
 
Oh yeah, and they’ve got some Favre guy.
 
It’s a lot like the chip that the New York Rangers had on their shoulders in hockey in the 1994 season when they had Mike Keenon as coach and Mark Messier as captain and first line centre. 
 
So I have to pick the Vikings over the Saints.  34-27? My best guess, but given what both teams are capable of it’s just a number.  If the Saints somehow pull through I’d give them the advantage over either the Colts or the Jets.
 
Colts vs Jets is a game where you pick who will lose rather than who will win.  In a lot of sports the finale becomes an anticlimax after the favorites on one sidde of the brackets aren’t focussed and bobble their way out and the result is roadkill in the final game or series. 
 
After Manning stole Favre’s MVP award I would not want to be in his shoes if those two meet in a Superbowl.  Favre brings his very best game when he’s got something to prove, like against Green Bay.  The guy that now has more MVP awards than him, while not accomplishing as much?  Who five sports writers a week say is the best ever and will eventually, inevitably beat all of the records that Favre is still making? Oh boy.  I bet Favre wants a crack at Manning more than almost anything.  Vikings vs. Colts, the most likely outcome now, will be a complete blowout.  Favre is the better quarterback, Peterson the better running back and the Vikings have the better defence.   Give Favre one chance to show, on the biggest stage, who is the best ever [with the caveat that the criteria are according to certain stats that Joe Montana and others might quibble with]?  Eek.
 
The Vikings do have to be mindful though that the Saints are their biggest remaining obstacle. 
 
The Manning brothers have this thing where they only bring their "A" game if it’s the fourth quarter and they’re behind.  If not, they’ll see if their "B" game is enough and go through the paces.   That isn’t a great recipe for success in a series of elimination games because there’s no margin for error.  Payton Manning had to come from behind a lot this year, and the 14-0 record that they had at one point was from being consistently better than "C" and "B" grade teams, some of whom they had to come from behind on at the last minute.  The only elite regular season team they beat was the Patriots.   If they had the Raven’s schedule from this year or Pittsburgh’s schedule from last year that record would have meant a lot more.  What we’ve seen though is that they put away teams that they are supposed to put away, albiet usually with last minute heroics. 
 
I expect the Colts to beat the Jets by 3, although if they lose I wouldn’t be shocked.  The Jets are stingey and I wouldn’t want to have to come from behind on them in the last two minutes. 
 
I think that everybody has to be praying for the Colts to win- if the Jets go to the Superbowl they’ll be 25-1 underdogs and we’ll see a 20-14 game with 20 punts and wake up to find the game is over some time during the post game commentary.  The Chargers were the best bet to make the Superbowl interesting.  Oh well.  Let’s hope Favre puts on a show.  It will probably be David vs. Goliath but this time Goliath has the slingshot kind of show, but it will at least have the appeal of an episode of Destroyed in Seconds.