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Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Disapprover - Rounding Error Meditation

Last Week on the Disapprovers: The crew is starting to work out the details of a rescue operation to free a group of animals from a test lab. A heated discussion breaks out between Zeus and Abby. Mr. Toes mentions in passing an exoplanet and realizes there could be something to it.
I forgot about the exoplanet quip in very short order. After a long night, we all deserved a good, long rest. Once the weather had improved, Zeus, Mila, and Bruno snuck out of the house. Zeus wanted some of us to go with him, for fun mostly, but Suzy would have none of it, so we only got to watch them on the video stream. We had too much to do, our paws were full, we had to stay. I don't mess with Suzy. You don't mess with Suzy. No bunny messes with Suzy!
Molly
They had made excellent progress and were at the tunnel in no time. I think they tried to talk Bruno into going with them into the tunnel, the artery and on through the spacecraft wreckage to Singularia, but he politely declined the invitation and went about whatever business Bruno has to take care of at night. If all went well, they wouldn't need Bruno's escort to get back home.
Suzy, Abby and Molly got cracking on the list of rescues and shelters for the lab "refugees". Frankie and Freddie worked with me on the orbital dynamics for my "rest and recreation" project. Izzy was entirely dedicated to tracking the progress of Zeus and Mila and provided voice-over commentary. We had our headsets on, but we mostly paid attention to the tasks at hand. I found it soothing and comforting. This little routine we developed. We take a wacky idea, break it down into small steps and then we try to put one paw in front of the other. Sometimes we put that paw down very gingerly. Sometimes it doesn't even touch the ground, we withdraw it, and find another place to plant it.
Abby Molly & Suzy
Freddie and Frankie were running a simulation of a launch from an undisclosed location to a rendezvous with an object in orbit - with the perigee of 409 kilometers, the apogee of 416, orbital inclination of 51.65 degrees, average speed of 7.66 kilometers per second and average orbit decay of 2 kilometers a month. It all worked, but only roughly. The problem was we could afford, "roughly", no errors. We needed a level of precision down to a couple of inches. Oh, you'll find out why all in due time. You see, the difference of a few feet or even inches can have such unpleasant consequences. It's the difference between making a great leap for bunkind, or getting the space bends and getting flash frozen. Or melding your head with an aluminum wall or girder.
Once we got stuck, Frankie called for a break. We went over to Izzy and checked up on Zeus and Mila. They were doing fine, but seemed to be in no hurry to get through the wreckage. I wished Suzy wasn't such a meany. I sure would love to be right there with them, exploring the space carcass. Oh, well. Maybe some day, I'll bust out on my own and camp out there for a few days.
Molly Frankie & Freddie
Suddenly, I noticed someone was tapping me on the back, "Major, hello, Major Toes, anybunny home? I see the lights are on but, ..."
"Frankie! Sorry, what's..., what's up?" I mumbled, still a little dazed, my mind lost in the wreckage. "Major, I think I got it! I figured out why our numbers don't add up. It's you, Major," Frankie was settling down to one of his soliloquies. "... it's your head; that's the problem. You see, when your head is laden with heavy thoughts, those heavy thoughts shift your center of mass. It all goes to your head, and you become very top heavy. On top of that, you're violating the laws of conservation of energy, 'cause you keep using it, your energy, when you're thinking. The hot air comes out of you, and dissipates, you have less of it. But wait, it gets worse. You also violate the law of conservation of angular momentum, when you try a different angle to solve the problem. It throws off your momentum, that new angle does. Do you see how you're throwing everything off?", grinned Frankie and extended a little bag of treats my way. "Help yourself, it's ratty food, but there are chunks of dehydrated nanners. You like nanners, right?" I furrowed my brows and looked at him funny. He was right; there were some dried nanners. And oats! ... sigh, what was I supposed to do with this guy?
We went back to work on our simulations. We heard Izzy report that Zeus and Mila had reached Singularia and were preparing to enter her. I felt a rush of adrenaline, and my paws got hot.
Molly
"Look at this!", exclaimed Freddie. "Now we got it! I thought maybe we were mixing units or something, but no. I was rounding the variables wrong! I'll be, that's embarrassing. Check this out, Toes. See, now we line them up correctly!"
That was definitely good news, and I became both ecstatic and scared at the same time. I never understood those dual reactions, evoking emotions from polar opposites, trying to pull me apart.
Mr. Toes
Then something occurred to me. "Frankie, you know what? Since the target object has to have its orbit adjusted every so often, how do we account for that? Imagine that we launch ok, but then the target moves and 'poof'; our destination is an empty void; space bends and all."
"Good point Major, we'll have to find out when they do orbit adjustments, or plan on using proper space suits, jet packs, the works! Cool enough for you?"
I thought about it and said, "How about we just figure out when they adjust the orbit, eh?"
Then Izzie got us all to pay attention. "Listen up, everybun; Zeus is requesting that we gather in the basement, by the pot belly stove, in 10 minutes!"

2 comments:

  1. And here, all this time, I thought animals mostly licked themselves, ate, and procreated. Who knew ....

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  2. After my little bunny Phoebe bit the DSL cable in half (years ago) when I was looking at a website that had cute bunnies on it (instead of getting her a treat), I was pretty convinced that rabbits are actually techie geniuses. I mean, there was a tangle of wires next to my computer, and the bunny picked the *one* cable that would prevent me from internet access...?! She totally knew what she was doing!
    -Jen (Kohl's mom)
    P.S. However, I'm not so sure about the ratties - Frankie's understanding of the conservation laws seems a bit, well...soft :)=

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