Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Search Challenge (2/18/15): A couple of odd questions....

Every so often you see something and just stop to wonder about it.  This happened to me twice this past week, and in finding the answers, I realized they'd make good Challenges for you to consider.  

I stayed at home this past week with a truly annoying case of bronchitis.  I was functional--barely--but rather than go into work, I stayed at home the entire week, working via email, Google Hangouts, and shared Docs.  It's not a bad way to work, truthfully (although I did miss the Google cafeteria).  

But as I sat at home I noticed two things that piqued my curiosity.  Can you figure out the answers to these questions?  

While listening to an album by the cowboy group, Riders in the Sky, I picked up the CD case (from which I'd ripped the tracks) and spotted something that stood out.  As you know, the Riders in the Sky group play in the style of the classic cowboy and Western songs from the 1930s--it's a celebration of the mythical cowpoke songs that were popular back then (think of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter--the guys in white hats with guitars).  

Looking at the picture of "Woody Paul," I spotted something on his shirt that seemed a bit out-of-place.  As you know, singing cowboy shirts are colorful affairs, usually with western motifs and decorations.  But this was different.  Here's an excerpt from his picture: 

Woody Paul's awesome shirt.
Image excerpted from Riders in the Sky website.

See his collar and over the left side of his chest?  Those are some kind of mathematics equations.  Really?  On a cowboy shirt?  

1.  Those equations are really interesting, but WHAT do they mean?  And why would Woody Paul put them on his concert performance gear?  (For extra points: Where did Woody go to college?)  

While working from home, I had the chance to sit outside in the backyard, laptop in lap, enjoying the warm sunshine and drinking lemonade.  The backyard has a fair number of trees, and over the years I've enjoyed watching the birds come and go with the seasons.  

Some bird species never really leave, they just hang around all year.  Some kinds of hummingbirds (Anna's, for instance), mourning doves, and crows are resident--they're here spring, summer, fall, winter.  

But oddly enough, I seem to be seeing a LOT more crows this year than in years past.  Now that I think about it, I used to rarely see them when I first moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the 1980s, then they seemed to have become more and more common over the years.  If I were to guess, I'd say that the past decade seems to have been a huge expansion period for crows here.  Is this true?

2.  Have crows become suddenly much more common in the Bay Area?  Is it just crows, or have ravens also turned into frequent guests?  

I'm really interested here in HOW you find out the answers to these questions.  It's not immediately obvious how to search for Woody's shirt equation, nor is it immediately obvious how to find the data for crow population growth.  So please be sure to let us know how you did your search!  

My answer on Friday!  

Search on.  


  1. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    Tried searching with the image and text equations. Nothing.

    ["woody paul" riders in the sky intext:equations]

    Paul Chrisman (born August 23, 1949), better known by his stage name Woody Paul.

    Nuclear Engineering from MIT. Site links to a another one.
    The National Fiddler Hall of Fame, Woody Paul. Includes video of Hof introduction.

    ["Paul Chrisman" MIT]
    While physics and fiddling may seem poles apart as professions, success in both fields hinges on both passion and practice.Paul still enjoys solving problems. When the Grand Ole Opry was flooded in 2010, he was commissioned to repair and restore the concert hall’s damaged fiddles.

    How did Riders in the Sky become the Yella Fella group?

    [paul chrisman "riders in the sky" outfit ]
    Fiddler Woody Paul of Riders is the Cream of the Crop.

    [*B = 0 equations] in Google Images.
    electromagnetic wave equation. Need to verify this result as the answer.

    [thermodynamics equations] images
    [thermodynamics * B =0]


    1. Those equations are really interesting, but WHAT do they mean? And why would Woody Paul put them on his concert performance gear? (For extra points: Where did Woody go to college?)

    He went to MIT and holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering(Theoretical Plasma Physics.)B.S. in Physics, Vanderbilt University.

    He is fascinated with entropy and thermodynamics.

    Question 2 and more details. Later.

    1. [Difference crows ravens]

      Similar Species: Crows and Ravens
      Crow vs. Raven

      [crows population California]

      [crows population california statistics]

      [crows population california database]
      A 1927 reference calls them "rare" except at Point Reyes.

      First part of the previous article.

      Living with Wildlife: Crows

      [crow population California Department of Public Health]
      [california crow population]

      Bird counts led by the Audubon Society and U.S. Geological Survey show California's crow population has increased steadily since the 1960s.

      [audubon society california crow counting]

      How to Tell a Raven From a Crow
      Counting crows: Why are there so many in Berkeley?


      2. Have crows become suddenly much more common in the Bay Area? Is it just crows, or have ravens also turned into frequent guests?

      A: Yes, they are. There are more crows than ravens but both of them are more frequent. Details in next link

      Americaan crow sightings have increased over the past two decades.

  2. #1
    Query [greek mathematical symbols]>,_science,_and_engineering

    Query [delta x beta woody paul]> from symbols table (Paul Chrisman Nashville loves physics & fiddles)
    Wiki Reference #2 Inertial, Viscous, and Finite-Beta Effects in a Resistive, Time Dependent Tokamak Discharge, Thesis Nuc. Eng 1976 PhD, Paul Chrisman, MIT, Supervised by James E. McCune (attended MIT)

    Query [delta times epsilon] from symbols table

    Interesting because where I live (Alberta Canada) every year about a half-dozen crows would move in to our trees for the summer. The noise they made was unbelievable. The nests were huge. But we now have gone two years without seeing any. Interesting but I’m thankful they’ve moved on.

    Query [bird migration patterns 2015 california "crows"] Do they migrate maybe not?

    Query [bird population 2015 california “crow”]Why ravens crows are more common now in Bay Area?

  3. … on how — search, the cowboy way — used the character viewer>mathematical symbols to find a NABLA ��・ʙ=0… then visited the wiki list, then
    Del then curl… owww ended visiting with entropy &
    the information flavor
    maxwell's demon
    the equation ramifications were beyond my theoretical comprehension… yee haw howdy ho
    on fb, check the Katy Perry entry
    buzzfud list
    "Paul Chrisman (born August 23, 1949), better known by his stage name Woody Paul, is an American singer, fiddler, and composer, best known for his work with the Western swing musical and comedy group Riders in the Sky. With the Riders, he is billed as "Woody Paul — King of the Cowboy Fiddlers".
    Chrisman began playing fiddle when he was 11 years old. He played with Sam McGee and others regularly at the Grand Ole Opry in the mid-sixties. He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and has a Ph.D. in theoretical plasma physics fromMIT, where he wrote his thesis, "Inertial, Viscous, and Finite-Beta Effects in a Resistive, Time Dependent Tokamak Discharge", Thesis Nuc. Eng. 1976, PhD, supervised by James E. McCune. According to his classmates, he was extremely drunk during his thesis defense. He returned to Nashville and began playing recording sessions and recorded and toured with Loggins & Messina"

    Hall of Fame
    nice Riders bio

    then returned to my Opel GT (a former Woody ride) and drove in search of crows sipping lemonade… used: [crow populations bay area san francisco]

    crow graph
    Bay Nature, ravens & crows
    pt. 1 sf gate
    pt. 2

    crow eye, ever more

    for grins, another musical path…
    … meanwhile, in Santa Rosa… about 81 miles as the crow flies…
    speedy recovery

  4. I found the nabla / del / inverted delta symbol through one of my favorite applications, BabelMap, but could as well have found it as easily through the default Windows charmap, as remmij did.

    I had also found some results via [ "∇∙B=0" nabla ] but, after following remmij's link to the wiki List of mathematical symbols, I realized that "del dot" means "divergence of", which prompted me to search [ divergence of b is zero ]. This led me directly to Gauss's law for magnetism aka "Absence of free magnetic poles" or "transversality requirement, which I hadn't found previously and is indeed the answer to "What is the equation ∇∙B=0 and what does it mean?"

    Following similar steps, I found that "∇ × E" (curl of the Electric field) is the left part of Maxwell–Faraday equation.

    Both these formulas are part of a set, the four Maxwell's equations, which "form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric circuits." Still according to this Wikipedia article, these three fields "underlie modern electrical and communications technologies."

    After this, I suspected that this shirt should have all four equations, so I checked the other photos until I found this one, where the other side of the collar shows what may be inferred o be the right part of Gauss's law.

    Why exactly the Maxwell's equations on Woody Paul's shirt and not any other set of formulas more closely related to what seem to have been his main fields, beats me.

    1. This is a clear case of inattentional blindness: while I was looking for the other side of Woody Paul's shirt's collar I missed its entire right-arm sleeve covered in equations… It's on the fourth promotional picture, the same one I tried to link before.

      Still, I could only find three of the four Maxwell's equations: 1. Gauss's law; 2. Gauss's law for magnetism; 3. Maxwell–Faraday equation (Faraday's law of induction). I wish I could find some picture of the same shirt with the fourth equation, "Ampère's circuital law" (or some derivation of it). In its most basic form, it's ∇ × H = Jf. (Note: the f should be subscript, not italic but the HTML tag for subscript is not allowed on the simplified blogspot HTML.)

    2. I sort of found what I was looking for: the fourth of Maxwell's equations ("Ampère's circuital law") on Woody Paul's shirt. It's on its back yoke and it's shown here. After several attempts, the only way I found some good extra pictures of Riders in the Sky, including this one, was via the simple Image Search [ "woody paul" | "riders in the sky" ].

      In fact, the formula I found is (most likely) what, if I got it right, could be described as a derivation of Ampère's circuital law taking into account the displacement current. This is in fact too much for my meager knowledge of physics and maths, so this description might actually be wrong. Nevertheless, the formula I believe is on the back of the shirt is the professional form of ∇×B=1/c^2 ∂E/∂t ("professional" as MS-Word calls it, that is, with the fractions stacked).

      Again if I got it right, Ampère's circuital law fails under certain conditions. In lay, and maybe lame, terms, the "displacement current" thing must be added to the law in order to fix it. Here's where I got this mumbo jumbo from. Sorry if it's all wrong.

    3. much better described than what I sallied forth with… and you got the Nabla - heck, the whole equation ∇∙B=0 - to print… tenacious pursuit of the shirt equations, nicely done!
      the best description of Woody (Paul Chrisman), from Too Slim (Frederick LaBour - he may have buried Sir Paul - but that's another story):
      "When I’m on the road, one thing that always makes me laugh is Woody in his huge orange lumberjack’s hat, gnawing on Vienna sausages, driving with his knees and spouting stock market advice or endless theories on why Einstein is wrong."
      I headed to the MIT Open Course Ware to see if it would complete the circuit for me… ended up short circuiting and tripping many breakers while experiencing
      plasma loss and entropy… but did wander across some bits that may help distract until DrD. illuminates…
      Maxwell's equations
      titanium blue - our limited visual spectrum
      Sloshing Star
      a Rider's favorite - different - a couple ways:
      Elwood & Jake
      and from down under -
      buried horses
      album cover - more gender inclusive than the old west…
      Peter Nicolai Arbo, Åsgårdsreien
      Wilde Jagd
      maybe we could all meet for coffee at this Santa Rosa
      or see Riders at Livermore -
      Dan… you secured a block of tickets didn't you?
      still would like to know who designs/makes the rider's shirts… anyone run across that? but I'm wandering again… caw…
      8:14 - it's a test
      adaptive problem solvers with well tuned memories
      it's an infinite loop - ∞
      more cranial owwwww∞

  5. Remembering that there are annual Christmastime local/regional bird counts (sponsored by National Audubon Society chapters), I started out with a search on the five terms [california christmas bird count archives]. After some trial & error, I eventually refined my search to [ christmas pdf], for which fourth result was an article from the January 2013 Golden Gate chapter newsletter entitled "Trends Revealed in Christmas Bird Count Numbers." Page 4 of the newsletter, at has a nice table showing the 20 species with the largest increases (common raven at #1 and American crow at #4) and decreases on average from the 1974–1992 period to the 1993-2011 period.

  6. I wish these guys would leave USA for a tour of Canada. They are great.

    Went around the block, thinking Translate from my drawing to english. Fail.

    Tried Cattle brands. Fail.

    Roy Rogers. Fail.

    Harmony Ranch brand. Fail.

    Took a break.

    Tried Woody's physics background |physics symbols| and soon came up with the answers:

    the triangle is called nabla and del. Wikipedia for del showed that the two formulas are for

    Gauss's Law for magnetism - the one on his chest and on the other side


    Faraday's law of induction on his collars

    I don't know why I did not try the physics symbology first because I was thinking that at the start but lost it.

    Crows etc for tomorrow

    Great search Great music. Thanks for this one

    jon tU

  7. A couple of odd questions.... a couple odd responses…
    …having coffee in Santa Rosa, theoretically thinking about heretical plasma physics… 2:43p.m. PDT
    pondering sRs HOW…
    listening to

  8. I tried to find the whole equation instead of searching part by part. Even cropped photo to search for each equation with no result.

    Remmij, Luis and Jon great way to find it and much more easy than my approach.

  9. Woody has the symbols on his shirt, chest, collar, cuffs because as says he is fascinated with physics [MIT 76] but loves fiddling.
    Cowboys are known for their colourful shirts especially Riders in the Sky.

    CROWS & RAVENS in Bay Area

    [palo alto bird count summary crow] finds at the top of the list

    Its up to date too. Huge increase in crows and ravens since the 1950s even since 1970s.

    "Crows and ravens were once rare in urban areas, but now they seem to be everywhere."

    "Volunteers in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count first noted a few dozen crows living in San Jose in the early 1950s. Since then the birds have flourished.

    By the 1980s, San Jose volunteers were documenting hundreds of crows during the annual daylong count, and in the past five years they have counted an average of 1,200 crows in the city. Bird watchers around the Bay Area and Central Coast have reported the same explosive growth."

    Two curious topics in one. These were good fun.

    jon tU, your cowboy pal

  10. This was a fun search challenge but Anne and I had to reach out for some help on the equation! So for the first question we did the following search "woody paul" in the knowledge graph noticed that his real name was Paul Crisman. We then noticed that the 3rd result was an article about Paul Cristman and his Ph.D Clicked on this result which led us to an article in Technlogy Review This article was fascinating and gave the background of Cristman and how he gave up a possible career as a professor at Columbia Univ. to follow his dream of becoming a professor. Did another search "paul crisman" ph.d mit which gave us the following result from the german Wikipedia site; And got this detailed information on his education which is quoted verbatim here: "He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and has a Ph.D. in theoretical plasma physics from MIT, where he wrote his thesis, "Inertial, Viscous, and Finite-Beta Effects in a Resistive, Time Dependent Tokamak Discharge", Thesis Nuc. Eng. 1976, PhD, supervised by James E. McCune".
    To find out more about his shirt we did the search "riders in the sky" embroidered shirts and that led us to an article in the May-June 1998 edition of American Cowboy Magazine. This article said that the group members wore embroidered shirts (replicas of which can be purchased) as a throw back to the cowboy style of Gene Autry. We were sure that the symbols on Woody Paul's shirt had something to do with thermodynamics but after searching for the exact equation and not finding any information we reached out to our AP physics teacher who explained that the equation in plain english meant the divergence of the magnetic field equals zero." What significance beyond being something to do with magnetic fields is beyond us!

    Said teacher just dropped by to ask what we were doing and after seeing the equation had me go to the article on the nabla sign which led to the article on the del sign which led to the article on Maxwell's equations. Think Luis is right the shirt probably has all of those equations.

  11. Just realized in our answer above I said he gave up becoming a professor to follow his dream of becoming a professor, that should be to follow his dream to become a MUSICIAN!

  12. And now for question 2: We did a search for - crow population increase CA (actually this was a suggestion from Google as I typed in crow population increase, CA was a choice so we went for that). This led to an article in SFGate entitled "Why ravens, crows are more common now" And the article stated that based on Audubon Society Christmas counts the numbers of both birds had soared in recent years despite crows especially being very susceptible to West Nile virus. A researcher from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gives several reasons: they have migrated from suburbs and in so doing have found an even more hospitable environment because people can't shoot them in the cities because of firearm laws, cities tend to be warmer and have tall trees where they can nest, their natural enemy the great horned owl doesn't do as well in cities because the lights from the city allow the crows to see the owls before the owls can see them, and there is plenty of food from scraps people leave around. The crows according to this article may be chasing away the ravens. To verify the information we went to an article published by Cornell Univ. entitled " Causes and consequences of expanding American Crow populations" which corroborated the information in the SFGate article. We felt this source was so reliable that we didn't need a third source.

  13. At last a challenge I could answer without Google (for the cowboy part). Being myself a former physics Ph.D. student, I can absolutely tell you those are Maxwell's equation (I'm not sure you really want to know what they mean). More precisely, Gauss's law for magnetism and part of the Maxwell–Faraday equation. Looking for Woody Paul on WPedia I saw he had a PhD in theoretical plasma physics, working on "Inertial, Viscous, and Finite-Beta Effects in a Resistive, Time Dependent Tokamak Discharge" (that's quite poetic when you don't do the math). Maxwell's equations must have been his daily bread during those days.

    Knowing the answer, I tried to figure out how I could search if I didn't know. First, what is this [down triangle letter] -> : Greek letter Nabla or Del -> Ok now, [nabla dot b], but this doesn't give anything. "Nabla dot" being the operator for "divergence" as WP says, let's try [divergence b] bingo, WP again, Faraday's law of induction : The Maxwell–Faraday equation is a generalization of Faraday's law, and forms one of Maxwell's equations. Now looking at Maxwell's equations I can even find the Nabal cross E equation. Put this way it looks quite simple, but I'm not sure I would have found without being a physicist.

    As for the birds, a simple [crows bay area] leads to many many articles as : Why ravens, crows are more common now in Bay Area ...(…).

  14. #1 only:

    ["woody paul" "riders in the sky" equations]

    "He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and has a Ph.D. in theoretical plasma physics from MIT..."

    ["woody paul" "riders in the sky" "mathematical equations"]

    ["woody paul" "riders in the sky" equations shirt]

    ["woody paul" shirt equations]

    ["woody paul" mit shirt equations]

    Mike Mott's comment:

    "Also, Woody Paul's western shirt had Maxwell's Equations ( strewn about. I asked about that and learned he has a PhD in Physics from MIT."

    ["woody paul" mit shirt "maxwell's equations"]

    Google listing snippet: "That's "Woody Paul", King of the Cowboy Fiddlers, (formerly Paul Chrisman) with Maxwell's Equations on his shirt. He has a Ph.D in plasma Physics from MIT."

    ["maxwell's equations"]

    "Maxwell's equations are a set of partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric circuits. These fields in turn underlie modern electrical and communications technologies. Maxwell's equations describe how electric and magnetic fields are generated and altered by each other and by charges and currents...The term 'Maxwell's equations' is often used for other forms of Maxwell's equations. For example, space-time formulations are commonly used in high energy and gravitational physics...The equations in this section are given in the convention used with SI units. Other units commonly used are Gaussian units based on the cgs system,[1] Lorentz–Heaviside units (used mainly in particle physics), and Planck units (used in theoretical physics)."