The Principles of Pool and Billiards

In these days of intense Snooker watching I went looking for some information about the physics behind it. I've been doing some fiddling myself but I wanted to see if there was some more material which fleshed it out in more detail. And I struck gold indeed. The pearl of a web site that I found is this: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards. The web page is the online resource to a book written by an associate professor in mechanical engineering. But while most online resources to books usually don't contain that much material this one is absolutely packed with stuff. For instance is seems that all the formulas and their derivation from the book can be found on the web page. This includes stuff like Relationship between the amount of throw and cut angle. But the real fun is in the supplementary material not found in the book. Here he goes into explaining things like spin and other fun phenomena. Make sure to check out the "Post-impact cue ball trajectory for any cut angle, speed, and spin" derivation for instance. Now I got some nice reading in the breaks in the snooker matches.

Release Me

Saab has made a commercial which has turned out to be very popular. The thing that really sticks out is the music. It's a song called "Release Me" by a Swedish band called Laura. I hadn't heard of them before but apparently they've had an enormous boost from having their song in the commercial. As it turns out "Release Me" is currently the no. 1 selling song on the Swedish iTunes Music Store.

Like everyone else I also like the commercial but I don't think the song in it's entirety is as good as the special version they made for the commercial. It's still OK though.


Snooker World Championship

Ah. It's that time of the year again. The World Championship in Snooker, which means many ours a day in front of the TV.

Actually it already started yesterday and with one of the favorites being eliminated immediately. Graeme Dott, the defending champion and ranked no. 1 on the provisional world ranking lost against Ian McCulloch. It's clear that the pressure was too much to handle for Dott; McCulloch didn't win because played particularly good, he just had a lot of luck and could benefit from the fact that Dott's nervousness made him unable to pot. And so the curse is still unbroken: no-one has ever defended the world championship title when they won it the first time.

So who's going to win? It's harder than ever to predict winners in snooker tournaments but that makes it even more interesting to try. One player that has stood out this year is Neil Robertson, Australia's young snooker wiz. He's already won two tournaments this year, a feat in itself these days. I think he will make it quite far.

Another player which always plays well is Ken Doherty, Ireland's no.1 sportsman ever. He never has these slumps of bad snooker that some of the other top player has and so you always have to take him into account. Doherty plays a very graceful snooker and it would be good to see him make it far in the tournament. He has won the World Championship once before.

A lot of people has put money on Ding Junhui, the extremely talented Chinese teenager. However, his odds went down dramatically when it was revealed whom he was going to play in the first round: Ronnie O'Sullivan. That match is currently in a break and will finish tomorrow, but so far is seems that O'Sullivan is giving Ding the same treatment as in the Masters Final. Ronnie O'Sullivan currently has a 8 to 1 lead where they play first to 10. So I think we can safely rule out Ding Junhui from this years World Championship. It's actually been kind of sad to see him after the Masters Final. He hasn't been himself and hasn't played very well every since then. It seems he hasn't been able to recover from the total knockout he got from his idol. And things are not going to get better if he gets the same treatment in this tournament. I hope that he can pull himself together over the summer break and come back to the extremely fine snooker that he is able to play in his best moments.

What about Ronnie O'Sullivan then? He should surely be a favorite to win. Yes, he's always a favorite in every tournament but I don't have very big hopes despite his brilliant play against Ding. He has this problem of maintaining his good play throughout a whole tournament. Sometimes it seems as if he just can't motivate himself to play good snooker, especially against players that are not among the top ten. It's like it takes a real challenge for him to even bother. So, while I think that Ronnie O'Sullivan is the best snooker player in the world I'm also aware of his shortcomings. But I'll be happy to be proven wrong.

There are of course a couple of other players that are good contenders. Stephen Hendry, Peter Ebdon, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy and Matthew Stevens are some of those to look out for. But the names I mentioned above are those that I wanted to comment on. It's going to be an exciting couple of weeks.


One of the things I like about gmail

I've been using Gmail now for longer than I can remember. And I still think that it's the best email solution out there, all things considered. Today I just want to write a few words about one of those little things that took me a long time to notice but which Gmail gets right. Please bare with me here, it's going to take a little while to explain all the background behind this.

Most email clients have a split view. One part of the screen shows a list of messages in the current mail box, typically the inbox. The other part shows the contents of the currently highlighted mail. Gmail does this differently. It starts out by showing only a list of messages (or conversation in Gmail lingo). When you select one of the conversations it changes view to only show that particular conversation.

When I use Gmail I mostly use the keyboard. To facilitate this Gmail has a little cursor which can be moved up and down between the conversations in the list view. When the cursor points at a specific conversation one can for instance open it, to see the actual conversation. When going back from the conversation to the list view the cursor still points at the conversation which we looked at last.

When viewing a conversation one can choose to archive it. If you started out from the inbox then that will mean that the conversation is removed from the inbox and Gmail switches back from the conversation view back the viewing the inbox. Now, here's the thing: since the conversation that we just looked at is removed, which conversation should the cursor now point to? It seems that there is no obvious right answer here. We could choose to point to the conversation above or to the one below, but any of those choices are bound to be wrong half of the time.

The way Gmail seems to do this is that it remembers the last two conversations that I looked at. If the second one I looked at is below the first then it will make the cursor point to the conversation below. Otherwise to the conversation above. For me this scheme works incredibly well! It does the right thing at least 90% of the time. I'm just so amazed at the fact that they've obviously given this very small detail a lot of thought and come up with an incredibly useful solution.

As always, hats off for Google.

Amazon embarrasing itself

I've complained before about Amazon's book recommendations that I get via email. But today's recommendation just totally baffles me.

Yesterday (or the day before, I forget) I pre-ordered "The Children of Hurin", the new Tolkien book from Amazon.co.uk. Today I get an email recommending this book to me and telling me what a great deal I can make if I pre-order it from Amazon. Well, doh!