If I’m stuck behind a stale red light, is there anything I can do to change it? I used to live in Seattle’s U-district, and, for a period of about six months, I had to drive downtown at 4:45 in the morning every weekday. My commute was between seven and fifteen minutes long, and the five minute discrepancy was completely dependant on the state of the traffic light at the junction of Montlake and 25th. If it was green when I arrived, I would sail through and arrive at the office in no time; if it was red, I could get stuck sitting there for freakin’ ever, despite the complete lack of competing traffic.
I’ve heard two hypothesis about actions drivers can take to actually force (or at least hasten) a stale red light’s change to green. The first says that you can simulating the strobe effect of ambulance and police car sirens by quickly flash your headlights, and trick traffic light sensors that are programmed to automatically turn green when such a vehicle approaches. The second says that, if you are alone at a light, you can roll your car forwards and backwards, repeatedly triggering a pressure plate in the road and tricking the light into thinking that more and more cars are waiting for it to turn green.
To see if either of these were true, I called up the superintendent at Seattle’s Traffic Maintenance Office. She sounded as if she had never heard the headlight-flashing one (which is odd, because pretty much everyone I know if familiar with the ol’ “flash your lights” trick, and, to the best of my knowledge, nary a one of them works for the Traffic Maintenance Office). “That would never work,” she told me. “They would need the code.” She later clarified that “the code” was a signal sent by transmitters in ambulances, which traffic lights are programmed to recognize and turn green when an emergency vehicle approaches. “They don’t respond to flashing lights at all,” she said.
So is there any way to change a stale red light, I asked. The short answer: no. “If you’re the only one at the light it’s possible that you didn’t trigger the coil in the road, so you can try rolling back and forth,” she said. “But in most cases, you’re just going to have to wait it out.”
The coil, by the way, is part of the inductive loop that traffic lights use to detect when cars are present. The “pressure plates in the road” hypothesis is completely wrong, at least in Seattle.
What is brown? When The Squirrelly is coloring, I take the opportunity to teach him basic color theory. “This is purple,” I’ll tell him. “Purple is red and blue. This is green. Green is blue and yellow. This is brown. Brown is … orange and, uh, black? Except black isn’t a color. What the hell is brown?”
Holy smokes, did this ever turn out to be a not-easy question (see this contentious Google Answers thread, for instance). The first place I looked was in the “Ask a Scientist” archives, where I found this answer: “brown color is a color combination of red, orange and green — those colors are not adjacent in the visible colors of a rainbow so they do not combine to form a visible brown. The colors which normally make up the BROWN color, however, ARE ALL PRESENT in a rainbow, but are not present in the color combination we call brown.” Um, okay: I get the “red, orange and green” part, but the rest doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense to me, dude.
After further research, I think I figured out what he was trying to say: colors only appear on the rainbow if they are a primary color (red, blue, yellow) or if they are a color made up of two colors that are adjacent (i.e., a secondary color). So orange appears between red and yellow, for instance — though I’m still unclear on how “violet” winds after blue, when its other primary color, red, is all the way on the other end of the spectrum. Brown, however, is made up of colors that are not adjacent, which is why it’s not on the rainbow.
In fact, it appears that brown is the result when you mix a color with its compliment, which is the color found across from it on the color wheel. So you could make brown by mixing purple with yellow, blue with orange, or red with green. This is short of a shorthand way of saying that brown is made up of all three primary colors, but in different proportions. All his I learn from a page on how to mix hair dye.
Are there Disputed Heavyweight Champions Of The World? I know nothing about boxing, except that the best thing to be is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World. But does the word “undisputed” really mean anything, or is it just a rhetorical flourish on an already overlong title?
According to the Wikipedia entry on boxing, there are no less than three international boxing associations: the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, and the International Boxing Federation. If all three agreed that a certain boxer was the “world champion” then he was “undisputed;” but if any of the organizations object, a boxer “world champion” title is considered disputed.