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steve
I have a particle physics background and live happily with my wife Sukie and our five ferrets.
Interests: ferrets, physics, astronomy, atmospheric optics, os x, numerous technologies, large and dangerous electrical devices, simple hacks, social computing, history, history of science and technology, music, digital music, photography, image manipulation, and story telling
Recent Activity
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In the Winter of 1953 Francis Crick interrupted the lunchtime patrons of the Eagle in Cambridge to announce he and James Watson had discovered the secret of life. In fact it wasn't far from hyperbole - they had discovered the structure of DNA and the world was forever changed.1 Something... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at omenti
In the 1960s living conditions in some parts of the developing world were beginning to make serious progress. It wasn't terribly uniform, but some counties in Africa and Eastern Asia were feeling the impact of the green revolution, sanitation, and widespread immunization. Korea was at the leading edge, but there... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2018 at omenti
After the last post, someone asked about laser cooling. I'll try it without images.. just draw them in your mind. First off what is hot and cold? Think of heat as the energy of motion of the atoms and molecules in something. They can be moving through space, rotating or... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at omenti
Last year we had a new way of seeing the universe ... something that Einstein's equations predicted, but so difficult to detect that he said it would never been seen. Almost exactly a century after he published his General Theory of Relativity the first real detection of gravity waves was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2018 at omenti
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Have you ever wondered how a mirror works? It flips things around from left to right, but why not from top to bottom? And if you lay on your side it flips your image from top to bottom, but not left to right. What's going on? Kids love to play... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2018 at omenti
William Rowan Hamilton had become obsessed with the idea of a three dimensional number system - sort of analogous to complex numbers being a two dimensional system. The story he later told was every morning his son would say 'papa, can you multiply triples?' to which Hamilton would sadly shake... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2018 at omenti
At a birthday party the other day conversation turned to privacy. When someone complained about the erosion of our right to privacy I saw an opening to ask a question: "When was the golden age of privacy in America?" Among a dozen people there was nearly universal agreement around the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2018 at omenti
About a week ago the Manhattan-bound bus I was on broke down in rush hour traffic. I had been daydreaming most of the way, and now I had to take out my phone and say I'd be at least an hour late. The text went out and the phone went... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2018 at omenti
He scoffed at the pluviculturists who preceded him as he set his brew of twenty three chemicals aflame on the tower to the East of San Diego. They had no idea what they were doing with their canons and exploding balloons... they were more likely to start prairie fires than... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2018 at omenti
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Mention photography and iconic images come to mind: a young Pakistani girl with amazing eyes, aspens in New Mexico, an assortment of shocking and brutal events.... The rarest are those that change how we see ourselves. The full disk of the Earth against the blackness of space as seen by... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2018 at omenti
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My artist sister sent a link to this short video from The Tate. It's not quite what it claims, but that turns out to be useful. Go ahead.. I'll wait. Without a bit of background in the fine arts this isn't exactly a step-by-step how-to-paint guide. For most of us... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2018 at omenti
A few weeks ago two of us were talking about the perception of "now". A fusion of sensory inputs, responses and thoughts takes place and a highly edited version is assigned in what we perceive as a smooth and linear flow of time. Consider vision. It turns out it takes... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2018 at omenti
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When "Distinguished" was added before my Member of the Technical Staff Bell Labs title, I learned those of us in physics and math research were expected to spend five to ten percent of our time working on "interesting" problems of important AT&T customers. It turned out to be a great... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2018 at omenti
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By the late 19th century astronomy had been revolutionized by photography. Long exposures accurately produced much more detail than the best human eyes could hope to record and spectrography lead to the creation of astrophysics. A real revolution was underway and large sums of money were going into new telescopes.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2018 at omenti
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On a clear day there it is. Five or six miles East-North-East of Pasadena and a tempting climb if you were raised around mountains. Mt Wilson's summit is a bit over 5,700 feet and the view is remarkable in more ways than one. A trail out of Chantry Flat is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2018 at omenti
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My sister uses old photographs as an ingredient in her art. One archive is a collection of glass plate negatives, mostly posed studio portraits of Danes. Danes in suits, Danes in dresses, Danish children in little Danish suits and dresses. All of them with the same fixed dour countenance. Their... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2018 at omenti
I've been lucky at the art of getting lost just enough. If you've walked with me while I'm thinking you've probably noticed my sense of direction and local awareness can be low. If I'm by myself awareness comes into focus, but getting lost - just enough - is something I... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2018 at omenti
I love it when a scientist or science writer gives jargon-free explanations. Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall and Neil deGrasse Tyson come over as superstars and a handful of new stars have emerged on YouTube. The work of these explainers is important to society going well... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2018 at omenti
And I don't mean Cylons. Every now and again you notice a few trends coming together even though they hardly seem related at first glance. Someone asked a question today that turned out to be something I've thought a lot about over the years - a collision between tiny machine... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2018 at omenti
Flavor is an extremely complex fusion of senses - taste, smell, touch (pressure and temperature), electrochemistry .. even sight and sound have been shown to be involved. A bit of academic and much more commercial work has been done indicating: ° heavier bowls and spoon make yogurt taste better °... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2018 at omenti
Recently I was chatting with some people about energy options and brought up the nuclear waste storage problem. Someone suggested sending it to the Sun .. "after all" he reasoned "the Sun's gravity will just pull it in.." That's a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First there's a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2018 at omenti
A few people sent links to the announcement of a "revolutionary" advance for solar cells - namely to let these large areas that would be unproductive in a rainstorm, be productive. Numbers weren't mentioned, but it's worthwhile thinking about the problem. The Sun heats evaporates water which rises up into... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2018 at omenti
You've probably heard that the brain uses a disproportionate amount of the body's power budget -- the average for an adult is about twenty watts. Unless you're a serious athlete this is about a fifth of your power consumption (for children the figure is about half!). I used to wonder... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2018 at omenti
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The sound of a skater on thin ice. Predicting a rainstorm of molten iron on a star fifteen years in the past. It's been a year since I worried about participating in the first March for Science and two Earth Days have gone by. I've been thinking a lot about... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at omenti
Imagine a water world where intelligent life evolved not knowing about anything other than water. They probably wouldn't notice all the water. Over time a Galileo fish might discover it can learn about physics if it treat this medium they're embedded in as a separate material so they can work... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2018 at omenti