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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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° It was 1956 and the cold war was raging. Billions of dollars were being poured into the effort, but it was becoming clear that the pipeline for scientists wasn't working very well and strong science was a national priority. Pre-college science education was in poor shape - particularly in... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at omenti
To encourage folks who might write a bit for the upcoming education post I offer a small piece on physical education. Numerous studies suggest that fitness under the age of twenty is an extremely important predictor for health in later life. Particularly important as one gets above the age of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2018 at omenti
Last night a ten year old asked what particle physics is. I've given a number of descriptions over the years, but I think this one captures the spirit and maybe even a bit of the physics. Physicists like to figure out what's going on deep inside something. If you're studying... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at omenti
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In the early 18th century commerce had become a primary driver for education the American colonies. Physical connectivity to move goods and information was growing rapidly. Stores were moving beyond the basics and it was becoming necessary to let potential customers know what was available. The amount of information was... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2017 at omenti
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You're outside on a dark and starry night wondering about those stars. Is someone out there? You take your flashlight out and point it at the sky. Your message in a bottle tossed into the cosmos. I'm guessing most of you did it when you were a kid. The problem... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2017 at omenti
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It's almost Christmas and the candles are coming out. Candles. And Michael Faraday's remarkable gift to young people. He's way up on my own list of favorite scientists. In addition to making fundamental contributions to physics (like field theory even though he was poorly schooled in math), he happened to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2017 at omenti
Yesterday Horace wrote with an interesting set of questions. Engineers typically are concerned with how, people generally with what. Why may or may not be relevant. Arguably concern about causality is a human condition and may be either an asset or liability. So anyway, I really enjoyed this recently: Feynman... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at omenti
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Two days ago a friend told me about a wonderful auroral display over Greenland and Canada as he flew from Paris to San Francisco. We're used to the notion of great circle paths. The shortest distance between two points on a sphere is a geodesic - the fancy pants generalization... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2017 at omenti
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I was in the basement with the brand new Motorola 21 inch color TV and a children's telephone. The wires snaked out and up to the roof where my Dad was on the other toy phone braving the Montana Winter as we tried to get a usable signal. I was... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2017 at omenti
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Every November Pip Coburn and his co-workers instigate a gathering in Manhattan that brings about a hundred and fifty people together. I've been going for a long time and have met a few wonderful people. If you look at backgrounds, I'm sort of an outlier. On the other hand, from... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at omenti
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Fall and Winter is a good time to look for the Andromeda galaxy in the Northern Hemisphere. Find a dark area on a moonless night and you should be able to easily find it. At about two and a half million light years away it's the most distant object you... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at omenti
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Look at the little group of numbers on the right. They were handwritten and aren't exactly neat and tidy. Take the first four on the third line. Our brain says 1 , 7, 4 , 2. We might bring it together as 1742 and some of you might think of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2017 at omenti
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Plants have a problem when it comes to reproduction. In most cases they need genetic material from another partner, but they can’t just walk around and find one. About one hundred and thirty million years ago Nature came a neat solution to the problem - flowers. Flowers attract insects in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2017 at omenti
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Late in May of the year I was in forth grade we were given a map of the United States and Canada with outlines of the states and provinces. Our task was was to correctly label it with capital names and rough locations along with the names of states and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2017 at omenti
The 19th of October is a big day for me. It marks the beginning of the only time I've been really depressed. A depression triggered by something that should have been a celebration. That afternoon I had just defended my Ph.D. thesis. The audience, while nothing like Harald Bohr's, was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at omenti
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One hundred and thirty million years ago dinosaurs were a little more than halfway through their stay on Earth. Underneath their feet the first plants that relied on animals to spread their seeds - the first flowers - bloomed. Flowers had an enormous impact on life on Earth - greater... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2017 at omenti
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A good deal of fantasy depends on magical properties of crystals. It's easy to see where that comes from. They're often physically beautiful and can do wonderful things to light but there's no magic. On the other hand some allow us to do what was considered fantastic. . Quartz for... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at omenti
I just heard that Monty Hall died at the age of 96. He was a game show host famous for a simple probability problem that gets people riled up. His show, Let's Make a Deal, had three doors. Behind one door was something very desirable - like a new sports... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2017 at omenti
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That's a really stupid idea Steve. It was somewhere around 1992 and wasn't the first or last time I heard something it. In fact it's part of the process of doing science - I just was applying it somewhere else. The PR people and business units of AT&T were for... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2017 at omenti
For a few years I've been been asked to talk to speak to a science class at a local high school. I've always chosen the topic. Usually I ask a few kids in the class a few questions and go from there, In the past few years it's been global... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at omenti
Walking in the woods a few months ago I had one of those moments of synthesis. A dozen or so threads I'd been thinking about for a long time suddenly wove together into a single something that made sense. It is something of a form of story telling and I... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2017 at omenti
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Astronomy was where America began to emerge from European domination of science. The wealthy patrons who funded telescopes and universities made certain the discoveries were heavily publicized. Even out in Kansas Clyde Tombaugh found his interest. He did well inscience and math student and dreamt of leaving the farm for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2017 at omenti
just kidding .. well .. sort of.. About a month ago I noticed my left shin and foot had swollen enormously. There are a few nasty possibilities and a close friend died from one in December, so it was off to the emergency care unit. It turned out to be... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2017 at omenti
When I was a kid my Dad would bring comic books home. My favorite involved the Donald Duck series character Gyro Gearloose. Gryo was a brilliant semi-failed inventor for hire with offbeat ideas that I loved. I wanted to be Gyro when I grew up - I even pestered my... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2017 at omenti
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Ah total solar eclipses. My first was somewhat East of Lewistown, Montana after driving in the dark on an icy Highway 87. The Sun had just set on all of the horizons around me when the sonic boom arrived . I looked up and saw a delta wing, afterburner blazing... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2017 at omenti