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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
come on let's go and play.... Well .. maybe a snowflake or two rather than a snowman. Years ago C.L. Strong's Amateur Scientist column in Scientific American talked about homemade ice crystals. Homemade apparatus for carefully controlling temperature and humidity so you could study their growth. These pieces were great... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at omenti
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At it's core particle physics is very simple. You smash to tiny particles into each other hard enough that something dramatic happens and then sift through the debris. The first major experiment I worked on was a clean example. A beam made of a tiny negatively charged particles - pi... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at omenti
I pulled a large knife switch on the wall and heard some relays close as the bank of lights came on for the first time in months. It was my third visit, but the place seemed strange and out of place. The underground concrete lined cavern forty by two hundred... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2016 at omenti
Last night I found myself reading a paper on a futuristic propulsion system. It's been around for several years and manages to excite the tech beat websites every time. I'll spare you details, but it makes a rather dramatic claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This wasn't it. It was... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at omenti
In October of 1958 Oliver Smoot became a measurement's namesake and part of MIT lore. As part of his fraternity pledge task his body was to be used to measure the Harvard Bridge - a span connecting Cambridge and MIT with Boston proper. At five foot seven Smoot was the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2016 at omenti
The latest iPhone’s ability to simulate bokeh - a lovely effect you can get with larger cameras and careful attention to settings - has people excited about smartphones replacing DSLRs … While that may be the effect, something much larger is going on. What excites me most about photography is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2016 at omenti
Let's say you find a determined bug - a bug with the singular ambition of walking in one direction. It covers no more and no less than one centimeter every second. You also have an unusual band a meter in circumference. You make a mark on it and start the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2016 at omenti
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I've never taken a programming class, but have done a fair amount over the years in a variety of languages. I'm not fond of it myself - at least not something I'd like to do for a living. You get spoiled being around the likes of Brian, Ken, Bjarne and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2016 at omenti
On September 17th Canadian engineer Todd Reichert squeezed into the cockpit while his crew installed the aerodynamic shell around him. A rather tight fit, it does allow for the centimeter or two height variation a human body can experience during the day. He switched on the GPS, pedal ergs and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2016 at omenti
Tell me a bit about your favorite trips? Forty minutes into the interview and Bill hadn't asked anything about my specific work. We touched tracker action pipe organs, color vision, and several topics I can't remember. Here was a famous Bell Labs director asking about trips. Road trips.. I like... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2016 at omenti
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This past Monday Randall Munroe posted a beautifully done timeline of the Earth's average temperature since the last glaciation on xkcd. It's beautifully crafted, but... scroll down and enjoy and I'll pick up on the other side.. I first became aware of global warming in the mid 80s. Back then... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2016 at omenti
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It turns out The Simpsons has little math and science jokes making their way into the show - usually as very short sequences that fans can stop and study. In a favorite episode Homer scribbles on the blackboard leaving four items.1 398712 + 436512 - 447212 immediately caught my eye... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2016 at omenti
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1900 at the Olympics in Paris François Brandt and Roelof Klein had qualified in the coxed pairs, but had lost a race to a French pair. Thinking it over with an unspecified amount of alcohol they came to the conclusion they couldn't change their rowing performance, but perhaps Hermanus Brockmann... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at omenti
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I while back I asked if there was interest in a few Olympic themed posts - after all, sport is a gateway to many other areas. Charlie replied: How about the high jump? I was fascinated by Randall Cunningham's 18 year old daughter's comment on getting her head over the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2016 at omenti
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Recently I sent out a note that was well received by several people, so I reproduce it here: There are a few friends I take long wandering conversations through a city with. Great conversation is always wonderful, but I tend to get distracted. A few years ago I a conversation... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2016 at omenti
We have our fundamental needs. I want to shiver with awe and wonder at the Universe. Last week I was walking in a relatively dark area around home and found myself looking towards Sagittarius - one of the most beautiful regions of the night sky. On clear dark nights the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2016 at omenti
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A curious Bell System business from the late twenties through the thirties was selling bundled outbound courtesy calls to the airlines. The public saw flying as risky and it was common for an airline ticket to include a free one minute phone call let your family know that you had... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2016 at omenti
One of my most significant and hard-won learnings over the past ten years has been that conventional education is useless - even counterproductive - in combating pseudoscience in a polarized society. I've touched on it hear and a few of you have heard far too much from me. So rather... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2016 at omenti
A somewhat past prime lemon was sitting around making me wonder.. Let's say you're a Florida citrus baron and your car's battery is run down. You remembered the lemon battery you helped your kid make for a sixth grade science project and wonder how many lemons would it take to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2016 at omenti
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You don't see many Montana plates in New Jersey, let alone one from Petroleum County.1 Of course it was a pickup - a F-150 that had clearly seen serious duty. I waited about ten minutes for the driver and his wife to come out. We chatted for awhile - long... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2016 at omenti
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Watching a stream of the first two episodes of Genius by Stephen Hawking I was reminded of the words of one of my teenage mentors. Awe and wonder are usually listed as synonyms, but there is an old distinction. Awe leaves you so impressed that you don't know what to... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2016 at omenti
Two weeks ago the results of following contestants from the 2009 season of The Biggest Loser was published. It caught the news and was widely reported as the failure of dieting. The New York Times did a slightly better job - but there is more to think about. Trying to... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2016 at omenti
The other day I found myself in a school administration office arguing against a proposed expansion of an already large STEM program. STEM, if not taken to extremes, is fine. Unfortunately it has become too important in our local school displacing other important courses. It is also poorly aimed -... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at omenti
Currently there is a technology press dog pile on the supposed failure of the Apple watch that similar to their proclamations of the iPod and iPhone on their first birthdays. I'm not terribly interested in these proclamations - it is far too early. But as technology becomes more personal and... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2016 at omenti
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Twenty years ago an anthropologist in my department was studying the relationship between teenagers and technologies - specifically how they adapted to new technologies quickly sometimes developing novel uses not seen by the inventors. She observed that although adults assumed the kids had some natural deep knowledge, in fact the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2016 at omenti