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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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Some of the details, sadly including her name, have faded but others are brilliantly clear. On that day my eighth grade art teacher gave me something profound. It was fascinating at the time, but years later I began to realize how profoundly beautiful it was. Our desks were bare save... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at omenti
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I love the music, but usually ignore the technical part of SXSW, but this year a few people reported progress in the Google's Project Jacquard initiative with Levi's. It's an interesting project in a potentially rich area where most have been failing - weaving computation into clothing. At the beginning... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at omenti
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I love this image. Dama con l'ermellino is one of four works Leonardo painted of women. I've only seen reproductions as the original hangs in a Polish museum. The paint and canvas of the original have weathered the centuries and, with careful conservation, are supposedly close to what they must... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at omenti
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mauve I found myself walking by the Fashion Institute of Technology on a very warm February day last week. Even for me fashion and design students are easy to spot, but three sported solid mauve outfits which triggered a few neurons. If you've had organic chemistry, you've probably heard about... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at omenti
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The phone rang on Sunday afternoon... "Hi, Steve? Syd has a question..." (Syd is about ten) "Hi Steve. Why is the sky blue?" She probably has heard a few explanations - most of us have over the years. In fact the common explanation you are shown in high school and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at omenti
The world we live in is incredibly information-rich. The reality we think we live in turns out to be a tiny proxy of the real thing. We miss most of the electromagnetic spectrum and have a limited ability to process sound. The very large and very small are difficult to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2017 at omenti
What is a ruby and why is it red? Why is the friction so low on a sled? On a plot of P versus T, plot out the the phases of helium-three.... A favorite professor loved to craft simply stated preliminary exam questions that happened rhyme. Parts were often difficult... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2017 at omenti
Some years ago I found myself at West Point talking about the sort of things a pacifist and a group of Colonels and Generals might find interesting. It was near the holiday break and staff members had brought in a huge feast. I mentioned to a Colonel that it struck... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at omenti
A few years ago my refrigerator crashed. Some poorly written code put it in an unfortunate condition that forced a failure and the loss of quite a bit of food, and days without refrigeration. . The product was out of warranty by a few months and I had to cough... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2017 at omenti
There is a serious need for an inexpensive centrifuge that doesn't use electricity in the developing world. People have tried salad spinners, but they're way too slow - about 6oo rpm. Other solutions involve car or motorcycle parts and run on battery power, but performance is low and cost is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at omenti
To start off the New Year a reason to be thankful... When I was in high school I came across one of those factoids that both amazed and bothered me. One of those things that forces you to dive in deeper so you can sleep. It turns out the neutron... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2017 at omenti
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My dear friend Norm Schryer died unexpectedly this morning. This past week hasn't been a kind one. Norm was one of those special beings you sometimes hear about and, if you're really lucky, you get to work and play with them. He was a Bell Laboratories mathematician - he'd probably... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at omenti
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A ninth grader asked me what e was all about. She had seen it looking through her brother's calculus book. I took out my iPhone and opened a calculator (rpn of course;-) and rambled on more or less like this... Imagine you're going to deposit a dollar in an extremely... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2016 at omenti
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Entering the exam room you're asked if you're carrying anything metal one last time even as you walk through a metal detector. You lie down on the exam table and try to find a comfortable position as the QALO ring wearing technician checks the machine's status and inserts your IV.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2016 at omenti
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 Dec 1, 2016 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