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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
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 2 days ago 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Canada is undergoing a fantastic profound change. For more than a decade the government has chosen to underfund science, undermine Universities and science education and focus on a path of applied paths that are somehow guaranteed payoff. This changed with the last election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shows a genuine... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2016 at omenti
We experience the world as a smooth and constant stream of perception. At least that is how we interpret it. Reality is wildly different. We only are able to perceive heavily filtered bits of the world around us through, depending how you count, about a dozen senses. The resulting signals... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2016 at omenti
About twenty years ago Mattel rolled out Teen Talk Barbie - a talking Barbie that had 270 phrases. One of them turned out to be controversial and the doll disappeared from the shelves to be replaced by one with 269: The remake was warranted, but sadly many Americans agreed with... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at omenti
The local cherry trees are currently covered with pink and white popcorn. Nature is beginning to unfurl her solar collectors . I found myself wondering how many watts of power an average oak around here produces. A detailed calculation would be very difficult, but fortunately a reasonable approximation is easy... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2016 at omenti
Even though I'm not very good at it I find art a very important part of the playful part of math and science. I've bemoaned the narrow-minded focus on STEM in schools enough, so here's a delightful example. Before film it was discovered we have a persistence of vision -... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at omenti
For the past three months there has been real excitement in the physics community. Oh the direct detection of gravity waves was a huge, but it was sort of expected. Gravitational radiation have been seen indirectly for some time and upgrades to the LIGO detector was going to be sensitive... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2016 at omenti
A few weeks ago Google Fiber announced they had a partnership with Huntsville, Alabama. These announcements were once exciting, but over time shifted to mildly interesting and then to - well - just ho hum. Google's motives appear to have shifted over the years and there is this nagging issue... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2016 at omenti
Judging a regional science fair year ago I noticed two types of kids. Most were on a pre-professional/get into a good college track. Many were interning in real labs. Great experience, but very few had any depth. Then there were the kids who were working on projects of their own.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2016 at omenti