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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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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
With Facebook in the news, a lot of people have started asking questions about how much online privacy they have and how this touches them and their families. Here's an excellent non-technical summary of Facebook issues and challenges by Zeynep Tufecki and a bit of work by the Pew Research... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2018 at omenti
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I have a serious interest in how we get around. Currently the tech press seems entirely focused on car sharing and self-driving cars as THE FUTURE™, but those approaches are problematic. I've spent a fair amount of time highlighting those issues, but rather than drone on for pages and pages... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2018 at omenti
minipost We still have a bit of snow on the ground - slushy stuff that is partly translucent. I tried forming someone of it into a sphere. With clear enough ice and some polishing with your gloves you can make a spherical lens good enough to start a fire. (from... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2018 at omenti
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minipost The Winter games are over and a disproportionate number of Norwegians and Canadians are homeward bound with precious metals. Two of you recently won gold medals - one in physics, the other in computer science and another stands an excellent chance of winning gold in beach volleyball in the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2018 at omenti
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My niece Magi ran another 100km race last weekend. That, combined with the Olympics, made me think a little about some recent work on factors limiting human performance But firstt here’s something for those of you who are amateur athletes as well as student athletes you might know. Sarah Pavan... Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2018 at omenti
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Last June I found myself next to the mother-in-law of one of the world's best volleyball players. She commented on the extreme amount of focus the young woman had during the match. Only what was necessary, but in great depth and richness. I found myself wondering if she was in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2018 at omenti
minipost A reader pointed to this video and asked what's going on: I’m pretty sure the sound is from an acoustic surface wave on the ice. A thin rigid sheet is very efficient at transferring acoustic energy. When the skater strikes the ice with a thin skate blade an impulse... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2018 at omenti
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minipost Growing up in North Central Montana, I spent a fair amount of time in Southern Alberta. One of the things you did with friends was curling - the only regular sport I can think of where a projectile's path is modified on purpose after launch. Imagine tennis or volleyball... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2018 at omenti
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Still cold from the UPS truck the Apple HomePod woke up when I plugged it in and asked my iPhone for a dance. They spun about and chatted in their local network for a minute or two before Siri introduced herself. It was completely unexpected surprise from a great friend... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2018 at omenti
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minipost Let your spectrum analyzer listen to middle C on a piano and take a look at what comes out. (guess what? your smartphone can do it) Most of the acoustic energy, assuming the piano is tuned to a 440 A is concentrated at a tad below 262 hertz (cycles... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2018 at omenti
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minipost In figure skating you to convert some of the kinetic energy from your speed across the ice into air time during which you spin. You launch yourself skyward using the teeth on front of your blade like the base of a lever (way more inefficient than pole vaulting). Once... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at omenti
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minipost One of the questions on my Ph.D. physics prelim was this: what is a ruby and why is it red? why is the friction so low on a sled? on a plot of p verses t, plot out the phases of helium-3 We had twenty minutes to impress the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2018 at omenti