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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
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 5 days ago 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
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minipost A friend and I were discussing films that had a major impact on people even influencing our path in life. She mentioned Contact - the film adaptation of Carl Sagan's book. I've run into more than a few astronomers and astrophysicists that cite the original television series Cosmos. For... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at omenti
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minipost I’ve been meaning to do something on protowords. Rather than talking about neurology here are a two short and beautiful video examples.. silly nonsense words that your mind tries to turn into English: Charlie Chaplin doing something similar is nonsense romance languages. Of course he communicates anyway. Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at omenti
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minipost You probably won’t notice the supermoon status of the moon for the upcoming lunar eclipse.. The orbit is elliptical so the Moon’s apparent size changes by about 14% (the Sun changes by about 3%) .. unless you’re on very familiar terms with the Moon, you’re unlikely to notice the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at omenti
It was the dawn of the jet age the US Air Force had a serious problem. Early jets were suddenly complex and flying them was more demanding. There were a lot of crashes - a few days saw a dozen planes go down. Sorting through crash reports pilot error was... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2018 at omenti
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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 Jan 15, 2018 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