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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
About 35 years ago well drillers came to the Bourakébougou in Mali in an attempt to find the water table so the village could enjoy a more reliable source of fresh water. They had given up on a dry hole when one of the drillers felt a breeze coming out... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at omenti
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A friend was wondering about the old Montana license plate I had when I was in grad school and as a postdoc. As with many things there are stories - in this case, motorcycles, mistaken identity, license plate theft and vampires .. but the real story involves 'why'. I started... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2024 at omenti
I've written about a wonderful set of idea sessions I had at Bell Labs and then AT&T Labs that had a ten year run. After lunch on Fridays three of us would get together and talk. Talking with others is important - there's something about organizing ideas into a stream... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2024 at omenti
A few weeks ago Nancy and I had a brief exchange that reminded me to something I've been thinking about for years. Anyone reading this has seen an enormous amount of change in their lives. Some change has been for the better, some is arguably neutral and. . well.. some... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2024 at omenti
I love to sketch and draw for fun. Every morning I allow myself anywhere from a half hour to an hour when I get up. Soon the motion of a good pencil across the right kind of paper transports me and an idea begins to emerge on paper. It seems... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2024 at omenti
He noticed it before I did, but that's part of what he's good at. It was December of my third year as a grad student and I was showing signs of burnout. He told me to take a few months off from the thesis work and throw myself into something... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2023 at omenti
Many of us have a few days to pause and think a bit. If you're looking for a bit of awe and wonder these introductions to two pinnacles of human creativity are good launch pads., First up is The Queen of the Night - that sublime aria from The Magic... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2023 at omenti
When Rutherford introduced me to Bohr, he asked me what I was working on. I told him and he said, 'How is it going?' I said 'I'm in difficulties.' He said 'Are the difficulties mathematical or physical?' I said I don't know.' He said 'That's bad.' - J. Robert Oppenheimer... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2023 at omenti
About a week ago my friend Paul reported on his walking vacation in Iceland. Paul happens to be in his late 80s and hasn't lost his knack for physics or interesting words and phrases. He sent photos and noting some beautiful displays of the lux septentrionalis. In the 45 or... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2023 at omenti
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Soon American Thanksgiving arrives and a change to note a few things I'm thankful for. This year I'll pick two examples that celebrate tiny asymmetries in nature: our existence and women's sports. First the universe as we know it. There are several asymmetries in physics that allow us to exist.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2023 at omenti
I was asked for to comment on the Humane Ai Pin (omitting punctuation), so a quick minipost. I have no experience with this device, but have a bit of experience in the area so a bit of background is in order. For the decade from 1992 to 2002 I spent... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2023 at omenti
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Randall Munroe has this wonderful way of stating depth. (via his wonderful xkcd) It's been fashionable to talk about information overload for some time, but the amount of information we and our machines make is almost infinitesimally small next to the amount information in the natural world. We don't directly... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2023 at omenti
a minipost David MacCay was a remarkable fellow. Curious and cross-disciplinary, he worked in applied math, physics and engineering research at Cambridge. Passionate about doing something about global warming, he happened to be a great communicator. I had a few interactions with him: first about thirty years ago playing with... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2023 at omenti
In the mid 70s a young researcher at Waterloo named Janet Starkes had an insight that changed ideas about why good athletes are good. It led to a a good deal of work on the acquisition of expertise. She had been a volleyball player as an undergrad and her familiarity... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2023 at omenti
Today the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. Richly deserved, their work has saved millions of lives and has created new pathways. Each one had a key piece to the puzzle. Normally they wouldn't have crossed paths, but working copy machines were a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2023 at omenti
a minipost Last night I was thinking about something a favorite teacher taught me about communication. I was lucky enough to have had two excellent teachers in high school. I had one of them, Joe Wolff, in three classes: world history, the history of religion, and western philosophy. I visited... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2023 at omenti
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The first time a policeman pulled me over was far and away the best. I was sixteen and had my new driver's license in my wallet and my homemade f5.6 eight inch Newtonian reflector in the back of my parent's car. It was about three am on Highwood Road about... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2023 at omenti
There haven't been any extensive use reports of the Apple Vision Pro, but most of the people who had a brief introduction walked away impressed giving a sense that this really is something new. It's spendy by many measures, but supplies will apparently be heavily constrained as some components are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2023 at omenti
I’m of the opinion that almost every technology that touches, directly or indirectly, society is not neutral. This may not be apparent at first to users at large even though some of the risks are known early on. A case in point is coal in the industrial revolution. Tyndall and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2023 at omenti
I work mostly from home and have taken a long walk around noon in almost all forms of weather for the past 20 years. We have the good fortune to live next to a forested swampy nature preserve. Within a few weeks you begin to notice the changes in flora... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2023 at omenti
Over the weekend I had a chat with a student from twenty five years ago. He's a computer science professor these days and, while catching up, he thanked me for the note I gave him on problem solving. He wasn't the first to say the same thing. As a freshman... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2023 at omenti
About twenty years ago a friend who worries a lot about science communication bemoaned the fact that, while there were a few very good communicators, none of them were at Carl Sagan's level. "Carl had the real work" he said. I got the gist of what he said, but had... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2023 at omenti
a mini-post Recently I spent the better part of an afternoon chatting with an urban sociologist about third places: parks, libraries, pubs, dog parks, gyms, bookstores, coffee shops, churches - those social places separate from home (the first place) and work or school (the second place). She's particularly interested in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2023 at omenti
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence Carl Sagan - Cosmos Several people have been in contact with questions about a new physics paper on a room temperature superconductor. It’s a big thing it’s real and if it can be developed into something practical. I skimmed the paper at first and then... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2023 at omenti
The Omenti blog turned twelve a couple of days ago. There isn't much direction, but every once and awhile a post works out. The mailing list is small, but amazingly diverse. I'd claim this blog has one of the most diverse readerships per reader. You have enormous range and I've... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2023 at omenti