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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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It seems Apple released a new smartphone yesterday. This one has several reasons to make me want to upgrade, but the most drool-worthy is its power as a computational camera. I'll leave it to other to write the reviews and compare it to Google's efforts - a new iPhone isn't... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at omenti
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In 1897 J.J. Thomson stood before the Royal Society and made the case for a charged particle a thousand times less massive than the hydrogen atom. He had discovered the electron. Initially many in the room didn't believe him. Atoms were considered the smallest bits of matter and physics and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2019 at omenti
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Hold out your palm and point it skyward. Every second about one muon will strike it. Muons are the most common remnant of cosmic ray collisions with the upper atmosphere that make it to sea level. They're responsible for some genetic mutations and even cancers, but the levels are low... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2019 at omenti
I was in my second year of grad school and had gone to dinner at my advisor's house. These dinners were always interesting and the deserts were a near match. That night we had a wonderful homemade cake. A layer cake rolled in the shape of a log, filled with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2019 at omenti
In the early 1990s Anders Ericsson of Florida State University went to a music school in Berlin to test an idea about deliberate practice. The music school had high standards. Ericsson suspected practice separated the best of the best from the average. He asked the eighteen year old violin students... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2019 at omenti
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minipost Over the weekend many of you probably saw highlights of Simone Biles' extreme athleticism. Gymnastics has a lot of interesting science going on, but balance is a central element. It's important in many sports. Athletes need to deal with dynamic situations that place their bodies in positions the rest... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2019 at omenti
Apparently a math puzzler became something of a theme on the Internet.. a half dozen people asked me what I thought the answer was 8÷2(2+2)=? Some came up with 1, others with 16. Apparently there were near-religious arguments. A mathematician would tell you both are incorrect - the question posed... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2019 at omenti
a minipost Some sports have doping issues and there is drug testing in many of these. There's always an issue of how good the tests are, but there's also an issue of how fair they are and how good they have to be to be fair. The best way to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2019 at omenti
a minipost There has been quite a bit of activity with escooters in cities as well as ebikes in the past year or two. I'm hugely in favor of walking, bikes and ebikes - negative on scooters - but it needs to be recognized these are elements of highly localized... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2019 at omenti
"Land sakes" A hot Sunday afternoon almost exactly fifty years ago. My sister and I were on the couch next to my Grandma King. Walter Cronkite was out connection to the small spacecraft as it slipped towards touchdown on the Sea of Tranquility. I was just a kid, but I... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2019 at omenti
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About a month after Apollo 8 circled the moon my Dad and I traveled the two miles to Malmstrom Air Force Base for a tour of the SAGE installation. A number of these Semiautomatic Ground Environments were scattered around the country to detect and coordinate a response to bomber attacks... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2019 at omenti
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(a) Without resorting to equations, why light slows down when it travels from air to sheet of glass and why it speeds up when it exists? (b) Again without equations, why does light refract? For the past decade and a half a friend in the engineering department of a very... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2019 at omenti
Last week I read Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. David writes well I've recommended The Sports Gene as another excellent read. In Range he talks about real world messy problems that often poorly defined and open-ended. The really interesting ones usually require a range... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2019 at omenti
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"No - we took all of that out years ago. It's just not relevant anymore." Fifteen or so years ago I visited the local high school to see if they had an adult education program that would let me use the student shop. We don't have enough space or cash... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2019 at omenti
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You've probably seen this excellent summary of issues associated with the Boeing 737 Max. The core message seems to be this: They described a compartmentalized approach, each of them focusing on a small part of the plane. The process left them without a complete view of a critical and ultimately... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2019 at omenti
The other day I saw something that a few of you might want to consider for a kid or even yourself - the Turing Tumble Mechanical Computer. It turns out digital computers are mostly switches. A lot of switches these days - perhaps a trillion in your smartphone. As a... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2019 at omenti
Imagine that you're from another world and happen upon Earth for the first time. You have the ability to sense not only the visual, but beyond it. Soon you discover an arc of sound traveling East to West along the Earth's surface as the planet revolves. Sweeping along it lights... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2019 at omenti
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Physics is, by far, the simplest science. I probably have said it too much and it can raise eyebrows. It may not seem that way as we have a reasonably deep understanding and the required knowledge can seem esoteric, but that complexity isn't central and misses the point. What is... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2019 at omenti
I'm certainly not a futurist. Oh - there are some things I can predict with reasonable accuracy: that one of my ferrets will beg for a banana next week and next year, when an eclipse will happen somewhere, roughly when the Sun goes into its red giant stage... The easy... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2019 at omenti
Last week a friend and I were talking about finding Nature. Is a city a wasteland for a nature-lover? That's a complicated question that triggered a series of thoughts. Ultimately it depends on the person, but a few thoughts. In 1981 interview Richard Feynman talks about how he can appreciate... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2019 at omenti
E = mc2 Perhaps the most recognizable equation in the world. It says something with mass is equivalent to an enormous amount of energy. A kilogram of mass has 9 x 1016 Joules of energy. A quick back of the envelope says anything with the mass of three gallons of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2019 at omenti
The funny thing is I thought I was a good teacher. First year graduate students are required to spend part of their time teaching. I drew a two of lab sections of Physics 103/104 - Physics for the Biological Sciences or, more popularly, physics for pre-meds. Each lab section had... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2019 at omenti
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The professor drew a box around the words and added "do not erase" at the bottom. That marked the opening of a two semester course in General Relativity. He never commented directly, but its presence was anything but subtle . The circumstances under which Karl Schwarzchild wrote three significant papers... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2019 at omenti
The ripped and stained vinyl covered seat of some lost color puffed a cloud of tobacco smoke when I sat down. It wasn't the worst seat in the room. One wall of the windowless basement room was a painted green chalk board. Over forty years had gone by and it... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2019 at omenti
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My Grandmother King gave me my first camera for my eighth birthday - a Kodak Brownie. My parents had a camera, but I wasn't allowed to use it. This was my camera. I also received two rolls of black and white film and a voucher for developin. Of course I... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2019 at omenti