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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
Ask a physicist, biologist or chemist what got them interested in science and chances are they'll talk about a dramatic single moment - some refer to it as a calling. I've written about mine on Sulphur Mountain in Banff. Two young physicists took the time to try and explain their... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at omenti
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A magician, in the one that usually comes to mind, uses an unrevealed trick to make something unexpected happen. There's skill on the part of the magician and often a sense of how people perceive things. Not being skilled at the slight of hand, I see another kind of magic... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2020 at omenti
Our family physician sent a note to his patients over 40 recommending cardiovascular exercise and losing excess weight as additional defenses against COVID-19. They won't prevent you from getting it, but you'll be in better shape to fight it. Among other things he recommended dusting off your old bike for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2020 at omenti
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Sarah's letter is excellent - even if you're not a sports fan. It seems like a good exercise in self-reflection and I briefly considered writing one to myself. Of course if I received a letter I'd think: "OMG! time travel exists!" which, of course, it doesn't, but.. I'd probably tell... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2020 at omenti
We had a meeting that was interested in disasters events out of nowhere - the real black swans. There are a number of civilization enders, but apart from full exchange nuclear war, the probability of any happening seems very small. But a few percent of a population would cause serious... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2020 at omenti
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Now that we know why we hold pizza the way we do, it's time to move on making a great pie. There are dozens of varieties. I'll stick with one I have some (perhaps too much) experience with - Neapolitan. A few other thin crust styles like New York (which... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2020 at omenti
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Sarah and I were talking and the subject of pizza came up. It turns out she's a big fan - particularly of Hawaiian pizza. Rather than getting mired in the cultural war of pizza types, let's go for the basics - the mathematics of pizza. You'll only need a piece... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2020 at omenti
An Omenti minipost A reader sent sent a chart showing height vs weight for three major professional sports. It's immediately obvious that some clustering is going on. NFL football tends to favor taller and heavier players than soccer (football for most of the world) and NBA basketball strongly favors height.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2020 at omenti
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Every now and again you hear someone say the way to get rid of nuclear waste is to send it into the Sun. First the idea of putting seriously radioactive material on rockets that tend to explode every now and again is daft, but there's another problem - making it... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2020 at omenti
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Imagine Sarah and Melissa up against Alix and April at the Tokyo Olympics this Summer.1 The score is 20-19 in the second set of the Gold Medal match. I doubt that anyone will say but what if Sarah was using the same sunscreen Alix uses? or what if they were... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2020 at omenti
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Recently Om wrote an excellent piece on Derek Jeter’s career and some lessons one might draw from it. Even if you don’t like baseball, it’s worth reading. Consistency, finding opportunity, leading by example .. and the ultimate goal. One of my heroes is Ray Davis. I got to know him... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2020 at omenti
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1955, Fred Whipple had just been appointed to head the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge. The International Geophysical Year was less than two years away and he wanted to involve citizen scientists as much as possible. Whipple was one of the few who realized a satellite was likely and set... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2020 at omenti
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A pre-Olympics minipost Competing in the 2009 Berlin World Championships, Usain Bolt set the 100 meter sprint world record at 9.58 seconds. A few of us have analyzed his performance using position and speed data taken every tenth of a second by a laser tracking system. The exercise gave me... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2020 at omenti
Some of you are probably using smartwatches and fitness sensors for long standing exercise routines or perhaps new routines that began with a resolution a few days ago. Since regular exercise is considered one of the most powerful and safest medicines known, anything that encourages it can be a terrific... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2020 at omenti
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minipost I thought we were past the hype stage. 3d printing has been around for about three decades and has undergone a couple of "gee-whiz - this is the next PC .. the next Internet" hype stages. Recently a friend mentioned a futurist was pushing it and a few other... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2019 at omenti
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Last night I caught a John Cleese interview. In the US and UK, he complained, it's common to tell children how talented they are at something and that perhaps it is ok to not do well in something else because talent is the deciding factor. In his experience that's entirely... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2019 at omenti
Electric cars are on people's radar. Three friends bought new cars in the last month. Without prompting all three gave reasons why they didn't go with an electric car. It's interesting that we're at that point. Without going into details a conventionally sized electric vehicle is a poor environmental choice... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2019 at omenti
A mini-post A friend sent a short video of her seven year old asking about mirrors. Mirrors were a huge puzzle for me at that age. They would swap left and right, but not up and down. How did they know? You could rotate a mirror, but it was always... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2019 at omenti
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Recently I've seen a lot of commentary on energy choices - what makes sense given a variety of constraints. There's some good information but also a lot of obfuscation and muddled thinking. I probably should post more in the future, but here's the best high level chart of US energy... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2019 at omenti
Finding a clear dark sky is one of the greatest pleasures I know. They were common where I grew up. A ten minute drive from town on a cloudless night would reward you with a beautifully starry sky. In under an hour you'd be a thousand meters higher in the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2019 at omenti
I had the pleasure of chatting with and, more importantly, listening to Rhinnon Giddens. She's become well known for tracing the importance of African Americans in music and, at the same time pointing out origins are complex and probably too complex to disentangle. She's a singer, composer, and a fine... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2019 at omenti
A recent Bell Labs reunion celebrating the 50th anniversary of Unix gave me a chance to visit with old friends I hadn't seen in a long time. Some of the people had moved into industry (Google was a popular landing place) and others found university posts. I found myself thinking... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2019 at omenti
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A few days ago Apple announced the AirPods Pro. It is largely being described as an AirPod with a noise cancelling feature and a higher price. It turns out to be much more than that and a couple of features give a few hints: transparency mode and how it does... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2019 at omenti
It's sad and frightening watching the fires in California. With the likelihood that some fires were triggered by power lines in high winds there are massive precautionary power blackouts. The result is an enormous amount of blame aimed at the already troubled power utility. That's only part of the problem.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2019 at omenti
A minipost Chatting with Sarah the topic of snack foods somehow came up. She mentioned problems getting all of the popcorn kernels to pop and sometimes there was burning. We wandered to something else, but afterwards it struck me that proper popcorn popping was something I know how to do.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2019 at omenti