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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
a pre-Olympics minipost To swim faster you want to decrease the amount of drag caused by moving through the water and increase the amount of propulsive force you can deliver. Focusing on propulsion it would be nice if you had more hand area - perhaps webbing between your fingers. It... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at omenti
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Growing up our family always had Fords. For most of grade school through junior high that meant a blue Ford Falcon. My Dad's reasoning was simple - a neighbor had good mechanical experience with Fords, particularly the straight-6 engine in the Falcon. He also had a nice set of tools.... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at omenti
minipost I watched by the sidelines as a few people managed got in a verbal tangle about what makes proper pizza. As the religious wars raged I remembered pizza illustrates a deep feature of mathematics - Gaussian curvature and the Theorema Egregium (remarkable theorem). It turns out you can get... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2021 at omenti
Someone sent this rather bizarre segment of a Congressional hearing involving Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. Rather than being clueless about science (he may be that too), I suspect he's echoing some baseless claims used to claim humans have no impact on global warming. While the orbits of the Earth... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2021 at omenti
Olympic minipost One of Simone Biles' floor routines as seen through a high speed camera. (go full screen) Many sports have undergone dramatic changes in the past fifty years. The introduction of springy floors and beams has allowed more dramatic routines that revolutionized gymnastics. It's a sport where powerful muscles... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2021 at omenti
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Many occupations develop tricks to get "good enough" answers question. These range from rules of thumb to shortcuts that are based on some insight. In physics dimensional analysis - checking to see the technique or answer has the right dimensions - is important. After all - you don't want to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2021 at omenti
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Our guide, the Director of Development for The Cleveland Orchestra, noted how difficult it was to find matching marble for the lavatories. There were only two of us and we wanted to set up in the main hall, but impressions must be made and little was being spared in the... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2021 at omenti
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The air you breathe is about 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen by volume. People suffering from serious Covid-19 need much higher oxygen concentrations to hopefully buy some time. Hospitals need to keep local stocks of liquid oxygen or high pressure oxygen tanks filled to provide treatment. Patients can be treated... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2021 at omenti
She enjoyed having to wait. People around her would become characters in stories she'd make up. Story making was a hobby of hers. Often she'd invite you to join in. As you gained experience, she'd take greater leaps. Simple things on the street would develop complex plot twists and even... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2021 at omenti
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Randall Munroe's xkcd is a necessary visit for anyone doing science, math, or engineering. Artistically simple, he often sums things up with an almost poetic simplicity. Some have suggested topic ideas - he's taken two of mine and created beautifully distilled views of the underlying concepts that make me envious... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2021 at omenti
a minipost Tomer Hanuka of the School of Visual Arts in New York asked his third year illustration students to create a post-pandemic New Yorker cover. Some of the pieces were so moving that he posted them on Twitter where they quickly went viral. So viral that an article appeared... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2021 at omenti
Last week I sent a note to regular readers: Perhaps it’s a sense that things are possible post-pandemic, but I’ve been asked for comments on the future of education three times since the beginning of the year. While I have some unscientific and undoubtedly biased thoughts I’m happy to share... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2021 at omenti
The hammer and feather were released at the same time as a few million people watched back on Earth. Absent air resistance, both objects fell to the lunar surface at the same rate. David Scott had performed a version of the experiment Galileo Galilei is known for - the one... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2021 at omenti
a minipost Natural conditions impact outdoor sports. Tokyo in late July and early August is "interesting" - it's very hot with humidity rated as oppressive about 60% of the time. Pleasant weather doesn't return until the Fall, but TV demands drive the Olympic schedule. Some endurance events will probably be... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2021 at omenti
Electric cars are beginning to take off. If you need to replace your old car they may be a good choice as maintanence is potentially much less expensive. They're usually a bit more environmentally friendly than a conventional car of the same size, but not by much. There are much... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2021 at omenti
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In 1912 Victor Hess was testing a hypothesis that this new fangled radiation came from rocks in the earth. He built a simple detector and made a series of ascents in a hydrogen balloon. The higher he went, the higher the radiation levels. The radiation was coming from above rather... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2021 at omenti
mini-post You probably know Pluto isn't considered a planet anymore. In the 90s objects of similar size were discovered in a region outside the orbit of Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt. Several of their features set them apart from the first eight planets so it made sense to call... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2021 at omenti
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About twenty years ago a Summer student I had a few years earlier called to talk about digital cameras. She was waiting for the cost of "good enough" sensors to drop, but was excited by the prospect of eliminating the film costs. Soon we were talking about the total cost... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2021 at omenti
minipost If you think about how society and the Internet, you probably know about Joan Donovan of Harvard's Shorenstein Center. Among other things she's known for rejecting the notion of the "attention economy" as being somewhat gas lighting. Instead she uses the phrase "algorithmic economy." Andy Revkin of Columbia interviewed... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2021 at omenti
minipost Yesterday I had my first jab of a Covid-19 vaccine - specifically the Pfizer mRNA vaccine. Despite political, production, and distribution issues several vaccines appeared and more are coming. Going from decoding the SARS-CoV-2 genome to first injections took only about a half year and a year later a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2021 at omenti
That watch you're wearing - what does it do? Sarah always wears the same watch. A large round face that must be 60mm across and a simple band. I was curious. It tells time and it's easy to read at a glance. She replied That's about what I expected -... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2021 at omenti
Recently a friend sent a piece on an energy harvesting device that coverts some of your body's waste heat into electricity. The description was sparse, but it mentioned the average person produces about one hundred watts of waste heat and went on to say that is enough to power a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2021 at omenti
a minipost First a short video You can make this yourself. You'll need a chilly day and a cold surface. I had success as a teenager in Montana with outdoor temperatures ranging from -25°C up to about -10°C. Colder worked but the effect wasn't as dramatic and warmer just didn't... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2021 at omenti
You need to read Om’s blog post Why iPhone is today’s Kodak Brownie Camera It reminded me of my home-brew digital camera about 35 years ago (the Meltdown the ferret photo is in this post - probably the first digital image of a ferret). Digital photography - at least how... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2021 at omenti
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Sixty six million years ago - the end of the Cretaceous period - an asteroid or comet struck the Earth near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico creating a crater 150 kilometers in diameter. Huge tsunamis that rose hundreds of feet as they approached coastlines. Worse, firestorms swept the planet and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2021 at omenti