Runes in the Ruin

Runes in the Ruin

(September 21, 2017) When diggers (calling them archaeologists would be too kind) broke into a 5,000-year-old Maeshowe passage grave in Orkney, Scotland, in 1851, they soon realized they weren't the first intruders....

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Unwrapping the Past

(September 7, 2017) If you happen to be a time-traveler, do avoid Italy's Bay of Naples on Aug. 24, 79 AD. That's when Mount Vesuvius, dormant for 800 years, blew its top, completely...

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Science. It Works, etc.

(August 24, 2017) No stranger to controversy, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) invited it in spades during an appearance at Oxford University in February of 2013. Asked for evidence that scientific...

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Ötzi the Iceman

(August 10, 2017) Peering through a small, double-glazed viewing window at the brown, desiccated body of a man who died 5,300 years ago is an uncanny experience. Should he even be on display,...

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Westworld vs. Realworld

(July 27, 2017) Along with my views on the utility of miniaturized modular nuclear reactors ("Nuclear Batteries," June 15), I suppose the opinion that generates the most unpopular reaction is my belief that...

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Early, Early Man in the Americas?

(July 13, 2017) Christmas some 30 years ago saw a half-dozen of us curious rubberneckers tramping over the so-called "Calico Early Man Site," located half an hour east of Barstow, California. How early?...

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Tabby's Star

(June 29, 2017) Fifty years ago — November 28, 1967 — a strange signal from the heavens was detected by radio astronomers in Cambridge, England. It was essentially a pulsing beep-beep-beep, the beeps...

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'Nuclear Batteries'

The future of electricity?

(June 15, 2017) In keeping with the "unpopular opinions" theme of this issue, I want to make a case for nuclear power. Not nuclear power as we normally think of it — vast...

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Measuring our Lives

(June 1, 2017) Hodgepodge. Mishmash. Dog's breakfast. How else to describe the many and various systems we blithely use to measure everything from time to gasoline to dress sizes to Starbuck's coffee? We...

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It's About Time

(May 18, 2017) When English novelist H.G. Wells published The Time Machine in 1895, the novel's plot device uncannily presaged Albert Einstein's 1905 Theory of Special Relativity. In Wells' yarn — since copied,...

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Puzzling

(May 4, 2017) Once again, for your edification and amusement, 10 puzzles. You'll find the answers on page 49 of this issue of the Journal. Let's start with the lovely "checkershadow" by...

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Bad Sea Rising

Part 2 of 2

(April 20, 2017) Last week, we looked at predictions for Global Sea Level Rise, GSLR, which average out to between 3 and 8 feet by 2100. The scientific consensus is that all contributions...

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Bad Sea Rising

(Part 1 of 2)

(April 13, 2017) As our climate warms, one of the more under-recognized consequences for future generations is global sea level rise (GSLR), especially considering that nearly 4 billion people on Earth live within...

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It's Nothing. Really.

(March 30, 2017) "Nothing" is about as slippery a concept as you can — or rather can't — imagine. Try to picture absolutely nothing at all. Is your nothing black, empty, soundless? Sorry,...

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The Weirdness of English

Part 2 of 2

(March 16, 2017) Last time, we saw how the precursor of English, Proto-Germanic, was an oddball among other languages derived from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) spoken by nomads in present-day Ukraine around 6,000...

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The Weirdness of English

Part 1 of 2

(March 2, 2017) English is a mutt of a language, the bastard tongue of a bastard tongue, to use popular linguist John McWhorter's phrase. He was addressing the fact that the language you're...

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