Of Photons and Cormorants

(January 6, 2022) We were paddling on Stone Lagoon, cormorants in formation overhead, when out of the blue ... "Hey, you know about science, right?" "A bit. I'm a science writer, not...

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The Two-Envelope Paradox

(December 23, 2021) A lifetime ago — March 11, 2010 — I wrote in this space about a curious paradox I'd stumbled upon ("A Pair of Paradoxes"). It originated, near as I...

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NASA's Origami Telescope (Part 2)

(December 9, 2021) This is a continuation from last week, looking at arguably the most complex instrument ever created by humans: the James Webb Space Telescope. It's scheduled for launch on Dec. 22,...

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NASA's Origami Telescope (Part 1)

(December 2, 2021) The scheduled Dec. 22 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana will be the culmination of a quarter-century of designing, building and testing the most complicated...

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Voices from the Past

The Vindolanda tablets

(November 18, 2021) "Oh how much I want you at my birthday party. You'll make the day so much more fun. I do hope you can make it." — Letter from Claudia Severa...

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Every (Oxygenized) Breath You Take

(November 4, 2021) If you've seen those heart-wrenching photos from India of long lines of people waiting to get oxygen cylinders refilled, you'll appreciate the benefit of personal, portable, oxygen concentrators. Especially during...

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Don't Shoot the Physicist!

(October 21, 2021) Today, hundreds, if not thousands, of theoretical physicists the world over are trying to find the holy grail of physics, a "theory of everything" (or TOE for short) that explains...

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One Second a Year

(October 7, 2021) I imagine Socrates and Plato running into each other in the market. Socrates says, "Hey, wanna join me and the boys tomorrow after lunch in the forum? I feel a...

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The Quartz Crisis

(September 23, 2021) The "quartz crisis" began in Tokyo on Christmas Day in 1969 when Seiko unveiled the world's first quartz watch, the Astron 35SQ. Designed by Kazunari Sasaki of Suwa Seiko-sha, the...

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The Golden Horde

(September 9, 2021) A virgin carrying a gold nugget on her head could walk unmolested from one end of the empire to another." — Persian historian Ata-Malik Juvayni (1226-1283) Within 50 years of...

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When the Old World Met the New

(August 26, 2021) Imagine this: Of 19 friends, 18 of them die within a few weeks. Horribly, painfully. You and one other friend are the only survivors, one in 10. That's the extent...

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Cal Poly Humboldt?

(August 12, 2021) When and where I was a kid — 1950s, Britain — it was science or arts. No middle ground, nothing nuanced about my education. If you were "science," you looked...

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Twin Souls: S.S. Emidio and Bessie the Blimp

(July 29, 2021) The Humboldt Times, Sept. 14, 1946, ran the story of Bessie together with an aerial photo of the crashed airship. The caption reads, in part, "At first, it was thought...

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The Log Connection

(July 15, 2021) "... an admirable artifice which, by reducing to a few days the labour of many months, doubles the life of the astronomer, and spares him the errors and disgust inseparable...

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Summer Puzzles: Answers

(July 1, 2021) Amazon Interview Question Half the cable length is 40 feet, so the cable must be hanging straight down, i.e. the poles are touching. Live Another Day The outcome of...

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Recent Comments

  • Re: Fighting Entropy

    • Can't believe it took me this long to find this site! Barry, your simple/elegant explanations…

    • on December 21, 2021

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