Tuesday, December 20, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  
It's that time of year again. Time for New Year's Resolutions. Popular resolutions include: losing weight, saving money and managing stress. But I'm making slow progress on the first two and the last one doesn't apply to me too often. Only when one of Tehachapi Community Theatre's shows takes over my life. And that's generally short term and voluntary.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.

Sometimes I don't quite know what comes over me. After all these years, and it has been plenty, I got it into my head to read the book The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. The first part of the story was printed in 1881 in an Italian magazine.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Citizen Science

  This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

A while back I wrote a little about the Nobel Prize. Where some of the big discoveries, that change our understanding of the universe, are recognized. Though it does have some blind spots. Only three sciences are included (Physics, Chemistry and Medicine. I'm still refusing to include economics as a science.) So there are many fields that don't have any hope of getting a Nobel Prize. 

But science isn't always about the big ideas. There are lots of smaller problems. So many that scientists ask for help from the rest of us.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sand and Fire

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

The past couple years I've been “kidnapped” and take off on adventures for my birthday. It never gets to be on my birthday, since I always seems to be involved in something else on the actual day. But shortly after that, I am dragged kicking and screaming to my car and forced to drive to mysterious locations. Last year to the Integratron out by Landers. This year to Harmony.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Noble Prize

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  
We all live with the myths we grew up with. In mathematics there are myths too. Some based in facts, but others not so much. These are tales of far distant times used to help us explain the world we find ourselves in. And one of the important myths of mathematics explains “Why there is no Nobel Prize in Mathematics.”

Saturday, October 1, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

Things have been busy lately. We finished up “Little Shop of Horrors”, which was a lot of fun by the way. Even though all I really got to see of the show was knees. Yes, I was hiding under the counter working a puppet. So I got to see knees. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Invasive Species

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

Today I met Zippy, who is a juvenile Yellow-bellied Racer. (That's a snake for those needing a translation.) Zippy was named due to his or her speed. The term “racer” in the name is a good indication of that. Zippy may have been living in my front flower bed for some time. The snail population seems to have dropped in that area.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Botany 101

This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

Humans have always been affected by the plants in our environment. As our ancestors moved out of the trees and down onto the ground, the plants we ate changed. Anthropologists can look at the teeth of the ancestors and determine what those people were eating by the wear patterns. And when our ancestors settled down with agriculture the plants we used changed again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Golden Fleece

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Back in the 70s and 80s Senator William Proxmire (Democrat from Wisconsin) gave out Golden Fleece awards to organizations that he felt were wasting taxpayer money. That is, they were fleecing the taxpayers. Often the awards would go to groups doing research he couldn't see the point in. And there are politicians and pundits (and their followers) today that still try to denigrate science research that sounds like a waste of time and money. Like calling volcano monitoring “wasteful spending”. At least Proxmire was capable of backing down. At least when confronted by a scientist with much more popularity than he had. (That was Carl Sagan.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Now I like spending time here in Tehachapi, but sometimes, when it's just too hot here, I'll make a break for cooler climes. And just recently I spent a day up in the Sequoia National Monument. This is a section of the Sequoia National Forest that has been set aside to protect several small groves of Sequoias. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Panorama Experiment

On Saturday I was at the Trail of 100 Giants in the Sequoia Monument. And I decided to try an experiment with doing a vertical panorama to give a better image of one of these big red trees. The experiment shows some success, but clearly needs more work before a good picture is created. But here's what I was able to get this time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A More Perfect Union

The Fourth of July is coming up soon. And despite the differences we have, on that day we come together and celebrate our independence. Over 230 years ago, several brave men, sent the King of England one of the best breakup letters ever written. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The shrew (true shrews that is) is a small, mouse-like animal. Though they are not rodents and are more closely related to moles. We do not have a huge number of shrew species here in California (only 13). And several of these are pretty limited in range. However around the world shrews are a common small mammal. Though not seen very often. Like their relatives the moles, they have small eyes and poor vision. They make up for this by having good hearing and sense of smell. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Natural History

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

There are many different ways that science can be done. But basically the idea is that you compare theories of how the world works to observations of the world itself. When the observations do not match the theory, and the observations are confirmed to be true, you have to change the theory.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Diary of a WIMPy Particle

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The Universe is filled with stuff we cannot see. And humans have been coming to grips with these things and forces since, well, basically since we've been human. 

We see the effects of the wind, but we cannot see the wind itself. So we come up with hypotheses about how winds come about. By using our lungs and mouths we can generate small scale effects that are like wind. We do it when we blow up balloons, or blow out candles. So we can hypothesize that there exist large creatures that cause the winds. Some kind of wind spirit, perhaps.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

In art there is often an attempt to make permanent an instant of beauty. I've taken pictures of wildflowers and sunsets. Painters and sculptors do the same. But not all beauty can be made permanent. Photos of sunsets seldom really capture the beauty of the sunset, because part of the beauty of the sunset is that it is transient. It changes. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Finding Another Earth

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

Astronomers have made a great deal of progress in finding extrasolar planets. These are planets that orbit stars other than our Sun. The first (starting back in the 90s) were odd planets, most “hot Jupiters”. Very large planets orbiting close to their star. These included huge planets with years (the time it takes to make an orbit around the star) of mere days.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lost in a Labyrinth

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On the same trip where I saw the Blythe Intaglios, we visited another California geoglyph. (Recall that this is a form of rock art where an image has been scrathed into the surface rock revealing lighter material beneath.) This geoglyph is the so-called Topock Maze. This is located over near Needles and is just off of the freeway. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011


This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

Too often when people don't understand something they turn to something magical as an explanation. “Proof” by personal incredulity is pretty common. Those missing socks... Lawn gnomes hiding in my closet are stealing them. Some think that the pyramids in Egypt were too much for such “primitive” people to create. Therefore ancient astronauts.

Friday, March 18, 2011


snowplant by mathnerd
snowplant a photo by mathnerd on Flickr.
over the moon
reflecting off granite walls
snowplant pushing up
vampire red
sucking the life's blood
of the pine roots
at the mercy
of Spring

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Magic in the Gaps

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

I recently saw a magic show. Some of the illusions and tricks were very good. (Congratulations Michael.) Now it is a quirk of our minds to find “magic” in things we don't understand. And we often grab on to whatever explanation comes first. Especially with lucky “charms”.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


On a recent trip out to the desert near Boron, a group of us went out collecting rocks.

The area we were at was know for its chalcedony (which is pronounced something like kal-sed-a-nee). This is actually the name of a large family of rocks and minerals including agates and jasper. But the form that is generally just called chalcedony is a bluish-grey quartzy rock.

The crystals in chalcedony are typically very small. The composition is mainly silica (silicon dioxide), while the colors come from other chemicals in the stone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How's the (Space) Weather?

 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.

After a long period where the Sun was fairly inactive, the number of sunspots is up to 63. With one, called 1158 of huge size. (Check out http://spaceweather.com/ to keep up-to-date on what's going on out in space.) This one sunspot is about 62,000 miles across. And the earth is about 8,000 miles across at the Equator. So we could line up about 8 Earths across this sunspot.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cassiopeia & Cepheus

A couple other constellations are Cassiopeia and Cepheus. The Queen and the King.  I can find Cassiopeia since it looks like a "W" and is found on the other side of Polaris from the Big Dipper. Cepheus is then to the right of Cassiopeia.

Since these are fairly near Polaris, they are in the North and due to the light pollution at my house being worst in that direction, I can't always see these constellations.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Making Faces

This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop newspaper.

I recall being told as a child that if I kept making that face, my face would freeze that way. Well, I've now seen it happen.

In the current Tehachapi Community Theatre (TCT) production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, there was a need to have bust made of one of the cast, Monica Nadon as Domina. After a little research on the Internet, what can't you learn there (of course it's sometimes wrong), I found a method to do lifecasting. Which is making a mold from a living subject to turn into a sculpture.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Canis Major

Canis Major (The Big Dog) is currently rising in the southeast in the early evening. It is following the constellation of Orion (The Hunter) and appears to be chasing Lepus (The Rabbit). So if you're able to find Orion, then the bright star down and to the left of Orion is Sirius, the dog star, the brightest star in Canis Major.

Sirius is actually the brightest star in the sky (other than the Sun). The planets are usually brighter. Sirius is only 8.6 light years away.