Natural Sciences

Arago finds new physics with a compass (1824)

One of the challenges of doing physics outreach is that there are so many cool phenomena which simply can’t be demonstrated in an eye-catching way, because they are too small, too subtle, or too complicated.  So whenever I find a demo that really has a “WOW!” factor to it, I treasure it.

A perfect example of this is a demonstration of what are known as eddy currents, which can be done with a simple copper pipe and a neodymium magnet that fits easily inside it. I...

Chladni patterns, now in color!

One of my favorite physics demonstrations to perform at local schools, conventions, and expos is the production of Chladni patterns, such as the one shown below.

I’ve blogged about these patterns before. They are formed by vibrating a metal plate at one of its special resonance frequencies, which causes the plate to form standing waves.  These waves have some locations — antinodes — where they vibrate a lot, and other locations — nodes — where...

The Stories of Ibis, by Hiroshi Yamamoto

I have a long backlog of book blogging to do, but I had to jump and do the back of the queue first.  Every once in a while I read a book that is so thought provoking and moving to me that I have to write about it right away while the multitude of ideas are fresh in my mind. That book for me is Hiroshi Yamamoto’s The Stories of Ibis (2006), which I just finished yesterday.

The novel is set in a future in which the human population, and its civilization, has collapsed.  Artificial intelligence,...

The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck, by Alexander Laing

Got a few physics blog posts in the pipeline, but in the meantime I’m still catching up on a lot of book blogging!

I’ve had The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck (1934) in my library for some time, as I picked up the new Valancourt edition when it first came out in 2016.  However, I got side-tracked in my first attempt to read it, as the book has a very slow, methodical start. I am happy that I came back and finished it, though, as it is a quite unique and weird novel, albeit with some flaws...

Larry Blamire’s More Tales of the Callamo Mountains

Larry Blamire is a very good writer. That is the first thought that came to mind when I sat down to blog about his recently published collection, More Tales of the Callamo Mountains (2017).

As the name suggests, this collection is a followup to Blamire’s excellent Tales of the Callamo Mountains, which came out a decade earlier.  It is a set of fourteen stories set in the haunted fictional Callamo Mountains that explore ordinary frontier folks’ encounters with the...

Fred Saberhagen’s Brother Assassin

An army of intelligent war machines are dedicated to the utter annihilation of humanity.  When they begin to lose their war in the present, they send an unstoppable cybernetic assassin back into the past to kill a key figure in humanity’s history, in order to destroy their resistance before it can begin. Humanity’s only option is to send one of their own back as well, to protect the key figure no matter the cost.

Does that story sound familiar?  It very well may, but...

Somnium, by Johannes Kepler

I’ve had an interest for a while in ridiculously old science fiction, such as Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 novel The Blazing World, as well as science fiction written by prominent scientists, such as Simon Newcomb’s His Wisdom the Defender (1900), Robert Williams Wood’s The Man Who Rocked the Earth (1915), and Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud (1957). But if I want to combine “ridiculously old” and “prominent scientist,”...

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it:

Some time back, I did a post on this Tumblr noting that the scariest part of climate change is all the horrible stuff that can happen that we didn’t anticipate. I would add this to the list: 

Permafrost, the Arctic’s frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere — where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming....

City of Darkness, by Ben Bova

I’ve recently been in a mood to shop used bookstores as well as read obscure science fiction. This dangerous combination has resulted in me purchasing a number of books by well-known authors that have been forgotten, probably for the best. I have decided to add a new category of book blogging to my blog categories, namely “I read it so you don’t have to.”

The first of these that I purchased is City of Darkness (1976), by famed sci-fi author Ben Bova.

As the...

Connecting a PS2 to an HDMI TV

This past week I had an incredible urge to play the original Katamari Damacy videogame on my old Playstation 2. Unfortunately, the PS2 does not play well with modern HD TVs, as the allowable video modes for the PS2 are often not supported.  If you try and plug in a PS2 to a new TV, even using the more advanced component cables, you probably won’t get anything.

Fortunately, you can buy a cool PS2 to HDMI converter these days, such as the one shown below, for only about $16.


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