Natural Sciences

Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 14

Okay, time for a round of Old School Dungeons & Dragons, taken from my twitter posts! Things are moving a little slower due to the craziness of the world distracting me, but let’s look at a few classic items!

Cardmaster Adventure Design Deck (1993), by Rich Borg. One of the most fascinating categories of items in the pre-internet days is game aids, designed to help DMs run and organize adventures.  The Cardmaster Deck is one that I hadn’t heard of until I saw it...

How Not To Be Seen: the video!

Continuing my series of uploaded videos, tonight I recorded a version of my How Not To Be Seen: The history and science of invisibility seminar, which I’ve given and revised for probably close to ten years now!  I’ve shared links to versions before, but this is the most recent and up-to-date version, based on a lecture I gave at the University of Chicago last fall.

I was feeling a little scatterbrained during the recording, so I fumbled my speaking a couple of times;...

Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 13

Here’s my latest wrap-up of twitter-posted old school Dungeons & Dragons threads! Going to post these more frequently, with fewer entries, because my last few posts were over 4000 words each!  So without further ado…

The Dragonlance Game (1988), by Michael S. Dobson, Scott Haring and Warren Spector.  Here’s a boardgame that was a huuuuge deal when it came out, but I was somehow unaware of until I saw a used copy come by recently! It probably wasn’t...

Book signing at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville on March 18th!

I am happy to announce that my next book signing for Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics will take place on March 18th at 6 pm at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville!

Please consider coming out to hear me read from the book, show some short videos of cats falling, and personally demonstrate some of the techniques that cats use to land on their feet!

If you don’t have a copy of the book yet and can’t wait, the book can also be ordered directly from Malaprop’s...

Visualizing the geometric phase of light!

Another post inspired by my book on Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics! I talk about geometric phases in the book in the context of falling cats, but here I focus on the polarization of light.

I regularly argue that most physics isn’t as scary and complicated as most people think. Once you get past the mathematics, which is analogous to a foreign language for the non-fluent, many of the concepts and ideas are intuitive, and even logical. This is, in fact, the motivation...

Forgotten Milestones in the History of Optics: video!

Okay, here’s one more classic video from my regular seminar series: Forgotten Milestones in the History of Optics! This was one of the earliest semi-popular seminars I put together.

More videos and posts to come!

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Vortices in beams of light and vortex coronagraphy video!

I while ago, I shared slides from a talk I gave at the Charlotte Amateur Astronomy Club on “Vortices in beams of light and vortex coronagraphy.” Now that I, like everyone else, am more or less homebound, I thought I would record it as a video for folks to hear what I actually would say during such a talk!  This will be the first of hopefully a few more popular science videos I will make and share while social distancing.

Note: This one is based on a formal seminar I gave, so...

Ruby Payne-Scott and the mystery of sunspots

This post is in belated honor of International Women’s Day 2020, March 8th, and highlights an important woman physicist who I was unaware of until recently!

I think almost everybody is familiar with the phenomenon of sunspots: relatively dark patches on the surface of the sun that come and go somewhat unpredictably and can range in size from diameters of tens of miles to diameters of 100,000 miles.

Sunspots visible during solar eclipse of October 23, 2014. By user Tomruen...

The Influence, by Ramsey Campbell

I’ve been trying to get together enough focus to start reading fiction regularly again, and there was no better way to spark that interest and begin 2020 than by reading one of my favorite authors of all time, Ramsey Campbell.  At the end of 2019, Flame Tree Press released a new edition of one of Campbell’s classic novels from 1988, The Influence.

If you’re unfamiliar with Campbell’s work, he is a master of establishing an atmosphere of creeping dread....

Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 12

Time again for another compilation of old School Dungeons & Dragons posts from twitter! I am still not tired of exploring the history and mechanics of classic RPGs and the adventures written for them.

Bughunters (1993), by Lester Smith. We begin with a look at a non-D&D roleplaying game produced by TSR in the early 90s, whose core conceit is pretty much given away in the title!

Bughunters was one of numerous worlds designed for use with the Amazing Engine gaming system,...