Natural Sciences

John Blackburn’s A Book of the Dead

If you’ve read my blog enough, you know that I occasionally write introductions for volumes released by the excellent Valancourt Books, in particular a lot of introductions to the work of the late John Blackburn (1923-1993), master of horror and thrillers.  Well, I’m happy to say that one of Blackburn’s rarest books, A Book of the Dead, was recently released by Valancourt, with an introduction again by me!

A Book of the Dead (1984) is Blackburn’s...

Swift to Chase, by Laird Barron

(Taking a short break from entanglement and Rome posts to catch up on some fiction blogging!)

Laird Barron is, in my humble opinion, one of the most talented authors of horror fiction working today, and will be regarded historically as one of the greats of all time.  I quickly snap up anything new by him — though sometimes it takes me a little while to become aware of it!

I recently read Barron’s Swift to Chase, which came out in October of 2016.  It is the fourth major...

AGU session to explore drivers of fire

I’m excited to be hosting an American Geophysical Union (AGU) session in December 2017 and excited about only having to fly to New Orleans instead of San Francisco. This is the first time in many many years that AGU has not been in San Fran. My session co-conveners are Sam Rabin (Germany), Fang Li (Beijing), and Guido van der Werf (Netherlands). Alex Schaefer (my PhD student) will certainly be out there, and I hope our session hosts a diverse set of oral and poster presentations...

Dr. SkySkull in Amsterdam: Optics in the Rijksmuseum

The lower level of the Rijksmuseum, an area relatively few time-strapped visitors manage to visit, is reserved for more practical forms of art: musical instruments, ceramics, ship figureheads, weapons, and the like.  I explored this whole area on my recent whirlwind tour of the Rijksmuseum and was delighted to find something I wasn’t expecting: optics-based art!  The museum contains an excellent and diverse collection of magic lantern slides, as well as an...

Agents of Dreamland, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Taking a brief break from posts on quantum entanglement — will be back with more on that subject soon! Meanwhile…

Caitlin R. Kiernan is a brilliant writer. This is an indisputable fact.  Several years ago, I blogged about her beautiful, dark and haunting novel The Drowning Girl, a ghost story that I rank as not only a classic of the genre but a classic of literature.  I also was awed by her 2009 novel The Red Tree (which I read but never blogged about, for some reason)....

Dr. SkySkull in Rome: Colosseo and Palatino

Part 3 of a series of photo essays on my recent trip to Rome. Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

We got up early on day 3 in Rome to head to the Colosseum.  On the recommendation of my guidebook, I had purchased combined Colosseum/Palatine Hill tickets for us the night before, and this turned out to be a great idea. Instead of waiting in a line that might have been hours long, we were able to go through a separate line where we waiting, in the shade, for some 20 minutes at...

Dr. SkySkull in Rome: Working and walking

Part 2 of a series of photo essays on my recent trip to Rome. Part 1 can be read here.

Day 2 of our Rome trip was a combination of work and vacation. The choice of Rome as a destination was originally motivated by an invitation from an optics colleague to visit him at Roma Tre University, and my former postdoc advisor and I both volunteered to give short talks about our research.  We were scheduled for pre-lunchtime presentations, so we slept in a little bit and then took a taxi to the...

Dr. SkySkull in Rome: Walking the city

My recent trip to Europe was officially work-related, as I was an “opponent” in a PhD defense for a student of my former postdoc advisor in Amsterdam.   We decided some time ago, however, to add a trip to Rome after the defense, and spent a lovely 4 days in the Italian city together with the graduating student.  Between my cellphone and my 35mm camera, I took some 1000 photos, and of course I wanted to share a bunch of them here!

I’ll break up my tour of Rome into...

Dr. SkySkull in Amsterdam: A silly tour of the Rijksmuseum

I’ve been rather quiet lately because of work and travel!  A bit over a week ago, I flew to Amsterdam to participate in a PhD defense, and then traveled to Rome to give a talk and tour the city, which kept me quite busy.  As I’ve done in the past, I thought I would do a series of photo essays on my travels.

I flew to Amsterdam on the 18th of June, arriving on the 19th, and pretty much had the entire day to myself, as my former postdoc advisor and his PhD student were taking care...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 5: Making it happen

This is part 5 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here,  Part 2 can be read here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

So at this point we have an idea of what entanglement is, and some reassurance that it doesn’t ruin all of physics with its existence!  Now we turn to a very important question: how, in practice, do we produce entangled quantum particles?

In our discussions so...

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