Natural Sciences

RIP Sabrina, 2006-2018

Even when you know it is coming, and soon, it is never easy to lose a animal friend.  Last night, after a six month struggle with cancer, my beloved Sabrina passed away at the age of 12.

Sabrina in November 2008, on top of the refrigerator.

I had been away in Mexico for work earlier this week, and very worried about leaving Sabrina behind, though she had excellent care with my ex-wife Beth and my roommate Sarah.  When I arrived home Friday night, Sarah and I found Sabrina had collapsed....

The Broken Earth Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin

Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.

So begins the beautiful, haunting, and apocalyptic Broken Earth Trilogy, written by N.K. Jemisin.  It begins with The Fifth Season (2015), continues with The Obelisk Gate (2016), and concludes with The Stone Sky (2017).

The trilogy is a masterpiece in fiction writing, an utterly unique blend of science fiction and fantasy.  Jemisin crafts a completely...

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....

Dr. SkySkull on WCNC!

For those who just can’t get enough of seeing me on camera (read: my parents), yesterday I did a very short spot on WCNC TV to promote UNCC’s Science and Technology Expo that is happening tomorrow, noon-4 pm, on the UNCC campus.  More information about the Expo can be found here!

My TV spot is “blink and you’ll miss it,” but I do mess with the theremin on camera!  The WCNC site doesn’t seem to allow embedding, so here’s a link to the clip....

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...

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