Posted tagged ‘science’


July 13, 2014
courtesy wikipedia

courtesy wikipedia

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed on Facebook that Saturday night’s moon would be a so-called supermoon.   Properly called a perigee moon, these occurs when the phase of the moon is full while the moon is near it’s closest position to the earth, or perigee.  According to NASA Science, the perigee moon is 14% larger and 30% brighter than your average full moon but without a side-by-side comparison, it is hard to tell the difference.  Yes, that’s a scientific, clinical description and it doesn’t prevent people from saying things like, Oh my God, that is the biggest moon I’ve ever seen! particularly if they are observing the moonrise.  For reasons not completely understood, the moon looks particularly large as it’s rising from the horizon.  This ends the scientific portion of this post.  When I read about a supermoon, I am once again that excited kid with his Edmund Scientific reflector telescope rushing out to the hayfield.   When the moon rises full, I am the wolf baying, Owooo, owooo at the sky, the young romantic recalling favorite moon songs and favorite moon scenes from the movies. (more…)

Feverish Over Particles

April 24, 2014

signalSome years ago, we were working on a project to find a very weak sound in a very noisy background using a device known as an adaptive line enhancer.  We were using a spectrograph to determine if we’d been successful.  The display placed a small bright dot at the location of the signal, which did not stand out before we processed the sounds.  If the signal was found, the bright dot would rise above the background.  One afternoon, we finally got the thing working and had quite a little celebration.  The following day, Kevin, a programmer, told us that when his wife had asked him what he did at work, he told her, We got a little white dot to move about half an inch.  Everyone got pretty excited.  Of such descriptions, humility is born.

I felt a bit like our friend Kevin last night when I went to see the film, Particle Fever, at the Artsy-Farsty Theater.  No, it is not about a disco for physicists … it is the story of the initial tests of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva Switzerland told through the eyes of six brilliant … and quite interesting … physicists.  The Collider is the largest and most expensive experiment ever conducted by mankind with a purpose so esoteric that one wonders how the project ever happened.   The fact that it was built by a multi-nationalhlc consortium, including physicists from countries that are mortal enemies makes its completion even more astonishing.  By any standard, the scale of the project is mind-boggling – the cost, number of people involved, the twenty-plus years needed to build it and its size.  The Collider is built in an underground ring 17 miles in circumference with equipment over five stories high, mostly underground.  These are electronics circuits on a grand scale, much of it hand built and soldered.  According to Wikipedia, data collected from proton collisions were also anticipated to be produced at an unprecedented rate of tens of petabytes per year, to be analysed by a grid-based computer network infrastructure connecting 140 computing centers in 35 countries(by 2012 the LHC Computing Grid was the world’s largest computing grid, comprising over 170 computing facilities in a worldwide network across 36 countries. The initial goal of the LHC was to verify the existence of the Higgs boson particle, a cornerstone of what is known as The Standard Model. (more…)

And the Pulitzer Goes to …

March 5, 2014

aiI found an interesting article on the Fox News app on my tablet the other day.  Now, before anyone launches into a political bias tirade I also peruse headlines on US News and World Report, Real Clear Politics, The New Republic, and The Huffington Post.  No, not MSNBC.  Every libertarian has his limits.  Anyway, the article reported that 122 articles in technical journals, many in publications of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), were recently found to be computer generated gibberish like, This section provides a complete description of the canceller output spectrum in terms of Discrete Prolate Spheroidal Sequences and their eigenvalues.  Just kidding, of course.   That is a sentence from my doctoral dissertation.  Try this: Application and Research of Smalltalk Harnessing Based on Game-Theoretic Symmetries.  Therein lies part the problem … many scientific papers may sound like gibberish to laymen and even to those in a slightly different scientific field.  That’s why technical papers are supposed to be peer reviewed by people working in the same field.


August 10, 2013

typicalTypical seems to me to be an unusual word, one that draws its connotations almost completely from the context in which it is used but that, of course, is a product of its definition: Exhibiting the qualities, traits, or characteristics that identify a kind, class, group, or category.  It derives its connotations from the kind, class, group, or category and the particular qualities, traits or characteristics being referred to.  If my boss (if I had one) says, You’ve done your typical wonderful job, it’s a complement.  If he says, I’m going to have to have Ron look over your report, Bud.  That’s typical, it’s not.   Well, perhaps typical’s not entirely connotation-free.  According to the Urban Dictionary, typical is The word woman use to describe their displeasure and contempt for anything a male could do, would do, will do, or should do in order to please their partner.  A woman never explains what is “typical”, it just covers every sin known to man.  Hmmm. (more…)

Old Films and Science

August 6, 2013

TSTWhen I was a boy (shortly after the dinosaurs left the planet for good), my Mom caught me settling in front of the TV, my math book, paper and pencil in hand.  Does anyone else remember math paper?  It was about half the size of a standard sheet and had the texture of newsprint.  I had a teacher that used to punish bad behavior by making a student hold a folded piece of math paper between his teeth.  Gross.   Don’t believe me?  Try it with a piece of the NY Times.  But I digress.  When Mom saw me with my math book in front of the TV, she said, You can’t do homework in front of the TV.  You can’t concentrate.  She said the same thing when she caught me writing a report for American History to the tune of The Theme from Peter Gunn on my stereo.  You can’t concentrate with music on.   Like any good father, I passed on my mother’s wisdom to my kids.   But I’m here to come clean today.  It’s not true. (more…)


July 11, 2013

It is my habit to bring my Google Nexus Tablet to the breakfast table to read the day’s news.   Sometimes, I plug in my headphones to listen to some morning music (Dave Grusin, maybe, or Keiko Matsui) and watch a few news videos.   The world has changed and perhaps there’s no better way to see it than to look at a few of Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the breakfast table.

Take, for example, Behind the Newspaper, in which the neglected wife stares longingly into space while her husband’s attention is buried in the morning paper.  These days?  He’s got a tablet in front of him, a smartphone in his hands and Bose noise cancelling headphones.  Don’t worry.  Muri and I are very different morning people, so she’s never the spurned wife.  At breakfast, anyway.  Or consider Breakfast Table Political Argument.  Today’s version: dueling iPads with junior completely distracted from his parents argument by his Mom’s iPhone (he’s texting little Suzie down the street about their play date later). (more…)

Snake Oil

July 7, 2012

I was standing in line at our local Sports Chalet to buy new pedals and handlebar wrap for my aging Panasonic bicycle when I noticed a cardboard display stand featuring Matt Kemp, the star player of the LA Dodgers.   On the stand were an assortment of plastic bracelets and pendants, the brand name of which suggested would improve my athletic performance.  Even my best efforts these days can hardly be called athletic but I was still curious, especially when the woman in front of me read the information on the box and dropped one of them into her cart.   When I reached the display, the first thing I noticed is that the plastic bracelets sold for $29.99.  Now, I wear a a yellow plastic Livestrong bracelet I purchased when several friends were dealing with cancer.  Price?  Ten for $10, with plenty of profit to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation.   The display stand in front of me offered not a clue regarding the cost or exactly what the bracelet was supposed to do.  It did, however, show Matt Kemp wearing one.  Perhaps, I, too could play for the Dodgers.  I did some research when I got home and found that the bracelets contain a two-sided hologram programmed in a way that mimics Eastern philosophies.   Hmmm. (more…)

Science and Art Too

June 28, 2012

There is a definite advantage to blogging as an avocation instead of a vocation.  If were blogging for money and I posted on a topic that received, let’s say, the underwhelming interest yesterday’s post, Science and Art, did, I’d feel obliged to find a more interesting topic.   But since Older Eyes is my avocation, I’m going to take another run at the same topic, hoping to convince you that there might be something worth seeing here.  Thinking back, yesterday’s post did start out with a somewhat technical description of how engineers use MATLAB.   And with no warning yet!  You may have been underwhelmed by my dancing rectangles.  But today, have I got some art for you! (more…)

Science and Art

June 27, 2012

Over the past few years, I’ve occasionally posted about my work as an engineer and in particular about a software product of Mathworks called MATLAB©.  MATLAB allows us to analyze, simulate and understand complex processing techniques such as those used in radar, sonar and communications systems.  It’s my experience that while almost any engineer can use MATLAB, a small percentage can work wonders with it.  Part of MATLAB’s power comes from its use of multi-dimensional arrays of numbers and most MATLAB wizards seem to be able to visualize things in higher dimensions.  Are you bored out of your gourd yet?  Stay with me.  This is fun, I promise. (more…)

Models, Ships and Species

April 10, 2012

My habit on Monday nights since I began participating in the weekly meme, Top Sites Tuesday, is to settle into my leather recliner after dinner, laptop … well, on my lap.   I usually turn the TV to a movie I’ve already seen or an already completed sporting event.  It’s background for my hunt for the Two Thoughts I need for the meme, company that doesn’t require my complete attention.  Last night, Muri and I took a walk in the park after dinner and I Tivo’d the Lakers game against the Hornets.  Since the Lakers won, I watched.   When the game ended, I didn’t still didn’t have Two Thoughts worth posting.   I checked the guide channel … no movies.  But over on the National Geographic Channel was an interesting sounding show titled Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron.  I have been intrigued by the Titanic ever since I watched A Night to Remember with my mother in 1958 so I thought I’d give it a try. (more…)