Archive for: November, 2008

Vote for Laelaps!

Nov 16 2008 Published by under Science news

It's a little late in the process, but I just noticed today that Brian Switek, who writes Laelaps, has fallen behind in votes for the 2008 Blogging Scholarship.  The deadline for votes is tomorrow, but if you have a chance, follow this link and give Brian a vote!

If you don't read Laelaps, you should really give it a look: Brian writes about paleontology, evolution and the history of science, among other things, and posts beautiful animal photos.

4 responses so far

The Giant's Shoulders #5 is up!

Nov 16 2008 Published by under General science, Science news

The fifth edition of The Giant’s Shoulders is up at Podblack blog!  Thanks to Kylie for putting it together!

The next edition is slated to be held at Rigorous Trivialities on December 15th.

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Two days until The Giant's Shoulders #5!

Nov 13 2008 Published by under General science, Science news

It’s time again to remind folks that the deadline for entries for the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders are due in 2 days!  This edition will be held at Podblack Blog on November 15th.

Entries can be submitted through or directly to Podblack, as usual!

I'm still thinking of squeezing one more entry in for this month, but work is going to be hectic for the next two days...

3 responses so far

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Maracot Deep

Nov 12 2008 Published by under Adventure fiction, Weird fiction

One of the fun things about my blogging is that I keep turning up relatively unknown works by famous authors which, although not on par with their classics, give fascinating insights into the authors' views.  They're usually quite entertaining, as well!

Soon after reading John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes, I stumbled across yet another book about the interaction of mankind with the denizens of the deepest oceans: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Maracot Deep (1929).

Doyle, though certainly best known for his stories about Sherlock Holmes, was no stranger to a good adventure or horror story.  The Lost World (1912), for instance, dealt with an expedition to a remote South American plateau where dinosaurs and other monsters still dwell.

The Maracot Deep, however, is set in the other great frontier of that era: the deepest parts of the ocean.  It is one of Doyle's weaker novels, and is extremely short, but is a fun read and is one of the last truly 'speculative' novels about the undersea world.

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One of those days...

Nov 11 2008 Published by under Personal


Ugh.  I'm having one of those days where everything is going ridiculously wrong.  If I maintain any religious faith at all in my life, it comes from those days when it seems clear that a supernatural agency is out to get me.

I woke up this morning to the news that my CAREER award proposal was rejected.  Last year I had all 'excellent' reviews save for one lone 'good' dissenter.  After revising my proposal to take into account criticisms from that first round, I actually got significantly worse reviews this time around.

Yesterday, I saw that my windshield had developed a crack in it.  Since this morning, it has grown by about 1/2 inch, which probably means I'll be paying for a replacement very soon.

I went to spend my troubles away at Best Buy, and got stuck in a ridiculously long line of about 10 people, since only one register was open.  On my way back to the office, I found that the road to my research building was suddenly under construction, requiring me to drive around the entire campus to get back to work.

On top of this, today is my 'teach from 5-7:30 pm' day at the office, so things ain't getting better.  Ugh.

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Focusing through a 'maze' of strong scattering

Nov 10 2008 Published by under Optics
One of the broad challenges in a lot of optical applications involving visible light is simply that most materials aren't particularly transparent.  This is rather obvious, at a glance: materials can be strong absorbers of light, strong reflectors of light, or highly dispersive.  Even materials which do not suffer from these problems can still strongly scatter a light field.  Milk is a good example of this latter case: light can be transmitted through a glass of milk, but seemingly only in a diffuse manner.  No images or bright points of light can be seen through the glass, only a diffuse glow which has little useful purpose.

Researchers at the University of Twente in The Netherlands, however, have demonstrated that it is possible to focus light through a strongly scattering media, in essence by finding special transmission paths through a 'maze' of strongly scattering objects, and overall increase the amount of light transmitted through such a scatterer.   Some experimental results were recently reported in Physical Review Letters, and the research seemed cute enough to merit a blog post!

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3 responses so far

Saturday night catblogging!

Nov 08 2008 Published by under Animals

I interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging for a sweet picture of the kitties at home:


They are stacked in inverse order of authority: Sasha on the lowest step, Sabrina up a step, and Simon on the landing.  Zoe, as always, is nowhere near the other kitties.

One response so far

CNN Holograms? Not really.

Nov 07 2008 Published by under Optics, Science news

I was planning to comment on the CNN 'hologram' effect that they used on election night, and though I see that Tom at Swans on Tea beat me to it (I wave angry fist in the air, shouting, "Curse you!"), I thought I'd comment as well.

As you've probably heard already, and heard mocked on The Daily Show, CNN debuted a new technology, in which a correspondent's image is 'beamed' into the CNN studio:

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10 responses so far

Best. Ballpoint pen. Ever.

Nov 06 2008 Published by under Silliness

For those who don't read Swans on Tea (and if you like fun physics-y blogs, you really should), I have to link to this post concerning product reviews on  People have taken to heart the absurdity of being able to review anything you buy there, including pens.  A sample:

Writes well - but it's unmusical

If all you wish to do is write on paper this product is ideal, but unlike its brother the Bic Stic, which has a softer, opague, plastic barrel, it is not possible to turn it into a whistle in less than a minute using only a penknife and a short length of softwood pencil. For some obscure reason Amazon does not sell the Stic so you'll have to steal one from a Holiday Inn if you want to make yourself a whistle: having stolen a Bic Stic cut a flat about 1 mm deep and over 6 mm long along the side of the unsharpened end of a pencil. Remove all the pen components from the Bic Stic and make a cut about 3mm deep about 6 mm from the end of the barrel. Now cut a notch as shown in the diagram at, cut 6 mm of flattened pencil and put it in that end of the barrel with the flat aligned with the notch. Now cut 6 mm of unflattened pencil and use it to close the other end of the barrel. You have a whistle. Blow at the end with the air hole.

There are some amazingly funny reviews there.

One response so far

Yay, North Carolina!

Nov 06 2008 Published by under [Politics]

I just learned, via Americablog, that my home state has come through for Obama; the AP reports:

President-elect Obama has won North Carolina, a symbolic triumph in a state that hadn't voted for a Democrat in more than a generation.

The Associated Press declared Obama the winner Thursday after canvassing counties in North Carolina to determine the number of outstanding provisional ballots.

That survey found that there are not enough remaining ballots for Republican John McCain to close a 13,693-vote deficit.

North Carolina's 15 electoral votes brings Obama's total to 364 — nearly 100 more than necessary to win the White House. Missouri is the only state that remains too close to call.

Obama's win in North Carolina was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

This was a damn close race: out of some 4,200,000 votes cast, less than 14,000 made the difference.  I really feel like my vote mattered this time around!  (Though I still don't really like the electoral college system.)

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