Archive for: September, 2009

Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John novels

Sep 17 2009 Published by under Weird fiction

A few months ago, The Ridger noted the birthday of weird fiction author Manly Wade Wellman, and introduced me to his character "John the Balladeer", also known as "Silver John" but typically just known as "John": an Appalachian mountain man and wanderer who faces off against supernatural evil using only his wits, his brawn, his goodness, and his silver-stringed guitar.  Wellman wrote 5 novels and a collection of short stories about John; I'm waiting to purchase an upcoming reprint of the short stories, but I couldn't wait to read about John's exploits!  I picked up all 5 novels and went through them in short order.  All of them  I believe are currently out of print; a photo of my used collection is shown below:


The five novels are:

  • The Old Gods Waken (1979)
  • After Dark (1980)
  • The Lost and Lurking (1981)
  • The Hanging Stones (1982)
  • Voice of the Mountain (1984)

Let's take a look at the wonderful character of Silver John and the adventures he has...

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Time for a new call for The Giant's Shoulders hosts!

Sep 16 2009 Published by under Science news

Hi all -- I'm planning to keep The Giant's Shoulders as a monthly event for the foreseeable future, but we're going to need some more hosts!  If you're willing to host an upcoming edition of TGS, please let me know via email or the comments.

(I've already got Eric from The Primate Diaries as a volunteer, but that was a while ago; hopefully he remembers!)

One response so far

The Giant's Shoulders #15 is up!

Sep 16 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

The fifteenth edition of The Giant's Shoulders is up at Entertaining Research!  Many thanks to guru for putting it together!

The deadline for the next edition is October 15th, and it will be held at Quiche Moraine.  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

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ResearchBlogging Editor's Selections: Floating mice, sinking Mobius rings, topsy-turvy climate change -- and 50 million chemicals

Sep 14 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

  • Next they'll tell me that pigs can fly. You may have heard a few years back about researchers levitating frogs with powerful magnets.  But why should amphibians have all the fun?  Christie at Observations of a Nerd describes recent research into the levitation of mice -- and apparently the mice enjoyed it!
  • When a Mobius ring is dropped into a fluid. Mobius rings, one-sided strips, have been objects of fascination for years.  Arunn at Unruled Notebook looks at research which studies the unusual behavior of such rings when allowed to sink in water.
  • Cutting through the haze: Nailing down the role of aerosols in climate change. Most people are aware that climate science is a devilishly tricky subject.  James Hrynyshyn of The Island of Doubt reports on results that prove this point yet again: the rapid reduction of man-made aerosol pollutants could dramatically increase the temperature on the Earth!
  • 50 million chemicals and counting. Finally, David Bradley at sciencebase announces an unusual milestone: the Chemical Abstracts Service has logged its 50 millionth unique chemical, a mere 9 months after the 40 millionth.  But is this real progress, or an artifact of the reporting process?

Check back next Monday for more "miscellaneous" highlights!

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Will the internet kill the university? Maybe, maybe not

Sep 12 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, General science

A few days ago, Chad at Uncertain Principles commented on an article which predicts the death of the traditional university at the hands of online "colleges" offering unlimited classes for $99/month.  I thought Chad did a fine job of tamping down the "get smart quick and cheap" enthusiasm the article has for such options, and didn't feel the need to add to it, until the dean of my college sent a link to another article about such options, "Welcome to Yahoo! U."

For me, such articles raise two questions: "Will online colleges kill the traditional university?" and "Should they?"  My answer to the second question is "no", and my answer to the first is "maybe, maybe not".

As someone who just submitted their tenure package this month for review, I obviously have a vested interest in the fate of the university!

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Quasicrystals... now all natural!

Sep 09 2009 Published by under Physics

This result came out a few months ago, and I've been looking for the time to write about it ever since: in a paper published in the June 5 issue of Science, scientists reported the discovery of the first natural quasicrystal!

Of course, in order to get excited about this result, one needs to know what a quasicrystal is!  In this post, we'll take a look at what we mean by the terms 'crystal' and 'quasicrystal', and then explain why the discovery of a natural quasicrystal is significant.

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What iPhone apps are 'must have'?

Sep 08 2009 Published by under Personal

Well, I finally broke down and got myself an iPhone!  My Verizon contract was up, and my phone was getting pretty beat up.  Verizon had been getting on my nerves over the past few years with shenanigans such as this one; last week I think this one was the last straw.

So here's a question: what iPhone apps should I get?  Are there any apps that are absolutely essential?  What do iPhone users think?

8 responses so far

Editor's selections: Galactic light switches, deadly rhododendrons, and railways of light

Sep 07 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

  • Quasar light switches. You don't want light switches like this at home! Emma at we are all in the gutter talks about recent research concerning quasars and active galactic nuclei -- after powering down, they can sometimes start back up again! This is a great potential confirmation of the connection between quasars and radio galaxies.
  • On the dangers of Rhododendrons! Sure, they're pretty, but Rhododendrons can also increase the likelihood of landslides! Dr. Dave at On the slide discusses the research.
  • Particle sorting with a miniature light railway. We're a long way from devising Star Trek-style tractor beams, but technology which uses optical fields to move particles is already of practical importance. Stuart Watson at Optical Futures discusses recent research into such "optical tweezers".
  • Check back next Monday for more "miscellaneous" highlights!

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    9 days until The Giant's Shoulders #15!

    Sep 06 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

    There's 9 days left until the deadline for The Giant's Shoulders #15!  It will be hosted at Entertaining Research, and entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

    No responses yet

    Computed tomography as art

    Sep 03 2009 Published by under Physics

    A friend (h/t David) sent this to me a bit over a week ago, and now that I'm less distracted by work, I thought I'd pass it along!  On August 23rd, The Daily Mail reported on a new science-based art form: making art out of images generated via computed tomography!

    Hong Kong radiologist Kai-hung Fung takes the data generated during a CT scan and colors them using a 'rainbow technique' of his own design.  The images which result are quite striking, such as this image of the back of the nose:

    I've always been intrigued by the intersection of art with science; with today's software, it is possible and even useful to present scientific data with an eye towards beauty as well as clarity.  Add to that amazing imaging technology like CT scans (which I discuss in this old post), and one can make jaw-dropping art.

    2 responses so far

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