Archive for: May, 2010

A trip to Savannah, Georgia

May 10 2010 Published by under Travel

Last weekend, the wife and I celebrated our first-year wedding anniversary by taking a 3-day trip to Savannah, Georgia.  Savannah is one of those rare American cities that has maintained a significant portion of its historic neighborhood, and this neighborhood is highlighted by a large number of green open squares that were first planned when the city was founded in 1733.

Savannah is a rather hard city to photograph for a novice like myself: buildings are quite close together and there are a large number of very old trees, making it difficult to get nice scenic shots.  These same properties make it a very lovely area to walk and explore, however, and I thought I'd share some of the pictures I did manage to take, including shots of the wonderfully atmospheric Bonaventure Cemetery.

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ResearchBlogging editor's selections: bilingual animals, horse-hunting hyenas, the nature of dark matter and toiletology

May 10 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

  • Bilingualism as a preadaptation for language. Can animals other than humans be "bilingual"?  This fascinating question is addressed in research described by Sean at The Adventures of Auck.
  • The horse-hunting hyenas of Srbsko Chlum-Komin Cave. We can learn a lot by studying what an animal eats -- and what parts it eats!  Brian at Laelaps explains how the bone piles of ancient hyena dens tells us more than just what animals were hunted.
  • Dark matter confronts observations. In a detailed post, The Astronomist at his eponymous blog discusses theory and observation relating to the specific nature of dark matter.
  • Toiletology. What can the signs describing a toilet tell us about the inclusiveness of a society?  Ingrid at Language on the Move explains.

See y'all next Monday for more "miscellaneous" highlights!

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The Shadowy Thing, by H.B. Drake

May 06 2010 Published by under Horror, Lovecraft

I've been having a lot of good luck with my fiction reading lately, and have a backlog of really good (and weird) fiction to blog about.  One that actually gave me a pleasant surprise is The Shadowy Thing (1928), by Henry Burgess Drake (1893-1964):

The Shadowy Thing is another in Hippocampus Press' "Lovecraft's Library" series, reprinting rare works of weird fiction that Lovecraft owned and thought highly of.   Though I've generally been very satisfied with books Lovecraft loved (The Metal Monster, The Place Called Dagon), it hasn't always been the case (The Dark Chamber); I admit that I wasn't particularly optimistic about Drake's book.

My apprehensions were misplaced!  Once I started reading, I could hardly put down The Shadowy Thing: it is a compelling story with unrelenting tension that builds to a truly ghastly climax.

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Singular Optics: Light chasing its own tail

May 04 2010 Published by under Optics

(Title stolen shamelessly from my postdoctoral advisor, who I assume will forgive me.)

As I've noted numerous times in previous posts, one of the fundamental properties that characterizes wave behavior (i.e. that makes a wave a wave) is wave interference.  When two or more waves combine, they produce local regions of higher brightness (constructive interference) and lower brightness (destructive interference), the latter involving a partial or complete "cancellation" of the wave amplitude.

Researchers have long noted that the regions of complete destructive interference of wavefields, where the brightness goes exactly to zero, have a somewhat regular geometric structure, and that the wavefield itself has unusual behavior in the neighborhood of these zeros.   In the 1970s this structure and behavior was rigorously described mathematically, and further research on this and related phenomena has become its own subfield of optics known as singular optics.  Singular optics has introduced a minor "paradigm shift" of sorts to theoretical optics, in which researchers have learned that the most interesting parts of a light wave are often those places where there is the least amount of light!

In this post we'll discuss the basic ideas of singular optics; to begin, however, we must point out that most people have the wrong idea of what a "typical" interference pattern looks like!

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12 days until The Leviathan's Shoulders #23!

May 03 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

There's 12 days left to submit entries for the 23rd installment of The Giant's Shoulders, a special edition dubbed "The Leviathan's Shoulders"!  It will be hosted by Kevin Zelnio over at Deep Sea News, and will be a special “oceans edition” of the carnival.  All ordinary entries will still be accepted, but bloggers are encouraged to submit posts on the history of science that deal specifically with oceans and ocean life!   Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual.

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ResearchBlogging editor's selections: Digital distractions, echos from a black hole, and peer-to-peer storage

May 03 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

  • Dealing With "Digital Distractions" in the Classroom. I've certainly wondered what the best approach is to students who are using laptops in the classroom!  Krystal at Anthropology in Practice asks whether a blanket ban on them is the right approach.
  • A blast from a black hole’s past. The black holes at the center of many galaxies are "active", in that they give off tremendous amounts of energy; our galaxy's black hole does not.  Has it always been that way?  Sarah at SarahAskew discusses observations of an "echo" that suggests that it has not!
  • Peer-to-peer data storage. Finally, David at Sciencetext talks about the ups and downs of using peer-to-peer communications as a system to store and protect data!

Check back next week for more "miscellaneous" selections!

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