Category Archives: Physical Science and Math

Code Breaking, Cryptography, Decoder Ring, Python

I’m putting a lot of things together here all at once.

This started out with a review of Cracking Codes with Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Ciphers. This is a book to help you learn middle level to more advanced Python, and at the same time, learn about codes, ciphers, and cryptography. The examples in the book tend to be classic examples, so this is a bit more like learning the history of encoding technologies and practices, and using Python as a way to play around with this interesting material. Continue reading Code Breaking, Cryptography, Decoder Ring, Python

Making Sense of Weather and Climate

Read Making Sense of Weather and Climate: The Science Behind the Forecasts, by Mark Denny if you want to … well, do what the title of the book says.

I know a lot of you are interested in global warming/climate change, so you need to know that this book is not mainly about that (but it is covered). Rather, this book is the Rosetta Stone that allows you to connect a general understanding of the planet (it is round, it spins, it has an atmosphere that includes water vapor, and tends to reside between -50 and +50 degrees C, etc.) and the person on the TV talking about air masses going up and down and what is going to happen during “the overnight” and “the overday” and such. Continue reading Making Sense of Weather and Climate

How Did They Make The Periodic Table?

Good question. In short, Dmitri Mendeleev noticed that certain properties of the elements repeated, i.e., were periodic. This allowed him to create an initial framework for the elements that had rather intriguing empty spaces. In this way, he predicted as yet undiscovered elements. A periodic table. Eventually these discoveries happened. Continue reading How Did They Make The Periodic Table?

Is There Evidence of Life On Mars?

At present, the evidence suggests that life may have existed in the past on Mars, or not. However, the scientific consensus is that we assume life never arose on Mars, and will continue to do so until evidence pops out and bites us in the mass spectrometer.

There is no evidence of life on Mars right now. Continue reading Is There Evidence of Life On Mars?

The Ultimate Science Stocking Stuffer, Also Fights the Patriarchy!

From Hypatia of Alexandria to Katherine Hayhoe, women have made and continue to make important contributions to the physical sciences. Now, you can get the “Notable Women in the Physical Sciences” deck of cards to celebrate them!

Here’s the deal. Continue reading The Ultimate Science Stocking Stuffer, Also Fights the Patriarchy!

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is Wrong about the Supermoon

I don’t know much about astronomy, but I am a scientist and I know this. One key scientific concept that is rarely grasped by non scientists but at the same time drives much of science itself is variation.

Indeed, the understanding that variation is key is one of the characteristics that separates the ancients, who may have engaged in what looks like science but rarely advanced true understanding, and the moderns (to oversimplify greatly, ironically).

The moon and other celestial bodies always do the same thing, never change in their course or appearance, and once one has finished cataloguing them, there is nothing else to see.

Or is there? Isn’t there in fact change all the time? Isn’t change itself the essence of the universe? Is it not true that a star is a dynamic thing that has a birth, stages of life, a death, and from its remnants come other things? Isn’t this how astronomers like Neil DeGrasse Tyson are able to utter such brilliances as “I am made of star dust”??? Don’t planets form, collide with things or things with them, cool, change dramatically across the surface, even break lose form their orbits now and then? Continue reading Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is Wrong about the Supermoon

Watching the Earth breath from space: OCO-2 and measuring CO2

The OCO-2, aka, Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, is a satellite that measures CO2 in the atmosphere, using a spectrograph.

From a news article in today’s Science, “One of the crowning achievements of modern environmental science is the Keeling curve, the detailed time series of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) begun in 1958 that has enabled deep insights into the mechanisms of global climate change. These measurements were difficult to make for most of their 60-year history, involving the physical collection of air samples in flasks at a small number of sites scattered strategically around the globe and the subsequent analysis of their CO2 inventories in a handful of laboratories throughout the world.”

The purpose of the OCO-2 was to make these measurements much more accurate and efficient, and to provide more granularity in the details. The space craft was launched in July 2014, replacing an earlier OCO (OCO-1, if you like) which was launched in 2009.

Do not tell Donald Trump about this satellite. He’ll have it shot down.

Anyway, the current issue of Science Continue reading Watching the Earth breath from space: OCO-2 and measuring CO2

Mythbusters on Head-on Collisions

I’m sure you all have cable and/or satellite setups and thus see the Mythbusters, which is clearly one of the best things on TV, as they produce them. But I am always a couple of years behind because I watch them on Netflix. Two more seasons were released on Netflix very recently, so I’ve been watching them, and I thought one of the Myths addressed was worth bringing up.

Here’s the Myth: Continue reading Mythbusters on Head-on Collisions

How To Collect And Identify Micrometeorites

I had a plan. I even publicly announced it (though that was never my intention). I had been saving old hard drives with the intention of extracting the super powerful magnets from them. I was looking into rain barrels. The place we just moved into has a large roof that funnels all the water down into one drain.

It would have been a simple matter to use the magnets to collect all the little bits of magnetic stuff that falls on the house over time, from the sky. And, since most of these bits of magnetic stuff are iron meteorites, I’d be able to collect a zillion meteorites every year! Bwa ha ha ha!!!

But then I read In Search of Stardust: Amazing Micrometeorites and Their Terrestrial Imposters by micrometeorite expert Jon Larsen.

It turns out that while micrometeorites do in fact fall on us at a regular rate, and some of them are attracted to magnets, the vast majority Continue reading How To Collect And Identify Micrometeorites

Math Mystery Book That Is Bilingual

You can solve mysteries with math, and you can do it in either English or Spanish, with One Minute Mysteries – Misterios de un Minuto: Short Mysteries You Solve With Math! – ¡Misterios Cortos que Resuelves con Matemáticas!, by Yoder and Yoder.

The original version of this book was all English, and was a best seller. This new version obviously gives you mucho mucho mas and math to boot.

The One Minute Mysteries series is well known and widely loved, and is recommended by the NSTA.

Have a notebook or a pile of blank paper and some writing instruments handy because you will need them to work out some of these problems.

This is for kids age 10-14, and is a well written, well constructed, well printed resource. I strongly recommend it if your family has young ones around that age, regardless of their math level. Also check out One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! and One-Minute Mysteries and Brain Teasers: Good Clean Puzzles for Kids of All Ages.