Category Archives: Physical Science and Math

The Origin of Life and Life on Other Planets

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The Origin of Life and Life on Other Planets

Several parallel discussions inspire me to write this post partly in the hope that you will chime in.

The chance of life elsewhere in the universe just went to near zero. Or did it?

Continue reading The Origin of Life and Life on Other Planets


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Code Breaking, Cryptography, Decoder Ring, Python

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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


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Making Sense of Weather and Climate

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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


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How Did They Make The Periodic Table?

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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?


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Is There Evidence of Life On Mars?

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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?


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The Ultimate Science Stocking Stuffer, Also Fights the Patriarchy!

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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!


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Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is Wrong about the Supermoon

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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


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Perovskites and why you should care about them

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Perovskite is a special kind of mineral, calcium titanium oxide composed of calcium titanate (CaTiO3), discovered first in the Urals and named after Lev Perovski (though it was discovered by Gustav Rose). Continue reading Perovskites and why you should care about them


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

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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


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Mythbusters on Head-on Collisions

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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


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