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Wonderous Stories

Science is sometimes criticized as draining the meaning and beauty out of existence, when in reality it has the opposite problem. Because it allows one to acquire knowledge otherwise inaccessible to common perception, science gives us access to a whole other landscape, with terrifying and beautiful scenery. It is hard to discuss the history of earth...

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One of my hobbies is sacred geometry‭ ‬-‭ ‬loosely defined,‭ ‬it’s the study and use of mathematical archetypes in nature and culture,‭ ‬often with a focus on traditional compass and straightedge constructions.‭ Don’t worry‭; ‬I’m not about to go off into numerology,‭ ‬telling you that you can derive the groovy cosmic secrets of the ancients by studying...

What’s Up with the Bad Chemistry?

Watts Up With That is a very, very silly website. Here’s what I mean: In a recent article at WUWT, chemical engineering graduate Steve Burnette tries to dismiss concerns about ocean acidification, but his claims are outright wrong when they are coherent. The centerpiece of the article is a calculation meant to estimate the change in ocean pH over the...

LabLulz: a DIY melting point apparatus

If you’ve ever taken an organic chemistry lab class, you’ve probably done a melting point determination. That’s when you take a small sample of a solid, heat it up, and make note of the temperature at which it melts. This can be used to identify an unknown, but it is often used to assay purity. This is because impurities tend to make solids melt over...

scraping metadata from Civitas’s creepy “Moral Monday” database

In case you haven’t heard, the North Carolina General Assembly has run amok. It’s hard to believe that things could get worse: the last NCGA approved Ammendment One, which declared that straight marriage was the only recognized family. And they tried to outlaw accelerating sea level rise by declaring that straight lines were the only recognized graph. And...

LabLulz: this microscope is the bee’s knees!

Figure A: The knee of a bee I recently bought a 80-800x USB microscope. It has really good quality for less than $40, and I’ve been using it to get up close and personal with crystals, dead bugs, and gross parts of my anatomy. Feast your eyes! A wasp, with a bizarre, insectile tonguemouththing. Proboscis. Weird. One of my moles. Maybe it’s time I get...

LabLulz: densitometry of hydrogen purr-oxide

Today in LabLulz, I’m going to walk through a recent preparation I did in my chemistry lab: increasing and measuring the concentration of hydrogen peroxide. WARNING: This procedure involves heat and the end product is a powerful oxidizer. Don’t get burned and don’t get it on yourself – wear gloves, splash-resistant goggles, and an apron. I had a spill...

ThermoPoker Dot Viz: using pygame animations to understand iterated games

I’m revisiting some older research of mine, so that I can talk a little bit about some data visualization I did along the way. If you frequent TriZPUG or the SplatSpace, you might have seen my original presentation, but In Case You Missed It… You might remember a while back I got interested in researching the statistical thermodynamics of poker tournaments....

hoppy gnu sneer, or, what’s to be seen in twentythirteen

How did TopOc do on last year’s to-do list? More hard–hitting commentary! More sassing of people who don’t understand graphs! Updates on previous projects! Coming Soon Audiovisual delights! More sweet hax! Fractals and fungaloids! Pentagons and pentagrams! Coming Soon More dry ice! (The shark puppet will also return.) Not bad! As consistent readers...

Light and Noise in the Anthropocene

There is a companion article exploring the issue from the perspective of environmental monitoring over at ArkFab. Human influence on the environment has increased dramatically over the last 10,000 years, to the point that some geologists have argued that human reworking of the earth defines a new geologic age, The Anthropocene. (Zalasiewicz et al, 2008)...

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