Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Morning names: cavitation, Gwen Stefani

February 24, 2021

Morning names for yesterday (2/23). In both cases I found the names (one common, one proper) vaguely familiar but couldn’t recall actually having experienced the name in use (though obviously I must have, to have them pop up in my mind on awaking). I then made guesses about the referents of the names — and was well off the mark in both cases.


Morning name: consilience

January 13, 2021

A set of morning names from a long time back: consilience, Jay Gould, and Vespa. I will get to them, eventually, one by one. Today it’s consilience, with an entertaining etymology and an interesting two-part history.

From Wikipedia, the initial discussion:

In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) is the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” on strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.

The principle is based on the unity of knowledge; measuring the same result by several different methods should lead to the same answer. For example, it should not matter whether one measures the distance between the Giza pyramid complex by laser rangefinding, by satellite imaging, or with a meter stick – in all three cases, the answer should be approximately the same.


The Gauld scientific method

October 19, 2020

A recent Tom Gauld cartoon from the New Scientist:



August 29, 2019

As we slide into a US holiday weekend — leading to Labor Day, the first Monday in September, this year on the 2nd — my birthday (on the 6th) looms as well. Coming up is a prime-th birthday, the 79th, an auspicious number to my mind, just one short of the 80th, which many view (like the similarly vigesimal 20th, 40th, and 60th) as a landmark birthday, in this case the gateway into old age. But for the moment I’m prime, baby.


Avocado Chronicles: 3 the chemical formula

July 14, 2019

Selling avocados in Santo Domingo DR:


H2O KT is a play on Sp. aguacate ‘avocado’, treating it as:

the chemical formula H2O for agua ‘water’ + ca, the letter K /ka/, + te, the letter T /te/

that is, as la formula química del aguacate ‘the chemical formula for the avocado’. The joke isn’t quite perfect: K is indeed a symbol for a chemical element, potassium, but there’s no element T (though there is Te, the metalloid tellurium). (There is a compound potassium telluride, K2Te, but I don’t know how it interacts with water.)

The joke will lead us to the demotivational industry (with a penguin interlude); to snark and Mad magazine; to color blindness; to egg and avocado dishes; and to a sexually suggestive cartoon and its gender ideology.


Three exercises in cartoon understanding

October 24, 2018

In this morning’s comics feed: a Zippy with the slogan “Kindness, Acceptance, Inclusion”; a Bizarro with a Discomfort Control mechanism; and a Rhymes With Orange about the facial recognition of a Mr. Banner. The first two can be understood at some level even if you don’t get the cultural references involved (though they’re much more entertaining if you do), but the third is probably just incomprehensible if you don’t recognize Mr. Banner.


Swiss art supplies in the morning

August 31, 2018

Today’s morning name: Caran d’Ache. A Swiss art supplies company specializing in pencils. With a complex linguistic and social history behind its name. There will be cartoons as well. (No food, sex, music, or plants, but you can’t have everything. On the other hand, there will be clowns and some chemistry / materials science.)

(#1) The box for a 40-color selection of pencils, proudly flying the Swiss flag


The 6-fold way

May 19, 2018

A fabulous design from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky yesterday:

(#1) “6-fold” (or: “The 6-fold Way”)

To come. On 6-fold symmetry: snowflakes (natural and in paper), many monocot flowers, Kekulé’s carbon ring for benzene, the major colors of the color wheel (reproduced in the rainbow flag for Gay Pride).

Then on number, color, and gender parallelisms, which will give us 6 as purple and queer. And how the opposition of the secondary hues green with purple in #1 parallels the opposition of the primary hues blue with red (and, in the background of #1, the opposition of the primary hues red with yellow).

And on the name 6-fold way, adapted from the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism and Murray Gell-Mann’s adaptation of the idea (under the name The Eightfold Way) to a theory organizing subatomic particles.


A Zwicky of flavour physics

November 2, 2017

Thanks to Google Alerts, yesterday I learned about the theoretical physicist Roman Zwicky — someone to add to the great book of Zwickys on this blog. His webpage photo:

His Edinburgh webpage lists his research areas as: Collider Physics, Flavour Physics, Fundamental Theory. Yes, forbiddingly technical, but then his pages are clearly intended for fellow physicists, not for random people, even those with scientific interests.


Earth Dean

October 13, 2017

A brief note on a personnel change at Stanford, announced in the Stanford Report this morning:

(#1) The new Earth Dean, with lilies-of-the-valley (and a purple calla lily)

Geologist Stephan Graham has been named dean of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Provost Persis Drell has announced.