Commentary and informative articles on science, medicine,
and technology

selected commentary

Stop worrying about AI
Scary predictions about artificial intelligence make exciting headlines, but we should not give in to fear of the unknown.

My Near-Death Experience
Visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles is a lot like being dead.

To control by doing nothing
Sections from Lao Tzu's famous blog the Dao De Jing on how to govern a big country.

Anarchy Reconsidered
Is anarchy a viable political system, or does anarchy invariably degenerate into ... anarchy?

What is Depression?
Perhaps the only article on the Internet this week that has nothing to do with anybody or anything named Ferguson.

Eight myths about libertarianism
If people are going to bash libertarianism, they need to get their ideas about it straight. Otherwise they might inadvertently bash each other.

More commentary


Shortwave ultraviolet photography
Photography at short UV wavelengths (200-300 nm) poses many challenges, but it also opens up a new universe of things that can't be seen any other way.

How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse
Or, how to take pictures of the Sun without burning up your camera sensor, blinding yourself, and setting your dog on fire.

High-resolution compact spectrograph, Part 1
Design and plans for a compact spectrograph suitable for astronomical and terrestrial use.

High-resolution compact spectrograph, Part 2
Parts and construction details.

High-resolution compact spectrograph, Part 3
Testing, calibration, and sample spectra.

Build an Ultraviolet Zoom Lens, Part 1: Design Design and plans for a fused-silica zoom lens suitable for ultraviolet photography.

Build an Ultraviolet Zoom Lens, Part 2: Construction The gory construction details.

Build an Ultraviolet Zoom Lens, Part 3: Test images Sample UV and visible photos.

Photographing Radioactivity with a Webcam
Forget ultraviolet. You can use a webcam to photograph radioactivity. But you have to modify it first.

Everyone should witness this amazing phenomenon of nature at least once in their lifetime.

Ultraviolet photography
The ultraviolet world is gloomy ... and pink.

Infrared photography
It's not difficult to modify a digital SLR camera to take pictures in the near-infrared.

Astrophotography Without a Telescope
You don't need a lot of equipment to take spectacular pictures of the stars.

science humor

Fundamentals of Reindeer Aerodynamics
How did reindeer evolve the ability to fly?

Four Movies for Dorks
These movies contain clues to hidden meanings that seem to have been missed by everyone else.

The Future of TV
What will television be like 20 years from now? We think social changes will drive the technology, rather than the other way around.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Life in the Country
If this article can save just one person from the unending nightmare that is country living, it will be worth it.

The Ten Most Annoying Science Fiction Shows of All Time
Some science fiction TV shows succeeded at creating a rich, complex universe, and some ... didn't.

Improved State License Plate Slogans
Most American states have pithy slogans printed on their vehicle license plates. But do the slogans truly represent the state? I think not.

An Overview of Santa's Advanced Anti-Radar Technology
For years, radar operators at airports have complained about the difficulty of detecting Santa Claus on radar. But according to radar experts, the inability of our most advanced radar tracking systems to detect the red-suited Christmas icon is no accident.

The Cow Theory of Economics
Cow theory is a well-established tool for understanding basic economic concepts. There are many variations of this theory on the Internet. Here are some new ones.

The Tragic Story of Schrodinger's Cat
Schrödinger's cat played a critical role in the early development of quantum mechanics. His paper on the subject, published in 1935 in the prestigious journal Naturwissenschaften, established his reputation as a first-rate theoretical physicist.

Physics envy among biologists: fact or fiction?
Physicists often state their belief that all biologists would rather be physicists, but became biologists only because they were not very good at math. Why, physicists ask, do biologists seem unable to utilize such simple concepts as the Riemannian-Christoffel curvature tensor or Galois fields in their work?

Introduction to Quantum Thermo-Epistemology
This manuscript describes some of our recent findings in the exciting new field of quantum thermo-epistemology, a branch of implausibility theory dealing with fundamental questions such as: Why does toast always land butter-side down?

The Prophecies of Bruce de Nostradamus
Bruce Nostradamus is not as famous as his older brother, partly because his quatrains were not very good (they didn't rhyme, did not always consist of four lines, and often didn't make sense), and also because he was not as skilled at astrology as his older and smarter brother.

The Al Gore Effect: Theoretical basis
Recent research has shown that the presence of Al Gore is able to reduce ambient temperatures by approximately 27.6°C. This phenomenon is termed the "Al Gore Effect." Various theories about the physical mechanism of this phenomenon, and its potential usefulness in fighting global warming, are discussed.

What car would Jesus really drive?
An organization called the "National Religious Partnership for the Environment" has started a national campaign to make people feel guilty for driving SUVs. The centerpiece of this campaign is the slogan, "What would Jesus drive?". This, of course, has driven people into paroxysms of laughter.

business commentary

How language contributes to corporate failure
Corporate Speak may sound silly, but it's actually a way of using language to hide the awful truth that your company is doomed.

The 13 Golden Rules of Mismanagement
I've developed thirteen golden rules that any manager can use to run the company into the ground.

Why you should feel bad for Big Pharma
Whether you love them or hate them, what's happening to the pharmaceutical industry these days is bad news.

science and medicine

What's so great about Euler's formula?
To many people, Euler's identity seems almost magical. What does Euler's formula tell us about the real world? How can we understand it intuitively?

Antisocial personality disorder
What are the differences between psychopaths, sociopaths, and psychotics? Is psychopathy a disease?

Does Anesthesia Cause Dementia?
Post-operative cognitive dysfunction is surgery's dirty little secret.

What Fusion Breakthrough?
What Lockheed Martin's announcement really means.

Rethinking ozone: the short version
Nearly 30 years after CFCs were banned, something doesn't add up. Nontechnical version of my ozone article for readers who aren't interested in the chemistry.

Rethinking ozone
Has the Montreal Protocol actually done anything? Nearly 30 years after CFCs were banned, something is not adding up.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Politicians can be narcissistic, and so can the organizations they manage.

What is the value of computer modeling?
If mathematical models are done badly, they will discredit an entire branch of science. It's happened before.

Tinnitus: Causes and Treatment
Recent research suggests that tinnitus is easier to cure when treatment is given early. In this article, I will discuss what is known about tinnitus and what tinnitus sufferers can do about their affliction.

Is Schizophrenia a Real Disease?
In the light of recent shootings, there have been calls for increased institutionalization of people with mental disorders. But the idea that these disorders are actual medical conditions is on shaky ground.

Women and Math — Part 1
Scientific evidence long ago disproved the myth that the brains of men and women are the same. Yet some feminists are still promoting the myth.

Women and Math — Part 2
In the past ten years, brain research has given us a ton of new insight about gender differences in the brain.

Little-known facts about the Moon
The Moon really does have a dark side. And an atmosphere ... sort of.

Is Global Warming Over?
Yes, of course it is. Who's up for some cooling?

What Does Science Say About Life After Death?
The Buddhists had a lot to say about the afterlife, but science is starting to catch up.

What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?
Azheimer's disease is a devastating and mysterious illness that strikes people with increasing frequency as they age. In this article, I will discuss the current theories and epidemiological results that might explain the molecular basis of sporadic Alzheimer's disease.

Cold facts on global warming
Even though global warming has become mostly an academic concern now that the climate has moved into a cooling phase, it's still important to understand what is and is not factual about the climate.

Bad Pharma: Fact or Myth?
The pharmaceutical industry is dying. When it's gone, some of the blame for its loss will be laid at the feet of the authors of all those pharma-bashing books.

Ten tips to writing scientific resumes
I am sometimes called upon to hire junior scientists, postdocs, and technicians. Here are some tips that I have discovered.

Why do so many drugs fail?
Nine of every ten new drugs fail in clinical phase II or III testing. Why is this?

Should you pursue a career in science? Some advice from a professional scientist
Being a research scientist can be a highly rewarding career. What you discover could change how people make their toast in the morning, or it could change how civilization evolves--maybe even prevent the next Dark Ages.

Quantum consciousness, quantum information, and subjectivity
The field of consciousness studies has become confused by the fact that many scientists, discussing consciousness from different angles, are really talking about other topics.


How to Drive on Snow
Tips on driving on snow-covered roads and driving up hills in winter without getting killed.

Build an Air Variable Capacitor
Variable capacitors are useful in a lot of situations. But adjustable plate capacitors bigger than 1000 pF are difficult to find, and those that are available tend to be inconveniently large.

Dimming Fluorescent Lamps
Fluorescent lamps have many advantages over incandescents: they are available in a variety of color temperatures, they have a large surface area that creates a better architectural effect, they last longer, and they use less electricity. However, it is also a royal pain to get them to work with a dimmer.

Identifying Sources of Radio Frequency Interference Around the Home
Eliminating RF interference is not just something you do for fun. Static on the radio could be a sign of faulty electrical wiring. Fixing it could save your life.

Silence of the Lamps: Reducing Radio Frequency Interference From Small Fluorescent Lamps
Tubular fluorescent lamps with electronic ballasts are very popular because of their instant-on characteristics, low audible hum, and compact size. However, many such lamps produce unacceptable amounts of radio frequency interference.

A Remotely-Tuned Loop Receiving Antenna for LW and MW
This article describes how to build a loop antenna for low frequency (LF) and medium wave (MW) reception with remote-controlled tuning. Like all loop antennas, it is highly directional, which allows you to null out unwanted noise sources.

Digital vs. Acoustic Pianos: An Unbiased Comparison
A discussion of the relative merits of digital pianos and acoustics.

Repairing Spex Fluorolog 2 Fluorescence Spectrometer
This page contains technical information we discovered when repairing our Spex Fluorolog 2 spectrofluorometer (model no. CM1T11I) in room 341. It serves as a reference for when the chewing gum and twine wear out, and we have to repair it again.

Photographing Fluorescently-Stained 2D Gels
This article discusses some of the common fluorescent dyes and describes how to build a light source for photographing fluorescent 2D gels using a CCD camera.


Scientific image analysis software for Unix / Linux (formerly tnimage)

Using Imal In Windows
How to run the imal image analysis software in Windows.

libertarian commentary and opinion

Commentary updated


Book Reviews updated

useful information

Linux installation notes Miscellaneous computer tips

Astronomy & Photography
And astrophotography

useless information

Useful ways to abuse science
Articles that will never appear in Nature


Infrared photographs