Friday, December 19, 2014

Dark Matters

Recently I've been reading about proposals to explain the "Dark Matter" phenomenon by modifying the law of gravity, as opposed to invoking some unseen form of matter. The original proposal along those lines was MOND: Modified Newtonian Dynamics, invented by Israeli physicist Mordehai Milgrom. Modified Newtonian Dynamics: A Review is an excellent summary of the observational evidence and theories as of late 2011. It mentioned some mind-blowing gravitational lensing phenomena some of which have resulted in spectacular images.

Einstein Cross

Einstein Ring

Cluster CL0024+17 
The blue streaks near the center of CL0024+17 are not part of the cluster itself, they are images of galaxies much further way which have been magnified and distorted by the gravitational lensing effects of this massive cluster.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hong Kong Elementary School Admissions Test

How long did it take you to solve it? I'll tell you how I did in the comment section to avoid spoiling it for you.

Supernatural Horror in Literature by H. P. Lovecraft

Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927) by H. P. Lovecraft is a fantastic review, both for its breadth of coverage and the creepy way in which it is written. Here's the first paragraph:
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form. Against it are discharged all the shafts of a materialistic sophistication which clings to frequently felt emotions and external events, and of a naively insipid idealism which deprecates the aesthetic motive and calls for a didactic literature to uplift the reader toward a suitable degree of smirking optimism. But in spite of all this opposition the weird tale has survived, developed, and attained remarkable heights of perfection; founded as it is on a profound and elementary principle whose appeal, if not always universal, must necessarily be poignant and permanent to minds of the requisite sensitiveness.
I've already acquired several of the classics he mentioned and will read them whenever I next feel the need to be weirded out. His only work of fiction that I recall reading was The Dunwhich Horror which was so creepy that I was never able to bring myself to read anything else by the author, despite my appreciation for the quality of his writing.

Lovecraft in 1934

Richard III

I just finished rereading Alison Weir's great book "The Wars of the Roses". Coincidentally, the article Perimortem trauma in King Richard III: a skeletal analysis recently appeared in the journal The Lancet. In 2012 a skeleton identified as Richard III's was discovered in Leicester, England and exhumed.  I also recommend a chilling 1995 film version of Shakespeare's play starring Ian McKellen set in an imaginary fascist 1930's Britain.

Digital photograph; arrow shows the penetrating injury to the maxilla
Richard III in Better Days

Movie Poster

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The Osa Peninsula is a remote, biodiverse region of Costa Rica, home to Corcovado National Park. It's the site of the OSA EARS listening station, an audio streaming project in the Costa Rican rainforest where you'll soon be able to listen to the sounds of the jungle in real-time. The project's web site is not quite ready, but there's an introductory video at Vimeo. The program director is the SETI Institute's first Artist in Residence and Guggenheim Fellow Charles Lindsay. You can email the project team at Very cool!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Beautiful Wind Map

There's a beautiful moving map of the wind for the United States at This is the moving wind map during Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012.