Life Science

Category archives for Life Science

On Computer Color

This year’s “Flame Challenge” is to explain color in terms an 11-year-old can follow. I have opinions on this subject, a background in AMO physics, and access to scientific equipment, so I’m putting something together. In the course of this, though, it occurred to me to wonder how my different portable computing devices process color.…

Back in the fall, I did a bunch of write-ups of old Master’s theses that we found when clearing some space in a storage room. I got away from this because I was busy working on the book, but I have a few more that I pulled out to look at, and since all the…

It’s taken me a disgracefully long time to finish the review copy of Lee Billings’s Five Billion Years of Solitude I was sent back in the fall, mostly because I didn’t read anything not immediately related to the book-in-progress for most of November and all of December. Which is to say, the long delay is…

Missing the Eureka Moment

Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev hit on the idea of the Periodic Table as an organizing theme for a textbook he began writing in 1868. He did some work on refining the idea, and in 1870 presented a paper on it to a meeting of the Russian Chemical Society. Well, actually, that’s not quite true– Mendeleev did…

The Elusive Niskayuna Sloth

[Scene: In the car on the way from soccer to lunch at Five Guys. SteelyKid is in her car seat, studying the Halloween-themed temporary tattoos all over her arms.] SteelyKid: Do bats fly right-side-up, or upside-down? Daddy: From the bat’s point of view, it’s right side up more or less by definition. They do sleep…

Life Scientists vs. Test Takers

Back in July, Physics Today ran an article on Reinventing physics for life-sciences majors (I couldn’t find an un-paywalled version, but this arxiv preprint seems to be close to it). As I’ve had some bad experiences with that class, I flagged it as something to read, but only got around to it last night. The…

One of the hot topics of the moment is the E. O. Wilson op-ed lamenting the way math scares students off from science, and downplaying the need for mathematical skill (this is not news, really– he said more or less the same thing a few years ago, but the Wall Street Journal published it to…

Back in January, thinking about science topics to add to the book-in-progress, it occurred to me that I would really be letting down SteelyKid (and pre-schoolers everywhere) if I didn’t take the opportunity to include something about dinosaurs. The problem with that, of course, is that I know next to nothing about dinosaurs, especially discoveries…

Science with SteelyKid

There are a bunch of physics stories that I’d sort of like to write about, but don’t have time for, and politics is oscillating between “darkly hilarious” and “indescribably depressing,” so that’s best left alone. So, here’s some cute kid pictures instead. SteelyKid has lately taken to telling all and sundry “This is my daddy.…

For her birthday, SteelyKid got a “Butterfly Keeper” set, which is basically a big mesh cylinder maybe two feet high and a foot in diameter. It came with a coupon for free live caterpillars for “Painted Lady” butterflies, which we duly sent away for. These came in a plastic cup full of caterpillar food, with…