Category Archives: Science

Hot Air: What Does a Pencil Look Like?

A Different Direction

Join me in something new here.

For the last year or more, I’ve been averaging only a post a month on this global communications colossus. When I started The Electron Pencil back in 2012 and running through 2019 or so, I was striving — and mostly succeeding — in putting up a post a day herein. For the last couple of years of that run, I wrote about the 45th President of the United States more than any other topic. Much more. The truth is, what in the hell else was there to write about starting in the summer of 2016? What had once been a Simpsons cartoon joke had become — improbably, alarmingly, disturbingly — serious business. The joke was on us.

Funny-Not Funny.

So, as I say, I wrote, angrily for the most part, about President Gag. And, truth be told, it eventually became a millstone. Thinking and writing about Trump, that is. By ’19, I was sick to death of him and the country that had elected him on a technicality. Next thing I knew, i was going weeks at a time without putting up a Pencil post.

Even though this Holy Land has had a new president for some five months now, I’ve not yet got back into the groove of posting regularly, much less daily. And for that period of time I’ve been wondering what to do with this tool I have at my fingertips and that I pay for, I might add. I subscribe to the WordPress Business package, an option that allows me to put up podcasts and get all sorts of analytics and bells and whistles that the WP free basic package lacks. I pondered long and hard about simply going back to basic and saving the yearly premium subscription fee. Hell, I even tossed around the idea of closing down this shop altogether, but I abhor that option most of all.

Back at the beginning (the year 1 AP, or Anno Penicillum * ) I did a lot of local news coverage and opinionating here, another thing I lost pretty much all my ardor for as Bloomington, like the rest of the country, became a soap opera of antagonists snarling at each other, righteous brothers- and sisters-in-arms convinced everyone on the other side of even the most innocuous issue was in league with Satan, or at least an aspiring child pornographer. I eventually lost any desire to continue wading into the cesspool of local news and issues as well.

[ * Some sources have the word penicillum as the Latin translation for the American English pencil. Those sources go on to assert the Latin word actually meant small penis back in the days of Cicero and Augustus Caesar. I suppose I get the connection, pencils and penises sort of resemble each other — emphasis on sort of. Once I learned this, though, I was hooked. Yep, I’m definitely denoting each year of the Pencil era as an Anno Penicillum.]

Bill Bryson

In any case, I’ve considered any number of different ways I could go with this blog and website. The one, though, that keeps popping back into mind has to do with science. Loyal Pencillistas know I’m a voracious reader. I purchase books the way some people buy cars or wine or Hummels. That is, obsessively. At the Book Corner, where I still work a few hours each week, when people ask me what I like to read, I tell them history and science. Hell, my favorite living author is Bill Bryson, who writes about both topics (as well as language and travel).

So, yeah, science. I love science. Or shall I say sciences? Every single one of them. Astronomy, particle physics, engineering, medicine, biology, geology, archeology, anthropology, mathematics. Name a hard science and I’m in on it, as much as an unlettered layperson can be. The soft sciences — psychology, sociology, and political science — you can keep. I mean, I’ll converse with anybody about those topics; for pity’s sake, I’ll converse with anybody about anything. But I’m fairly averse to accumulating books on those subjects and I take the pronouncements emanating from mavens in those soft sciences with a grain of salt. But the sciences that traffic in testable, demonstrable, observable principles? Friends, count me in.

Ergo (don’t you just love Latin?), I want to turn this Pencil thing into a fun science reader. Sure, why not? The idea being in each post I’ll ruminate * on a specific science or topic, illuminating it with a light, hopefully witty, touch. Let’s look at it as a digest of Things Every Adult Ought to Know. Every adult and a goodly number of exceptional kids, too.

[ * Most dictionaries define ruminating as 1) thinking deeply about a subject and 2) chewing cud. Don’t you just love American English?]

What’s She Thinking About?

Don’t you agree there is a floor-level of knowledge the grown-up human beings of the 21st Century ought to possess? We don’t necessarily have to be on intimate terms with quantum electrodynamics (the daddy-o of which, Richard Feynman, once famously said

Richard Feynman

anyone who purports to truly understand that particular science simply doesn’t) but, dang mang, we should by all rights know the difference between tensile, torque, shear, and compressive strength (we’d like to feel safe and secure when driving across big, high bridges) or what the four macronutrients are for human beings (water, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins). We don’t need to be PhD candidates in any of these sciences but, golly, we’d better know a little something about all of them.

For that matter, each and every one of us should know who Rosalind Franklin, Cecilia Payne, and Loney Clinton Gordon were. BTW: I’m not linking to their names here because I want to do future posts on each of them and more.

I’m going to start up this new Pencil push sometime within the next few days. If you dig it, keep coming back. If not, there are plenty of other ways for you to occupy your time in this world. Speaking of the world, did you know a University of Texas researcher determined that if everybody alive on Earth today hoped to enjoy a lifestyle similar to the average American, we’d need the resources of ten planet Earths.

See what I mean? That’s the kind of thing I’ll traffic in when this new Things-Every-Adult-Ought-to-Know phase of the Pencil kicks off.

See you soon.

Does This Look Like a Bunch of Penises to You?

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” — Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

STEEL WILL

Forget Columbus. Forget all the rest of the pirates and rapists and genocide artists and pathological acquisitors we were force-fed as heroes in elementary school.

Neil Armstrong and his mates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, rode in a shiny white tin can a quarter million miles away from Earth to a place where there was no air, no water, no natives to beg for help from (then kill) — I mean, honestly, can you imagine any more audacious, courageous thing to do?

Aldrin, Collins & Armstrong

Farewell, explorer.

THE CAPITOL OF LIES

Make sure to catch this weekend’s edition of “On the Media.” Host Bob Garfield interviews former NPR Congressional Correspondent Andrea Seabrook, who quit her job, basically because she was sick of the bullshit spewing from the mouths of politicians these days.

Andrea Seabrook

Which is admirable — to an extent.

Seabrook tells Garfield she’s running from lies. “The lies that I’m talking about are just the complete and total disingenuousness of almost everything that’s said all day long in the US Capitol.”

She gives examples of how pols from both parties break the 8th Commandment as a matter of course.

The obvious question is, why do Seabrook and her colleagues let the bums get away with it? She acknowledges their complicity in the great lies. Journalists, she says, collude with pols “by covering what politicians say all day every day, rather than what they don’t say. As journalists, walking into a situation where we know it’s political theater and then recording those words and playing them back to the American people as if they were news plays into the game that they’re playing.”

House Of Lies

Still, she doesn’t say why she continued to play the game even after recognizing that she’d been drawn in. Why, for instance, did Seabrook never say to a pol who was lying, bald-faced, to her, “That’s not true! Why do you say such things?”

Seabrook is starting a new website called DecodeDC which, she promises, will dig beneath the lies.

The problem is only political geeks and policy wonks will go to her site. The vast majority of the citizenry will be stuck with commercial media reporters who not only play the game, but love it.

Maybe Seabrook is heroic for chucking it all. Maybe it would have been more heroic had she stuck it out with NPR and rebelled from within.

THIS. IS. SCARY.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

Skepchick: Click For Full Article

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present/&/CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Click For Full Article

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

◗ IU Bill Armstrong StadiumHoosier women’s soccer vs. Missouri State; noon

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “Alice”; 3pm

First United Methodist ChurchVoices United: Benefit for Interfaith Winter Shelter, featuring Heidi Grant Murphy, Kevin Murphy, Grey Larsen & Cindy Kallet, Rachel Caswell, Tom Walsh, Jeremy Allen, Steve Zegree; 4pm

The Player’s PubMusic: Andra Faye & the Rays; 6pm

Bryan ParkSunday Outdoor Concert series: Creek Dogs; 6:30pm

◗ IU CinemaFilm: “Surviving Life”; 6:30pm

Bear’s Place — Ryder Film Series: “Take This Waltz”; 7pm

ONGOING

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th

  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th

  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th

  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th

  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012

  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st

  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • “Media Life,” drawings and animation by Miek von Dongen; through September 15th

  • “Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture”; through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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