Posts Tagged ‘Math’

April Fool’s Tribute to Thomas Edison

Last year, for April 1st, I was asked to make a guest post to a GE blog called Edison’s Desk.  So I made this April Fool’s Trib­ute to Thomas Edison.  I had a lot of fun with the links – try ’em all!

I must really be an April Fool because this is a big day for me.  I’ll be on NPR’s Sci­ence Fri­day with Ira Fla­tow – to talk about sci­ence and com­edy with my friends Tim Lee and Norm Gold­blatt.  The show streams live from 11am to 1pm Pacific/2-4pm East­ern, in addi­tion to air­ing on your local pub­lic radio sta­tion.  Lis­ten to it here.

Then later tonight I’m emcee­ing a great STEM edu­ca­tion event (STEM = Sci­ence Tech­nol­ogy Engi­neer­ing Math­e­mat­ics) in the plan­e­tar­ium at the Cal­i­for­nia Acad­emy of Sci­ences.  It’s called STEM­Po­sium and it’s an evening to honor some fan­tas­tic edu­ca­tion inno­va­tors.  This event will be live streamed from their web­site at 7:30pm Paci­fic. Check it out! 

Schmahl Science Workshops Fundraiser

Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 6, 2010.  I’m per­form­ing at a fundraiser for a very worth­while cause – Schmahl Sci­ence Work­shops offers an after-school career men­tor­ship pro­gram that enables pre-K through 12 stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in on-going sci­ence and engi­neer­ing research pro­grams.

16th Anniver­sary Cel­e­bra­tion and Fundraiser:  “The Sci­ence of Suc­cess”

Food, wine, live enter­tain­ment (that’s me!)

6-10pm, Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 6, 2010
Quadrus Con­fer­ence Cen­ter
2400 Sand Hill Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Tick­ets avail­able at

More info on Schmahl Sci­ence Work­shops:

The Bay Area is home to sig­nif­i­cant inno­va­tion in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.  How­ever many local school dis­tricts have elim­i­nated sci­ence edu­ca­tion from their cur­ricu­lum. The key is more Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing, and Math (STEM) edu­cated grad­u­ates if we want to con­tinue to be lead­ers in the global econ­omy. By part­ner­ing with schools, insti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion, sci­ence based insti­tu­tions, muse­ums, local gov­ern­ments, and the busi­ness com­mu­nity our non-profit, Schmahl Sci­ence Work­shops (SSW) devel­ops young sci­en­tists to par­tic­i­pate in the next wave of sci­en­tific inno­va­tion. We need your help to keep Schmahl Sci­ence Work­shop strong.  We invite you to join us to cel­e­brate the accom­plish­ments of our stu­dents and to learn more about how you can inspire the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists.

Gregory Benford Quotation on Passion

“Pas­sion is inversely pro­por­tional to the amount of real infor­ma­tion avail­able.”

Gre­gory Ben­ford‘s law of con­tro­versy (an adage from his 1980 novel Timescape).

Stand up straight!

My mother used to tell me to “stand up straight.” 

It was one of her favorite things to say: “Stand up straight!” 

Many other peo­ple, I have dis­cov­ered, also grew up hear­ing that phrase. It’s nearly uni­ver­sal. As if moth­ers were pro­grammed to say it. In fact, I believe moth­ers have been telling their chil­dren to “stand up straight” longer than we real­ize. Per­haps even to pre-human days. 

What if that were the dri­ving force behind the evo­lu­tion­ary trend to walk erect? 

Moth­ers nag­ging their chil­dren up the evo­lu­tion­ary lad­der:

“Stand up straight! 
“Don’t drag your knuck­les when you walk! 
“What’re ya born in a tree? 
“You want the other fam­i­lies to think we’re not evolv­ing?”

“No, mom…”

Then: “How many times do I have to tell you?” 

And, therein lies the origin of math­e­mat­ics:

“How many times?…well, if I put the three here and carry the one….”

Conservation of Mass

I noticed a long time ago, when­ever my mother would lose weight, my father would gain weight. And when my father lost weight, my mother gained weight. 

It was like the Con­ser­va­tion of Mass, within our fam­ily.

Being the young sci­en­tist that I was, I devel­oped a the­ory to explain the facts: You see, you never actu­ally lose weight….you just give it to some­body else. 

Fat can be nei­ther cre­ated nor destroyed. It’s one of the basic laws of the uni­verse. You need to know the laws if you’re gonna live here.

The Batting Average Paradox

In the nor­mal course of my web brows­ing, I stum­bled upon the home page of Stephen E. Schwartz, an atmos­pheric sci­en­tist at Brookhaven National Lab­o­ra­tory and chief sci­en­tist of the Depart­ment of Energy’s Atmos­pheric Sci­ence Pro­gram.

The page gets pretty tech­ni­cal for those of us who are not atmos­pheric sci­en­tists, but near the bot­tom of the page he men­tions “the bat­ting aver­age para­dox” – which con­tains a sur­pris­ing bit of math that any of us can appre­ci­ate…

The bat­ting aver­age para­dox. Able has a higher bat­ting aver­age than Baker in the first half of the sea­son and also in the sec­ond half. You might think that that means that Able has a higher aver­age for the sea­son. But you would be wrong. Click here to see why aver­ag­ing ratios can be mis­lead­ing.”