Abstruse Goose: NUM63R5

As a literate but functionally innumerate person, I hate AG’s title.  I think it’s dumb and silly.  But I thoroughly get why he feels the way he does about that equation.  Really.  What an odd pattern.  Why would it happen?  Would figuring out why it happened  help you understand anything else?  No?  You couldn’t even […]

Flakey

I love snow, but we don’t get much of it here. On the rare day that the highest peaks catch a few flakes, people pile into cars and drive up into our local mountains just to see a small patch of white. Part of the allure is the wonderful way in which snow is described […]

Secret Satans: Math

For the holiday season we here at LWON are giving ourselves the gift of confronting our fears. We are writing about our most daunting science-related subjects and why they scare us. The advice came to me within the first few months of starting as a science writer: always be on the lookout for good math stories, […]

The Compulsion to Count

  For as long as I can remember, I have counted. If I’m on a train I might count the electric lines we pass or the rows in my car or the number of windows on each side of the aisle. When I’m bicycling, I count pedal strokes. It’s not something I do deliberately; I’ll […]

Six Million and Counting

Last year, I wrote a story for Smithsonian about white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s killing cave-dwelling bats in the eastern United States. Researchers told me about watching sick, confused bats flutter out of caves in the middle of winter; about entering caves literally carpeted with bat carcasses; about picking bat bones, as slender as […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Degeneracy

I was helping an astronomer write a sentence.  It was about disentangling the color a supernova has intrinsically, from the reddening in its color caused by cosmic dust.  He wrote he wanted to “break the degeneracy” between the colors.  Break the degeneracy.  I got so excited.  I’d always thought degenerates were people who didn’t, for […]

Abstruse Goose: Math Doesn’t Suck

AG’s little mouseover says, “. . .except algebraic geometry.  Algebraic geometry pretty much sucks.”  I’m going to have to take his word for it, I’m profoundly innumerate.  Moreover, if AG hadn’t added the caption, I would have said this cartoon was about physics.  Physics is the science, the knowledge; math is just the language — […]

Abstruse Goose: Moment of Clarity 2

If you remember from our last episode,  Abstruse Goose:  Moment of Clarity 1, our plucky hero has had a moment of clarity about quantum mechanics.  The clarity was brief and, sadly, it passed.   He tried again months later and this time, he hung onto his moment long enough to begin fretting about quantum spin.  The […]