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Nashua;46.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-10-21 04:39:01

Twinkle, twinkle little Chinese skylantern, how I wonder what planet you're from


Look at all the alien spaceships! (Wikipedia photo from a Thailand festival ... don't do this in New Hampshire, please.)

I had fun in my Telegraph column today about a report earlier this month from a family that saw some overhead lights and decided it was a UFO. They spotted them through the moonroof while zipping along the Everett Turnpike, which what enough for them to draw mockups of the flying "craft." Boy, you can't get much more reliable than that!

The report was picked up by a couple of local websites, who shall go URL-less here. I poked around and found that at about the same time, a city-owned cemetery near the turnpike had problems with an illegal party that had released Chinese sky lanterns - those small paper balloons carried aloft by heat from a small candle suspended beneath them. The lanterns look very cool but are illegal to release untethered in N.H., for obvious fire-supression reasons.

I can't say for sure they are what the UFO family saw, since the timing is uncertain, but it's certainly a more entertaining explanation than the likely reason of "airplane lights" (the road goes right next to Nashua airport, and is under a major flight path for Manchester-Boston Airport).

Smartphones? Ipods? They got nothing on transistor radios (turning 60 today)


Wonder where Apple got the idea for the iPod wheel?

The first transistor radio went on sale today, 60 years ago, as I learned from TreeHugger. It was called the Regency TR-1 and you can read some history from the creator here.

While this was a bit before my time, the idea of a "transistor radio" was still a stand-in for "cool new techno-thing," like smartphones/watches/glasses today, when I was a kid in the early '60s. No more going to the hardware store to test the tubes from your stereo with these babies - and they were so small!

Incidentally, I can still sing most of a parody of "Ten Days of Christmas" in which the partridge-in-pear-tree line is "Jap-a-nese tran-sis-tor ra-di-o". Now it will be stuck in my head all day.

Closing Vermont Yankee will cost $1.24 billion ... if nothing goes awry

Shutting down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant will cost $1.24 billion over a decade, says the owner.

But remember: Renewable energy is way too expensive.

Here's the AP story.

Uber, which profits when you moonlight as a taxi driver, arrives in Manchester

Uber, the summon-a-car-by-smartphone firm, starts in Manchester today, reports the Union-Leader.

Kudos to reporter Mike Cousineau for not using the misleading "sharing economy" tag. Uber is cutthroat capitalism at its best or worst, depending on your point of view - it doesn't share anything that it can keep for itself. Ask Lyft.

AMC puts electric-car chargers in White Mountains (no, not at Mizpah hut)


For one second when I saw the announcement, I thought Appalachian Mountain Club was putting electric car charges at some of its High Huts. While an intriguing idea that would be kind of stupid, since you can only reach the huts on foot.

Turns out they're installing a Clipper Creek HCS-60 electric car charger at both the Pinkham Notch and Highland visitor centers. You know - places along paved roads.

Much more sensible. Here's the AMC announcement.

UPDATE: If you're a tool-wielding primate who wants to get into electric vehicles big time Artisan's Asylum, a big makerspace in Somerville, Mass., has a class tonight (Friday) on how to convert a fossil-fuel car to electricity:

Interested in converting your car to all-electric drive using the latest lithium battery technology? In just a couple of hours, learn how to plan your own conversion project, set a realistic budget (both time and money), find the right components, and design vehicle performance to match your ride objectives. We will cover motor and controller options, recharging, charge ports, wiring design, battery pack layout and mounting systems, transmission adapters, DC-DC converters, fuses, safety considerations, and vehicle performance.

Did that can of soup just talk to my grocery cart?


Joe Junze, president of SI2 Technologies of North Billerica, Mass., answers an audience question during Wednesday night's Science Cafe New Hampshire held at the Nashua Holiday Inn. With him are panelists Craig Amiento, UMass-Lowell professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Chris McCarroll, director of engineering at Raytheon.

Quite a techno-fest at last night's Science Cafe NH, where the topic was printed electronics. Telegraph veteran Dean Shalhoup has an excellent writeup in today's paper - an impressive bit of journalism, since he wrote it on the fly, on deadline, as the panelists were speaking in acronym- and geek-speak-laden sentences.

One consensus is that printed electronics will first be seen in normal life via cheaper and more powerful RFID tags - for example, replacing barcodes with RFID tags so that the can of soup can check itself out as you stroll out of the grocery store, or that a bridge can be covered with stick-on sensors to gauge its safety in real time.

"I try to avoid the public. But I can’t avoid it completely right now."

Great interview in the Nautilus quarterly with Tom Zhang, the unknown UNH math professor who has become reluctantly famous for his work on the twin-prime problem. It gives a fine portrait of the classic pure mathematician, a man of the mind.

You’ve said you don’t care about the money and honor. Why not?

Because of my personality. I am a quiet person. I like to concentrate on the math, on what I like. I do not care about the life conditions, like a good house, good cars, good clothing. This is my personality. I don’t have a car right now. I have a townhouse, but it is in California, where my wife lives. In New Hampshire I rent an apartment. The most important thing is to concentrate on math itself.

Read the whole thing here.

New Makerspace opening in Keene, and maybe Peterborough

A new makerspace is opening in Keene early next month, I learned from this Union-Leader article today.

It's called "Make It So" and will be downtown, at 12 Eagle Court. The only online presence I can find is their Facebook page; I assume that, like most makerspaces, its promotions budget is pretty slim.

The Union-Leader story says a makerspace is also planning to open in Peterborough early next year. A Monadnock Ledger story earlier this month said it was still trying to get some funding.

It or they will join the thriving MakeIt Labs in Nashua and Portsmouth's Port City Makerspace.

E.O. Wilson loves alien-invasion movies, but says aliens will never invade


Actually, they don't look too claw-like.

E.O. Wilson, biologist extraordinaire, loves movies about alien invasions, including the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg version of War of the Worlds. But he didn't like one thing about it: The aliens had claws. "You can't make tools with claws," he complains. Soft pulpy fingers are obligatory for a species to create civilization, he thinks, as is living on land, because you can't make fire underwater and there's no other obvious concentrated energy source to get society started.

Wilson made these comments as part of Tuesday night's Writers on a New England Stage presentation in Portsmouth, attended by me and my wife and several thousand other people in the funky Portsmouth Music Hall.

Despite his cinematic preferences, Wilson said aliens will never actually invade: Biologies are likely to be so different between solar systems that there would be no point, since they could never live here.

It was a fun event. Wilson, who is 85, hs just written a book titled "The Meaning of Human Existence," the middle work in a trilogy about where we came from, who we are, and where we're going. He is more optimistic than I am about humanity surviving its own despoiling of the planet. He thinks we have a chance to make it through this century, after which population decline should save us; I'm not so sure.

The 90-minute event will be edited and broadcast on New Hampshire Public Radio.

US approves first mussel farm in federal waters, off Nantucket  


Photo by Canada Fisheries, which is establishing mussel lines in Newfoundland.

Growing shellfish is a - dare I say it? - win-win for the environment and economy: They clean the water and provide localvore tidbits. But it's hard to do this commercially now that we've destroyed most of the East Coast's oyster and mussel beds.

The UNH Open Ocean Aquaculture program has been working on mussel farms for years, and their work is helping a new federal program. The first shellfish aquaculture project in federal waters off the East Coast has gotten to the OK to operate next spring. It will grow blue mussels within a 30-acre area in Nantucket Sound.

Here are some details from the NOAA announcement:

The project authorized three mussel lines, at first, to ensure that the technology can withstand rough weather so there is minimal risk to marine life. Over time, partners could deploy up to 25 mussel lines, if the initial tests are successful.

Each mussel line consists of a 480-foot long, 1-inch thick horizontal polysteel rope (head rope), which is suspended in the water column to a depth of 20 to 30 feet using anchor lines and buoys. Mussels are then hung vertically, in “socks” from the head rope, roughly three feet apart. Mussels grown from seed (small mussels captured from the area) reach a marketable size (about 2 inches) in about a year.

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About this blog

David Brooks has written a science column for the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph since 1991 - yes, that long - and has overseen this blog since 2006.

He chats weekly with New Hampshire Public Radio about GraniteGeek topics, around 5:50 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can listen to old sessions here.

Contact:   E-mail or call 603-594-6531.


Free, informal get-togethers at a bar that feature discussion among the audience (everybody is welcome) and experts in various fields. Check the website here.

NEXT CAFE: Wednesday, Nov. 19

TOPIC: Medical testing - how much is too much?

Location: Killarney's Irish Pub, 9 Northeastern Boulevard (Holiday Inn, just west of Exit 4 on the turnpike).



October: Flexible and printed electronics. September: The science of marijuana. June: Fluoridation in public water. May: Organic gardening. April: Tele-medicine, or doctoring from afar. March: Bitcoin - what is it? February: The science of allergies. January: Electric cars.

Multiple sclerosis. October: Genetically modified organisms. September: Aquaponics. June: Flying robots (drones!) May: PTSD and brain tauma in veterans. April: Cats vs. wildlife in NH. March: Mosquito-borne disease. February: The science of brewing. January: 3-D printing, with MakeIt Labs.

"Dark skies and light pollution" with Discovery Center. October: "The science of concussion." September: "The science of pain management." June: "Arsenic in our environment." May: "Invasive species in New Hampshire" April: "Nanotechnology in business and the lab". March: "Lyme disease in NH". Feb: "Seasonal Affective Disorder." Jan: "Biomass energy"

Nov.: "Science of Polling." Oct.: "Digital Privacy." Sept: "Vaccinations." June: "Future of Food." May 2011: "Climate Change"


Alternative power map

Click here to see my alternative-power Google map showing large-scale solar, wind, hydro and nuclear plants in N.H., plus intriguing alternative-power items.

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