Wednesday, February 22, 2017
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SolarCity targets solar power for small businesses

It seems like solar power for small businesses - convenience stores, car washes, pet stores, restaurants, barbershops etc. - would make more sense than solar power for homes. The businesses … Full story »

Podcast movie, including "Radiolab" (woo-hoo!), at local theaters Tuesday

The Cinemagic movie theater in Londonderry is among hundreds around the country that on Tuesday will show Cast Party, "a stage show simulcast to cinemas, celebrating the emergence of podcasting … Full story »

A $250 million operation breeding mice for labs is a surprising Maine institution

Last week I spent three days at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, one of the world's best-known breeders of speciality lab mice for research. Aside from a chance … Full story »

Eversource gets prize for fast solar hookups - in Conn., though, not NH

Eversource connected solar installations in as little as five days, taking top spot in a recent study of utilities around the country. But we can't really celebrate here since the … Full story »

Higher math is "playing chess with the devil"

The current New York Times Magazine has a fascinating profile of Terry Tao, one of the prominent research mathematicians in the world. It is worth a read for anybody who … Full story »

Fidelity Investments is a big player in the open-hardware movement (wait - hardware?)

You probably know the Linux penguin, that cud­dly mascot of open-source software, but do you know the mascot of open-source hardware? No you don't, because there isn't one. But I … Full story »

Heading out to spend a few days in Maine amid spacialty mice and biologists

I am heading out today to Bar Harbor, Maine, home of The Jackson Labs, which is world-renowned for its program of breeding mice for medical and biology research. I'm going … Full story »

Not Just the Heat, It’s the Humans: UNH study connects 13,000 years of small mammal adaptation to warming

If you want to see how small mammals have adapted to a changing climate over thousands of years, where do you find your data? In owl vomit, of course. That's … Full story »

Terrorism is frightening, but changes in the world's climate are more of a threat, says global poll

Climate change is what the world’s population perceives as the top global threat, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, with countries in Latin America and Africa particularly … Full story »

Aren't we past solar panel barn-raisings? Apparently not 

At a time when SolarCity offer no-money-down solar power, and solar panels have become so routine that"you walk through the mall, there's a guy hawking them," do we still need … Full story »

The Open Compute Project is open to everybody - except reporters

UNH is hosting a workshop next week about the Open Compute Project, the interesting project to develop better, more efficient servers and computer components through the open, non-proprietary sharing of … Full story »

Now, for your listening pleasure, it's GraniteGeek on the radio

If you thought my column this week, about ways to keep deer from eating your garden, was great - and it was, of course - then wait until you hear … Full story »

The GMO fight between pseudoscience and corporate goons is depriving us of a valuable tool

Slate has a long, well-researched piece about GMOs that concludes (a) they're not inherently unsafe, although because the technique is so powerful it has, like many technologies, great potential for … Full story »

State studies how to deal with Uber (the company, not the employee status)

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a bill to create a 5-member committee to study how Uber and taxi services are regulated statewide and nationally and to compare the safety of … Full story »

"Minion" toy brouhaha is a perfect example of audio pareidolia

You may have seen some news stories about how a parent or two thinks a talking toy given out by McDonald's as a tie-in to the "Minions" movie (which features … Full story »

More on that Golden Ratio "error" in the Boston Museum of Science

The Washington Post has a nice piece on the kid who spotted the sort-of error in the Golden Ratio exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. It does a good … Full story »

Have we got too many roads? Iowa's transportation chief thinks so

A lot of people got excited about the decline in driving miles in the U.S. in recent years, saying that we might be transitioning into a post-driving economy. That's probably … Full story »

Maine (of all places) considers an innovative approach to pricing solar power

Greentech Media reports that the Maine Legislature has that state on the path toward finding new ways to fund and deal with solar power as it becomes a big part … Full story »

It's more efficient to air condition a Florida house than heat a New Hampshire one - really?

Slate has an interesting essay (right here) aimed at us northern climate snobs, arguing that air conditioning is less bad for the environment than heating:  According to the most recent … Full story »

Is New Hampshire ever going to built a big wind farm again?

Excellent report on NHPR about the seven-years-and-counting effort to build a wind farm in Antrim: There’s a major state road that it says could handle the construction traffic, and a … Full story »

Boston MOS exhibit on Golden Ratio shows a reciprocal formula, not a wrong one

You may have heard press reports last night about a teen who found an error in a long-standing Boston Museum of Science exhibit concerning the Golden Ratio. Great story, except … Full story »

Why is dust explosive? Ratio of surface area to volume, of course

The horrible explosion of colored powder at a Taiwan water park was a stark re­minder of a fact that is of­ten overlooked: Dust can be explosive no matter what it's … Full story »

A century ago, a newspaper's data-crunching made Fourth of July a lot safer

Data-based journalism is a hot topic in my field, a kind of subset of the enthusiasm over Big Data - the idea being that crunching lots of numbers can give … Full story »

Pelham police tell people to cool it on rabid-animal reports

We got an excellent press release from the animal control officer in Pelham just now, containing more real information than any 10 releases we usually get, combined. Check the stuff … Full story »

Ralph Baer's basement workshop from his Manchester home is in the Smithsonian

The late Ralph Baer was a New Hampshire inventor of electronic games (Simon is his big hit) who is famous among geeks for developing the first home video game (Magnavox … Full story »

Uber has ruined geeky use of the word "uber"

The Joy of Tech webcomic, which I have been reading for - I dunno, more than a decade, at least - put its finger on something that has been bothering … Full story »

Modifying bacteria on our skin may fool mosquitoes into not biting us

I have never heard of "quorum sensing," which bacteria use to communicate with each other, until I read this Smithsonian article, which talks about how researchers are testing whether affecting … Full story »

Maine, unlike California, fails to toughen school-vaccine laws

The Portland Press-Herald reports that the legislature in Maine failed to override a veto by the governor of a vaccination bill "that would have required parents opting out on philosophic … Full story »

Are forests still acting as carbon sinks? (continued)

Two of the major questions about climate change are: how much carbon dioxide pollution are forests mopping up, and will this capacity shrink over time? I mentioned this question in … Full story »

Geek on the radio: Chatting about 100% renewable energy with NHPR

My weekly chat with NH Public Radio host Peter Biello concerned, as usual, my column - which this week pondered a report about how New Hampshire could be powered 100% … Full story »

Mercury-reducing upgrade of Portsmouth coal plant will continue, despite Supreme Court ruling

NHPR reports that "New Hampshire’s largest utility says a US Supreme Court ruling which on mercury emissions won’t affect its plans to install pollution controls at its coal-burning plant in … Full story »

Could NH be powered 100% by renewables? Probably not, but it's useful to calculate

I like the lede of my column in today's Telegraph: Before we get into the interesting question of whether New Hampshire could really be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, … Full story »

Community solar project could double N.H. solar power

The Concord Monitor reports of a big proposal from New Hampshire Solar Gardens, an operation I wrote about last year that helps develop community photovoltaic projects: Seven community solar garden … Full story »

Genetically modified wheat doesn't scare away aphids, as researchers hoped

Genetically modifying plants to do certain things is a good idea (in my humble opinion) but like all technologies it doesn't always translate from the lab to the field, as … Full story »

Inspired by science cafes, NHPR tackles probiotics (the big takeaway: eat well, for crying out loud) 

Inspired by Science Cafe NH and Science on Tap, both of which have tackled the topic this year, the statwide call-in show The Exchange on NHPR discussed "the emerging science … Full story »

Recession's drag on people moving into NH may be ending

You've probably heard the quote "demographics is destiny," expressing the idea that pretty much everything - war, peace, economics, social change, popular music, whatever - is driven by changes in … Full story »

Even in far northern Maine, the "wilderness" is controlled by people 

We hear how removing dams from rivers can hugely increase the number of alewife (a small anadromous herring that is important in Northeastern river ecology) which make the runs back … Full story »

Can you identify good aquatic weeds vs. bad aquatic weeds?

Whenever I'm out paddling and spot vegetation - in other words, whenever I'm out paddling - I always wonder if it's a good weed or a bad, invasive weed that … Full story »

I missed a good aurora-spotting chance last night - ARGH!!!!

The Northern Lights were seen as far south as Georgia last night, due to a big space storm. I missed the news and didn't go out spotting - argh!!!! If … Full story »

Feds consider cracking down on "no medicine is more medical than some medicine!" homeopathy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commissionis holding hearings on homeopathy, the enormously profitable industry that sells water which it claims has medical properties because it has … Full story »

Recycling is stalling, and complex economics is why

The Washington Post had an excellent look at the economics of recycling in the U.S. that was reprinted in many papers that subscribe to the Post's news service, such as … Full story »

CRISPR, a powerful tool for genetic manipulation, raises lots of questions

The brilliant radio show Radiolab did a great job recently explaining CRISPR to us laymen - you should listen to it here. For those without a hour to listen, here's … Full story »

Science Cafe on probiotics was a hit, even if the word "poop" was never mentioned

Last night's Science Cafe NH was, as co-founder Dan Marcek noted, the start of our fifth year, incredibly. It discussed probiotics and gut bacteria in general, which meant that people … Full story »

Wednesday is now Prince Data Center Day

I didn't grow up here, so I don't have "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day" burned into my neurons like many folks in New England. But I still thought of that … Full story »

Real mathematicians use blackboards, which is why they're dismayed as a chalk company goes under

My anonymous source within the research-mathematics community* tells me that real mathematicians love blackboards more than whiteboards or computer tablets. Apparently they can scribble ideas in many colors while thinking … Full story »

Electric engineering community takes aim at a major problem: Squirrels

About 45,000 people lost power in Southern California last week because a squirrel got electrocuted in a substation, causing a big honkin' short-circuit.   This is not unusual, as it … Full story »

Probiotics - the science of gut bacteria - is on the menu at Science Cafe on Wednesday

Maniuplating our gut bacteria to improve our health is probably the interesting thing happening in medicine these days - which is why it will be the topic of Science Cafe … Full story »

Steampunk is coming to Nashua - put a gear on it!

Steampunk fans may want to head to Nashua on Saturday for the inaugural Steampunk City, a festival involving things steampunkish to raise money for the city's makerspace. To get you … Full story »

Weather Channel produces videos warning of climate change that are aimed at Republicans

The Weather Channel has produced a series of short, stark videos warning about the effects of climate change that are explicitly aimed at people who don't believe the issue is … Full story »

Even the southernmost bit of NH is the international border as far as the feds are concerned

I was wandering through a nice Vox feature called 37 maps that explain immigration when I found the above map, from the ACLU, showing the 100-mile limit used by federal … Full story »

At WPI, moon-rock-collecting robots compete for $1.5 million in prizes

WPI in Worcester, Mass., is hosting host the fourth Sample Return Robot Challenge this weekend, with $1.5 million in prizes for team that meet certain goals in developing robots that … Full story »

School-top cell tower eyed for killing fish in an aquarium ... really?

Since radio waves don't penetrate water, and since cell towers send their signals out rather than down, the idea that a cell tower atop a high school might be killing … Full story »

Great analysis of PSNH divestiture from Mooiman's "Energy In New Hampshire" blog

If you want to understand the financial details underlying the debate about whether PSNH should sell off its power plants, may I suggest the latest post from Franklin Pierce University's … Full story »

Firefighers + hoses + rubbernecking flying machine = damp drone

Firefighters are not shy and retiring, especially when the adrenalin is pumping after a big fire. If you fly your drone over a big house blaze that has been brought … Full story »

As TV stations ponder streaming media, WMUR to be part of newscast stream  

WMUR in Manchester and WCBB in Boston, two ABC stations, will be part of a local-newscast-streaming-media service launching the fall. The free, ad-supported service is an example of traditional broadcasters … Full story »

What should you teach in Algebra I class? That's a harder question than it seems

If there's any subject in which it should be straightforward to figure out what to teach in public school, in which order and at what level of complexity, surely it's … Full story »

"Major in math. You can coast the rest of the way."

More than a decade ago I wrote a semi-joking "thumb-sucker" of a column (that's a derisive term for a newspaper column that uses no reporting and usually involves the writer … Full story »

Going on hiatus for a few days

I'll be hither and yon for a few days, so GraniteGeek will be on a short hiatus.< … Full story »

Are wood pellets 'dirtier than coal' for electricity production? In some circumstances, maybe

Using wood pellets made from hardwood trees cut down in eastern North Carolina and Virginia forests will produce two-and-a-half times more carbon pollution than continuing to burn coal for 40 … Full story »

Latest anti-vaccination disease rebirth is diptheria, back in Spain after 30 years

A 6-year-old child has been admitted to hospital with the first recorded case of diphtheria in Spain since 1986. Health authorities have confirmed that the little boy had not been … Full story »

Talking about bats and white nose syndrome on public radio

If you want to hear the dulcet tones of NHPR's Peter Biello and my less-dulcet tones as we discuss some new hope for improvement in white nose syndrome and bats, … Full story »

I was standing when I read the "it's important to stand at work" article - honest

I can honestly say that I was standing up at my desk when I read this piece in the Washington Post, which starts: Experts now say you should start standing … Full story »

It was c-c-c-cold getting river samples for bacteria this morning

Today was the start of the annual testing of the Souhegan and Merrimack Rivers for bacteria and dissolved oxygen, overseen by the Souhegan Watershed Association. My family and I have … Full story »

Small signs of hope for bats in New Hampshire fighting white-nose syndrome

I've been writing about white-nose syndrome wiping out bats in New Hampshire and the rest of the eastern U.S. for a half-dozen years. Today's column in the The Telegraph is … Full story »

Italian scientists prosecuted over devastating bacteria outbreak in olive groves

A bacteria outbreak that is destroying the olive industry in southern Italy, caused (say researchers) by contamination from imported ornamental plants, is being blamed by some of the academic researchers … Full story »

Science on Tap is all about lasers, June 9 

Science on Tap, the "science cafe" run by SEE Science Center in Manchester, has a neat-sounding event before it goes into summer hiatus: Laser technology.   "The technology is used … Full story »

That oily sheen on the water in the ditch might be due to bacteria, not your neighbor

"We receive numerous questions and complaints about oily substances on the water's surface. The culprit is often iron bacteria and is not an actual oil spill." So says the state's … Full story »

Attempt to bar Uber in Portsmouth put on hold by judge

From the Portsmouth Herald (whole story is here): PORTSMOUTH — A Superior Court judge rejected a request for an emergency order that would have barred Uber drivers from working unregulated … Full story »

Merrimack 3-D printing firm expands into China, big time

Solidscape, an area pioneer in building 3-D printers for small businesses, is about to expand greatly in the Chinese market, selling its printers to jewelers with a local partner and … Full story »

"Betty Hill’s Last Hurrah – A Secret UFO Symposium in New Hampshire"

If you can't get enough about Betty Hill and New Hampshire's most famous alien abduction - and who can? - then you should read this great article by longtime skeptic … Full story »

Talking tick-killer robots on the radio

Yesterday on the local All Things Considered I discussed the Tick Rover robot with Peter Biello (you can listen or read the transcript here), following up on my Telegraph column. … Full story »

Uh oh, gearheads: Cars, like farm tractors, are getting harder to work on because of software secrecy

A few weeks ago I wrote about FarmHack, the hackers-meet-farmers movement prodded in part because tractor manufacturers like John Deere were limiting in-field repairs by owners, citing all the computer … Full story »

Bobcats are pretty good at avoiding car traffic, not so good at avoiding harsh winters

Even as the state cancels a proposed bobcat hunting season because last winter took a population toll (Telegraph story here), UNH researchers are analyzing the ways that the species is … Full story »

If this was Texas, the X's would be a sign of Imminent Government Takeover!

When A Merrimack resident started finding big X's painted in roadways in town, what did he do? Brought them to Science Cafe NH for clarification, of course! And as this … Full story »

Dean Kamen's latest invention: A crank-fired water pistol. (Yes, I want one)

Long before the Segway, Dean Kamen made his fame and fortune developing interesting ways to move fluids, specifically with the first portable drug infusion pump, which was revolutionary. His latest … Full story »

Did they say "paranormal" or "appearing normal"?

I don't know what to say about this, so I'll just copy the press release: Business and property owners who would like to have their buildings featured at Rochester's UFO/Paranormal … Full story »

Ten gigantic spinning sawblades dangling from a helicopter! What more could you want? 

Forget computer-generated explosions in the movie theaters. This YouTube video from Haverfield Aviation, showing how it uses gigantic spinning sawblades dangling from a helicopter to clear vegetation around power lines, … Full story »

Using playing cards as a lifetime calendar

Today's interesting tidbit learned while shuffling through the Web looking for blog-postable material: A pack of cards has a peculiar embedded property, lurking beneath its surface: it functions as a … Full story »

Study: Extreme cold proves deadlier than extreme heat (but still not that bad)

A study in The Lancet, the most prestigious British medical research journal, found that extreme cold snaps kill more people than extreme heat waves, much to my surprise. As the … Full story »

Science Cafe reveals railroads' Achilles heel: Gypsy moth caterpillars

There's always at least one unexpected tidbit that crops up during the two hours of a Science Cafe NH discussion and makes my eyebrows rise. Last night it was this: … Full story »

There's nothing sharing about the "gig economy" that is being created

One time I was a guest on The Exchange show on NHPR and described Uber and other "sharing economy" companies as being capitalism at its most vicious. A listener thought … Full story »

Science Cafe about the technology of trains (and train brakes) is tonight

Tonight's Science Cafe about the technology of trains is timely in a way these events usually aren't, because of last week's tragic Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia. The topic, of course, … Full story »

Seacoast towns prepare for the pain of climate change

A piece in New Hampshire Business Review, written by the climate program coordinator at New Hampshire Sea Grant, talks about how a number of towns along the N.H. seacoast are … Full story »

A presidential candidate to support with all your (semi-robotic) heart and soul

If you haven't decided on a fave presidential hopeful yet, there's a new choice out there: Zoltan Istvan, a "transhumanist" writer who is running for president, according an email sent … Full story »

Science Cafe to discuss the technology of trains, including brakes

The topic of each month's Science Cafe NH is chosen long in advance, because it takes a while to round up panelists, so it's coincidence that this week's cafe will … Full story »

Middlebury College wants to use cow manure to replace heating oil

Middlebury College wants to use methane from cow poop to replace 640,000 gallons of heating oil a year. The Rutland Herald reports: The plant would convert cow manure from that … Full story »

A strong El Niño is coming: What will it do to our weather?

Although it can be hard to predict El Niño - the warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean with resulting weather effects around the globe - there is increasing evidence that … Full story »

Talking about diseased ticks and sick chickens on the radio

I'm going to be a designated hitter (see - I can do sports metaphors!) today on the Friday news roundup on NHPR's The Exchange. They'll be talking about politics and … Full story »

NH Electric Co-op tests effect of different pricing on people's habits

Scientific testing that's done in the lab, where you establish a control group, then make similar groups with which you alter as few variables as possible to see what happens, … Full story »

Would Nashua's Amherst Street still be Amherst Street if they - gasp - removed the jughandles?

At the March Science Cafe in Nashua, I was surprised when a planner with the Nashua Regional Planning Commission defended the judghandles on Amherst Street (Rt. 101A) in Nashua. These … Full story »

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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.

Recent columns


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: We take the summer off. Back in the fall.


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



June: Probiotics and "gut health". May: Trains. April: Who was here before Europeans arrived - and how do we know? March: How roads are designed. February: The science of sugar. January: Geothermal energy.


November: Medical screening; how much is too much? 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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