Tuesday, March 3, 2015
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Nashua;20.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/skc.png;2015-03-03 09:43:24

Did Farmer's Almanac really "win" the winter-prediction over NOAA, as the U-L said?

The Old Farmer's Almanace said this would be a cold winter with less-than average snowfall in New England. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said the nation, including New England, … Full story »

All those snowflakes you've been shoveling lately - is each one really unique?

I was psyched to debunk the "every snowflake is unique" idea in my column this week ... and you'll never guess what happened next! You can find out by following … Full story »

As a retail currency, bitcoin seems to be stagnating

The long-term impact of bitcoin is likely to be the underlying technology, which allows trusted peer-to-peer transactions without a central authority. Its impact as a currency is less certain, and … Full story »

Warming Atlantic Ocean = more hurricanes for us

As the surface of the north Atlantic Ocean warms, more energy is released into the atmosphere through evaporation. This can lead to stronger, or at least different, weather patterns - … Full story »

Science Cafe will feature UNH researcher who led study linking obesity, chemicals

It's pure coincidence, but if you read or heard reports Monday about a new UNH study linking obesity and diabetes with flame-retardant chemicals used in carpets and elsewhere - you … Full story »

At midnight, Mt. Washington was colder than Greenland

Mount Washington Observatory is being cautious about the accuracy, but as of midnight a site called Weather Extreme said the summit was the second-coldest reporting location in the world, after … Full story »

FAA readies rules to let businesses fly drones - well, some businesses

The FAA is about to propose rules for drone usage by businesses. You'd have to get a license for about $200 and pass a written test, but wouldn't need to … Full story »

Maine wood-pellet industry struggles to keep up with growing demand

Wood pellet stoves are shifting from a niche novelty to an important form of home heating, but the industry of making and selling pellets hasn't caught up. The Bangor Daily … Full story »

50 years ago, LBJ - yes, LBJ - warned about carbon-caused climate change

I was a kid 50 year ago and remember LBJ mostly as the foil of Vietnam War protests. I missed his warning about carbon buildup in the atmosphere:  President Lyndon … Full story »

Court: Public Facebook pages can be threats

This story of mine is in today's Telegraph but it's not online because of network issues - so here's the whole thing to chew on, should you so decide: Posts … Full story »

Southern NH powerline option, not undersea link, chosen by grid operators

ISO New England has selected a plan to strengthen the electricity grid in the Boston region by boosting alternating current power lines through southern New Hampshire, including Londonderry, Hudson and … Full story »

Online classes are great, but not if you can't hear and they aren't captioned

The Boston Globe reports: Harvard and MIT are facing legal action over their increasingly popular online courses, which advocates for the hearing impaired claim are inaccessible because they lack effective … Full story »

Why are some smart, educated people so stupid about vaccinations?

One of the weird things about the vaccination debate is that some of the main shot-shunning culprits are the sort of people who are supposed to be immune to pseudo-science … Full story »

RadioShack stores are starting to close

Amid the tech nostalgia, RadioShack stores are starting to close. Three in Greater Nashua will be done by the end of the month - one is already shut. Here's my … Full story »

N.H. won't pull out of carbon cap-and-trade program RGGI - but no money for efficiency

The Union-Leader reports that New Hampshire will stay part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, although the payments will no longer be directed to energy efficiency programs but instead to … Full story »

Women suffer many more sports concussions than men

I didn't think much about sports concussions until Science Cafe NH did a session on it in 2013, but that was sobering - especially the college-aged panelists who talked about … Full story »

Even mathematics can't tell you the best snowblowing route for your driveway (it's NP-complete)

Have you ever wondered during your endless bouts of snowblowing this winter: "What's the most efficient route to clear my driveway?" Or maybe, while cutting the yard in summer: "What's … Full story »

Robotic zippers ... need I say more?

The "personal robotics group" at MIT has a Sartorial Robots section that includes work to develop a robotic zipper. Obvious jokes leap to mind, but there's a serious side: "Zipperbot, … Full story »

How do you spot neutrinos? Bounce them off Antarctica

If you're tired of snow and cold, consider Katie Mulrey, a 2008 Merrimack High grad who's getting her Ph.D. in Delaware. She spent the winter months in Antarctica, chasing neutrinos, … Full story »

I think that I shall often see / poems done algorithm-cally

"The Imitation Game" movie, a biography of computer pioneer Alan Turing, has brought forward much discussion about the Turing Test - the idea that computers are intelligent if you can't … Full story »

Today's New Hampshire surprise: We have an atomic energy policy

Almost every day this time of year, the New Hampshire legislature has a dozen committees holding hearings on literally hundreds of bills. Today the Science, Technology and Energy committee will … Full story »

Some of Alan Turing's code-breaking papers were put into a roof as insulation

I moderated a discussion about computer pioneer Alan Turing last night after a showing of "The Imitation Game" at Red River Theatres in Concord. One of the points brought up … Full story »

Study: NH has nation's highest rate of preschool measles vaccinations

On Sunday I reported how New Hampshire is doing pretty well for childhood vaccinations for measles and other diseases. Today a group called Trust for America's Health released a report … Full story »

DNA tests finds that "herbal supplements" industry cuts corners, big time

DNA analysis by the New York attorney general found that lots of store brand "herbal supplements" sold by Target, Walmart and others were, to be blunt, crap: They had little … Full story »

Look at all those large-scale solar farms! Just don't look in New Hampshire

New Hampshire and Maine are blank spots in a new government map showing solar farms with an output of one megawatt or more. Massachusetts has scads of them, while Vermont … Full story »

Are those rocks in your hubcap or is your electric car happy to see me? 

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2011 mandates the Department of Transportation to create safety standards for car manufacturers to create a sound that alerts pedestrians to the presence of … Full story »

How accurate is "The Imitation Game"? Find out Tuesday night

Just a reminder that tomorrow night is the Q&A with Alan Turing expert Terry Wardrop, who teaches artificial intelligence and computer at St. Paul's School and who has, among other … Full story »

The finest tourist attraction in New Hampshire

This is the first picture I took with my new smartpone* - at a convenience store just off I-83 Exit 33 in Lincoln, not far from the state marker for … Full story »

There's a UNH mathematician in the latest New Yorker - I bet you can guess which one

UNH mathematician Yitang "Tom" Zhang has now officially set the record for Most Unwanted Attention Devoted To New Hampshire Mathematician: He is profiled in the latest New Yorker. The article … Full story »

Invented laser, won Nobel Prize - but what's really interesting is that he owned Frog Rock in NH

Charles Townes, who won the Nobel Prize in physics for helping develop lasers, died this week. Among all the news reports about this interesting California man, none mentioned his New … Full story »

NH High-Tech Council pushing to build a tech community for girls and women

From NHHTC: The New Hampshire High Tech Council has created TechWomen|TechGirls, a new forum focused on building a strong community of women enthusiastic about technology and supporting efforts where girls … Full story »

Report: Biofuels (plants into liquid fuel) make little or no sense

The World Resources Institute has issued a report which says that deades of research into biofuels - turning parts of plants into liquid fuel as a replacement for petroleum - … Full story »

Tiny UNH satellites to be launched, probing microbursts in Earth's radiation belt

From UNH News Service: Two tiny (4x4x6-inch) satellites built in part at the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center will be launched into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base … Full story »

At a 13-1 ratio of water equivalence, no wonder the snow was so fluffy

I ended up with 14.5 inches of new snow in my yard - I am west of the heaviest snow - which melts down to 1.16 inches of water - … Full story »

Science pub on Thursday: "What to make of all those food studies?" 

Dartmouth isn't getting all that much snow from this storm, which is very coastal-centric, so they're already thinking about future events. On Thursday comes the monthly Science Pub in Lebanon, … Full story »

This is how bad the white-out is (embarrassing self-reported error follows)

Driving to work (the news never sleeps!), I was thinking "wow, the white-out is pretty bad - it's hard to tell what's going on" .... then I realized I was … Full story »

Chat at the Alan Turing movie has been postponed a week by the storm

New Hampshire is shutting its state liquor stores tomorrow because of the storm - egad!!!! - do you know it's going to be big. That's why Red River Theaters in … Full story »

A little nostalgia (but not too much) for BBS systems

OK, if I say "B-B-S" what sound do you hear? The beeps and boops, rasp and hiss of an old modem? Then you might want to read my column in … Full story »

Federal law would made municipal broadband harder to block  

Three U.S. senators have proposed a law that would prevent states or cities from blocking municipal broadband networks. Such blocking is usually political rather than technical, based on the idea … Full story »

After the new Alan Turing movie, a discussion about him, Engima Project, computers - Tuesday in Concord

If you're old enough to remember when the biography "Alan Turing: The Enigma" came out in 1983, you'll remember how startling it was. At the time, the public knew nothing … Full story »

Study: Uber drivers make a lot more than taxi drivers (but have more costs)

An article in the Washington Post (read it here) discusses a study that says Uber drivers make about $6/hour more than taxi drivers in 20 different markets, which is impressive. … Full story »

It's a good day when you learn a new unit of measure: The ton (no, not that ton)

Packed house for last night's Science Cafe NH on geothermal energy; at least 65 crammed into the room alongside Killarney's Pub to hear from drillers, installers and geoscientists about how … Full story »

No pigs were harmed to make that bacon-scented lottery ticket

Prodded by the bacon-scented ticket from NH Lottery Commission, I penned this sidebar for The Telegraph: What is it about bacon that smells so good, and how do they get … Full story »

Geothermal energy (as in heat pumps, not volcanoes) at this week's Science Cafe

How can you heat your home with 50-degree water from underground? That's the main question I expect to be asked tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 21) at the next Science Cafe NH … Full story »

Nashua clerk tells Uber drivers: Get a taxi license or you car might be seized

The Nashua city clerk, who oversees taxi licenses, has issued a letter saying that Uber drivers who don't get a special taxicab license could face fines and might even have … Full story »

Where are all the aliens? Maybe they killed themselves with climate change

My favorite answer to the question "Why don't you think time travel is possible?" has always been "Because there are no time travelers." If it is possible to travel through … Full story »

Darn, I missed this: Dramatic readings from science papers and patent applications

Argh! I forgot to read the Improbable Research blog for a few days, and I missed the announcement of a weird and wild event that happened earlier today at the … Full story »

How far can you see before the curve of the Earth hides things?  

The Mount Washington Observatory blog has a nice discussion about how far they can see on clear days (130 miles or so), which included some nice bits of math involving … Full story »

News groups are salivating over the idea of using drones to shoot video/photos

The Telegraph's chief photographer, Don Himsel, would love to use drones for news shots - sometimes I catch him sighing over websites detailing various 3-axis flying gimbal arrangements - but … Full story »

NH considers math education pathways other than just "calculus or bust!"

New Hampshire has established a task force to get more kids doing better in so-called STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) courses. I am looking through its report in preparation for … Full story »

NH doesn't want hunting with computer-assisted rifles - or with drones

NH Fish & Game has a public hearing on Jan. 29 to tackle some pretty geeky issues in terms of hunting. They want to:  + Ban the taking of wildlife … Full story »

Not-so-cold winter and some advance planning have kept energy prices in check

Union-Leader reporter Dave Solomon has a new weekly column about energy, called Power Plays. This week's column talks about how energy prices and availability are less onerous than feared this … Full story »

Whither New Hampshire airports, as New Hampshire aviation shrinks?

I'll be attending a meeting this evening about the state's plan for our 25 airports, a meeting I advanced today in The Telegraph. (Did you even know that N.H. has … Full story »

Bitcoin is dying, all hail bitcoin!

The dollar value of bitcoin has been looking like the price of oil lately: falling with no floor in sight: It went below $200 on Tuesday, about one-sixth of its … Full story »

Text to 911 allowed in N.H., but no :-( or abbreviations 4U, plz

New Hampshire residents facing an emergency can now send text messages to 9-1-1, as well as making a phone call to the number – although a voice call remains preferable.  … Full story »

Two infants, too young for vaccinations, get measles at Disneyland

Stories are more powerful than data when it comes to changing behavior (as came up during my stint on The Exchange last week), so here's a story that might give … Full story »

Big solar, big wind have become ordinary - I have to change my energy map

Five years ago I started creating a Google map of alternative-energy sites around New England, back when solar and wind power were just starting to get built. It's linked in … Full story »

When Uber arrives in town, so do lots of questions

With Uber now in Nashua, I figured it was time to ask - and, in a few cases, answer - a lot of the questions that arise when this ride-booking … Full story »

Uber has come to Nashua and Portsmouth

Uber, the controversial ride-booking service, is expanding to Nashua and Portsmouth. The company announced Thursday on its blog that UberX, as the service is known, is starting in the two … Full story »

Vermont's GMO labeling law goes before a federal judge

Federal court in Vermont has begun hearing from all parties - including four food-processing giants - about the state's law requiring the labeling of all food that has genetically modified … Full story »

If all your thermometers disagree, which do you believe? Your nose hairs, of course

There's a joke in the medical community that getting a second opinion is pointless, because if it agrees with the first one you have learned nothing, and if it disagrees … Full story »

Science cafes restarting all over NH: Brain injury, geothermal power, the power of music, rising tides

As I've often said while hosting Science Cafe NH in Nashua, New Hampshire must have the nation's highest per-capita rate of science cafes. All four of ours are charging into … Full story »

Forget calculus: We should learn stats and probabilty (for free from MIT)

Although I studied several years of calculus while getting my bachelor's degree back in the Late Cenozoic Era and enjoyed it, I have long argued that most people should avoid … Full story »

Wind power is pretty big in Maine - 1,500 jobs big

Maine's hilltops have been the wind power center of New England, as a new report highlights (although it was put together by a wind power advocacy group, so take it … Full story »

I'm on The Exchange (NHPR) in an hour or so

I'm going to be one of the guests on "The Exchange", the NHPR talk show, this morning at 9 a.m. - we're sort of reprising last year's science cafe about … Full story »

A Connecticut River dam with a live-in operator

NH Public Radio has an entertaining story about one of two on-site dam operators in New Hampshire. This one's on the Connecticut River, near the North Country town of Pittsburgh, … Full story »

PSNH smart-ish meter coming to my house

I got a letter last week saying that PSNH will be installing an Automated Meter Reading meter at my house. These, as I reported last May, are wireless meters that … Full story »

"An amazing technology that draws heat directly from his checking account"

The next Science Cafe Nashua will discuss the ins and outs of geothermal energy - heat exchange from the ground - so it seems appropriate to point out this very … Full story »

Hey kids: You can 3D print the same wrench they did on the space station!

Now, this is cool: NASA put online the CAD file used to 3D print a wrench on the International Space Station, for free download: This isn't the first 3D-printed object … Full story »

Rare earth magnets on your shoes: For costly tap dancing or activating red lights?

Bicyclists and motorcyclists know the frustration of red lights that don't "see" them, because they they don't have enough metal/magnetic field to activate the induction loop embedded in the pavement. … Full story »

What's with the weird velocity metric in "Jingle Bells"?

I have listened to a <bignum> of Christmas carols in the past week ("shuffle Christmas playlist" is a dangerous command) and ended up being very puzzled by one line in … Full story »

A serious error in my calculation of Santa's carbon footprint

My Telegraph column this week (and my weekly chat with Brady Carlson on NH Public Radio) involved my calculation of Santa's carbon footprint on his Christmas Eve jaunt - but … Full story »

Christmases hereabouts have been snowier lately than in past decades 

Much to my surprise, an analysis by the Ruters University Snow Lab, at the request of NOAA, indicates that our part of New England has seen snowier Christmas-time over the … Full story »

Can lots of bubbles make a ship more stealthy?

Two years ago, Mass High Tech reported on a $9.6 million investment in developing a "stealth" ship by a Portsmouth inventor, with "supercavitation" (using water bubbles to reduce underwater drag) … Full story »

Autonomous subs go searching for 'haystacks' of mating codfish

Making decisions about fisheries in the Gulf of Maine is hard, partly because it's hard to know exactly what's happening out there in all that water. But it's important: Recent … Full story »

An invasive worm that can reproduce even after it's sterilized

A subtropical worm known as the "crazy snake" because of its S-shaped path and frenzied ability to escape bait cans is becoming a problem in northern New England, reports the … Full story »

Coming up after the break, our lobster forecast (lobster forecast?)

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute is going to start issuing "lobster forecasts" based on water temperatures, with the idea of letting fleets time their catches. From the Portland Press-Herald:  … Full story »

Portsmouth loves Uber, as long as it is regulated like taxis

Following up yesterday's post about Portsmouth contemplating airbnb, the city is also contemplating Uber, the smartphone-using hired car service. Portsmouth would love to have Uber in town, but: "Drivers for … Full story »

Airbnb or real bed-and-breakfast - Portsmouth says no to either  

The Portsmouth Herald has an interesting story about local regulations conflicting with the so-called "sharing economy." (I prefer "middleman economy," since the businesses involved are just enablers between provider and … Full story »

Christmas lights can be seen by satellites - Ramadan lights, too 

Slate reports that Americans' love of putting colored lights outdoors for the holidays can be seen from space:  The Suomi satellite carries an instrument designed to measure nighttime lights as … Full story »

Gas is cheap, electricity expensive - do electric cars still make per-mile sense?

I'll #SaveYouAClick - yes. My Telegraph column today crunches the numbers of per-mile costs for a Nissan Leaf vs. Versa in light of sub-$3 gas and electric prices spiking this … Full story »

Did the November elections made life harder for Northern Pass? Yes 

Forgive me for bringing up politics, but since energy is a hot topic these days it seems relevant: This article from E&E (Environment and Energy) News says that the sweeping … Full story »

Maybe there are fewer pilots because automation makes flying less fun

When I was much younger I got my private pilot's license, and even though I haven't flown since Reagan was president I'm very glad I spent the time and money. … Full story »

My new clickbait strategy: Always bring up Ben Franklin

The Telegraph's web folks have informed me that my best-read story online for the month of November, by a mile, was a tossed-off item about the history of daylight saving … Full story »

Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and the obnoxious public

A famous person wrote this sentence to another famous person - can you guess who? "If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, … Full story »

Yet another 1,000-megawatt power line proposal for N.E. - this one combines wind and hydro

National Grid has joined with a Boston developer of transmission lines in seeking to build an undersea power line that would combine Canadian hydropower with Maine wind power and bring … Full story »

Getting set to be on stage tonight in Manchester to talk about M.C. Escher

UPDATE: Only two people at the show, which drew about 30, said they had read at least part of Godel, Escher, Bach. I was surprised.  There will be four people … Full story »

Finally, one of those stupid state-comparison lists that's actually good! (It involves Santa)

I have ranted several times in print and in this blog about the plague of publicity-seeking lists created by websites, usually selling real estate, that rank states as "most livable" … Full story »

Can wood stoves - the ones that burn whole pieces of trees, not pellets - enter the 21st century?

Yesterday my house was heated almost entirely by the basement wood stove and the living room pellet stove (the oil-burning furnace kept it livable overnight). The pellet stove was effortless … Full story »

Ralph Baer, who invented the first home video game when an engineer at Nashua, has died at 92

Ralph Baer, who led the team that developed the first home video game, sold as the Magnavox Odyssey, has died, according to the gaming site Gamastura, which cites people close … 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.


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, March 18

TOPIC: Why are roads built where, and how, they are?

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



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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