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Nashua;63.0;;2015-04-19 17:13:05

Opening the microwave too early makes the aliens appear (so think radio telescopes)

Yes, I reheat coffee in the microwave. Yes, I get impatient and open the door before the timer dings. But no, I don't near a radio telescope - so I'm … Full story »

Why did NH legislators reject a state fossil? Nothing personal against mastodons (mostly) 

Although it got lost in the kerfuffle over rejection of a kids' bill to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor, last month New Hampshire state legislators also rejected a … Full story »

Professional chess games are getting longer, with more ties - but you still want to play white

What do you find if you data analysis of 650,000 chess games over several centuries? A guy named Randal Olson did it, and found games are getting longer (37 moves/game … Full story »

What happens if you build skis containing oobleck (non-Newtonian fluid)?

If you've ever mixed corn starch and water to make "oobleck," a name taken from Dr. Seuss books, you'll know how much fun this non-Newtonian substance can be. It's slurpy … Full story »

Hackers can raise dosage limits in a drug pump - that's not good

Little machines that pump drugs into our systems at set rates and times have been a big part of New Hampshire's tech scene since Dean Kamen moved up here after … Full story »

Massachusetts boosts its subsidies for electric vehicles

Massachusetts likes electric vehicles so much it has given rebates to help people buy 107 Tesla sports cars, which cost a minimum of $70,000. It's not just more middle-of-the-road Leafs … Full story »

Skyscraper indoor farms are a sci-fi idea whose time may, or may not, have come

Growing crops indoors, a staple of sci-fi novels, has become more feasible with the development of LED lighting that uses less energy and can be wavelength-tweaked to maximize plant production. … Full story »

Nashua teacher wins prize for supporting evolution classes

A Nashua high school teacher, Alyson Miller, is one of two teachers nationwide to get a prize from the National Center on Science Education because of their work keeping the … Full story »

Vermont site sells placebos - in pill form or as an app

SevenDays, the Vermont weekly, has a story about a researcher in Vermont who is selling placebos, openly marketed as being useless. In fact, you don't even have to take the … Full story »

Annual physicals are more ritual than science, so should we skip them?

Having an annual checkup from your doctor is a pretty sensible thing to do, right? I certainly thought so, but after last November's Science Cafe, which discussed the thorny issue … Full story »

People arrived in New England before the forests did

When the glaciers retreated from New England about 14,000 years ago, they didn't leave any trees behind. It takes a while - centuries, millennia - for trees to repopulate a … Full story »

Vermont is about to make recycling mandatory, statewide

In Vermont, transfer stations and drop-off facilities are already required to accept recyclables. Beginning July 1, trash haulers will have to do the same at no additional charge. Most significantly, … Full story »

A self-driving car but by Delphi (who?) just made it across the county, almost without humans 

Delphi, a major auto-parts supplier, says it built a car that drove from California to New York all by itself, except for about 1 percent of the time in cities. … Full story »

Hybrid car racing returns to NH Speedway, thanks to Dartmouth's engineering school

Car racing is a really dull sport, in my ever-so-humble opinion. Zoom, zoom, round and round, smoke and noise - yawn. The technology in the cars is often quite interesting, … Full story »

The Internet has ruined April Fools' Day, because every day online is April Fools' Day

Remember when pulling a public prank on April Fools' Day was clever? No? Well, you're probably under 30. It used to be surprising enough to be potentially fun, doing things … Full story »

New England's largest off-grid solar array set for Star Island

UPDATE: Oops. the presentartion is April 22, not April 2.   Star Island is about ready to turn on a 200-kilowatt solar array that it says will be the largest … Full story »

Gasoline use in U.S. continues to fall, although we may have started driving more

A survey at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates that gasoline usage continues to fall throughout the U.S.  His findings show that gallons of gasoline consumed per person, … Full story »

As waters wam, smelt seem to be moving north, which means out of the Great Bay

It's been a couple years since New Hampshire's Great Bay has seen a good winter season for smelt - a small anadramous (breeds in fresh water, matures in salt water, … Full story »

When there's a veterinarian in the house, magazine covers are more ... um, varied

Deciding what article to play prominently on the cover of a magazine is a tough decision. The editor of Veterinary Medicine is obviously a pro. … Full story »

NH is almost in the top 5 for new precipitation-watching citizen scientists

UPDATE: We ended up No. 7, with 12 new people, or 9.11 per million residents. Vermont edged us with 6 newbies, or 9.58/ million; Maine had 8 newbies (6.02) and … Full story »

Why does snow melt around tree trunks?

Walking in the woods these days - although the snow is finally starting to disappear - you'll notice "tree wells" or areas around the base of trees in which snow … Full story »

Report says 30 percent of plant species living wild in New England are imported - 30 percent!

If you own or work with a field of any kind, you're aware of the problem caused by invasive plants. My property's bugaboo is black swallowwort, also known by the … Full story »

N.H. native wins Turing Award, the 'Nobel Prize of computing' - just as Google attaches a $1m prize

Michael Stonebraker, a researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) who has revolutionized the field of database management systems and founded multiple successful database companies - and … Full story »

Feeding deer to 'help' them can hurt, if it's the wrong sort of food

When 12 deer died in the town of South Hampton recently, NH Fish & Game sent a couple to UNH for necropsy. (Today's word tip: "autopsy" means slicing up dead … Full story »

How does water evaporate from a Klein bottle, which has neither inside nor outside?

A Klein bottle is a 3-D version of the Mobius strip. It's a regular glass battle with the neck twisted back through itself, so that there is no longer an … Full story »

Nashua's makerspace will wallow in do-it-yourself digital geekery for Arduino Day 

Arduino is the open-source equivalent of Heathkit, the defunct do-it-yourself electronics haven from my youth. It's a hardware and software project, company and user community for designing and making digital … Full story »

Should power companies own solar power? Seems straightforward, but it's not

In a intriguing reflection on the changing technology of power production, the state Legislature is considering a bill that would make it easier for our electric utilities to own solar … Full story »

Hollis is a pretty rich town; to change energy habits, the rich should lead by example

A group of volunteers in Hollis - a well-off town, where every other adult seems to be either a business CEO or an engineer - has set themselves a lofty … Full story »

Solar eclipse is testing solar-power-laden Europe

The total solar eclipse is moving across Europe as I write this. This is the first such eclipse since photovoltaic solar power became such a big part of the power … Full story »

I must be smart because I have a "dot-science" URL!

Granite Geek has been dot-org since Day One because the dot-com was taken by a granite countertop company, although it's now occupied by a domain name squatter who has filled … Full story »

Unplayable parody of classical music gets played

On the assumption that anybody reading GraniteGeek likes complicated jokes and can read at least some music - geekdom has a high correlation with playing instruments, for some reason - … Full story »

Uber tells Portsmouth: Driver background checks? We don't need no stinkin' background checks!

Like all companies, Uber doesn't like government telling it what to do. So when the crowd-sourced cab service heard that Portsmouth wanted to require background checks for its drivers, as … Full story »

Science Cafe about how roads are designed the way they are (plus a sugar revisit on NHPR)

We've got a Science Cafe Nashua two-fer this week.  On Wednesday, Science Cafe New Hampshire in Nashua returns in the flesh at Killarney's for the latest monthly talk, concerning the … Full story »

NASA launches rockets carrying satellites w/UNH material to study magnetosphere

NASA reports: "An Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft onboard launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, March 12, 2015, Florida. … Full story »

Pi Day Of The Century, right down to the Planck Time instant

Tomorrow, as you probably know, is Pi Day Of The Century - as long as you write calendars in the American rather than European style, that is. It will be … Full story »

Science doesn't know everything. Such as: Why does snow 'squeak' when we walk on it?

Scientific American tackled a subject recently that we've had plenty of time to contemplate this winter: Why snow sometimes squeaks when you walk on it. The answer: Nobody's quite sure, … Full story »

Subsidies available (but not many) for electric-vehicle chargers in NH

The state is offering rebates through April 3 for installation of DC fast chargers for electric vehicles along Interstate 93, south of Interstate 89. (Press release here) But since only … Full story »

Gloomily contemplate how climate change will harm our maple syrup industry - but do it over pancakes!

Climate change - or, as it's known in Florida, "random weather fluctuations that by sheer coincidence produce the same result as if human activity was altering the climate but it's … Full story »

Don't you wish you could have made accurate measurements of all the snow this winter? You can!

I bet you’ve been curious this winter about how much snow we’ve actually gotten. So why don’t you start measuring it officially?  A national “citizen science” program with the horrible … Full story »

Without checks and balances, bad things happen. For example: Herbal supplements

Although they are peddled like drugs and most people use them as if they were drugs, "supplements" are largely unregulated in this country, unlike drugs. Hey, they're organic! They're natural! … Full story »

Black carbon is a problem for glaciers, but good for clearing Fenway of snow

The Fenway Park groundskeeper is speading black sand on the snow inside the ballpark to help it melt on sunny days, taking advantage of the albedo effect which is providng … Full story »

State's first hackerspace, in Nashua, is looking to move and expand

MakeIt Labs, the state's first hackerspace, is looking to move a few buildings over from its current location in a dilapidated former industrial building, into a less-dilapidating former construction and … Full story »

Law outlawing "ballot selfies" stays intact so far, but court case is pending

A NH House committee has recommended killing a bill that would overturn the state's anti-"ballot selfie" law. That law makes it illegal to take a picture of your filled-in ballot … Full story »

A 26% reduction in snow volume equalled just 1% reduction in moisture

Last Monday, I checked the snow in my yard at a location where I make daily weather measurements for CoCoRaHS. I had 25 inches of snow, which I melted down … Full story »

Drones get OK for inspection of power lines

Helicopter pilots won't like this news, but Illinois-based ComEd has just gotten FAA permission to use drones to keep an eye on its cross-country power lines. Report from Smartgrid News … Full story »

U.S. will finally get an offshore wind farm - in Rhode Island waters

It looks like the U.S. is finally going to get an offshore wind farm, although not a particularly big one (30 MW). Deepwater Wind says it has gotten all the … Full story »

Genetically modified organisms to be discussed in a bar (with GMO beer, maybe?)

Genetically modified organisms are a godsend, a disaster, a biogeek's delight, just an extension of what mankind has done since agriculture began - or maybe all of those, mashed together. … Full story »

The joy of amateurs who "solve" high-level mathematics

If I had to be anybody except myself, I would like to be Underwood Dudley, the DePauw University mathematician best known for his books about mathematical cranks. His magnum opus, … Full story »

Tackle those free-floating ions the high-tech way: Wash your darn car

I spent $800 replacing rusted body panels on one of our cars this winter, so my column today in the Telegraph is heartfelt: It looks at the chemistry of rust … Full story »

In a way, Boston really did steal Alaska's winter 

It's hard for us in the East to realize it, but a majority of the U.S. geographically is having a warm, dry winter. Ski areas out in the west and … Full story »

LED lights find a big new market: Marijuana growers (maybe other farmers, too) 

The push to legalize marijuana could help the LED lighting industry, reports Greentech Media:  The overall LED grow-light module market is expected to move from $395 million in 2013 to … Full story »

What will a solar ecipse due to solar power? In Europe, cut output by 400 MW per minute!

New technologies bring new problems. Here's an interesting example: Europe uses so much solar power now that the March 20 solar eclipse will be a major issue even though it … Full story »

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is getting so popular that there's now an online register

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has set up a voluntary online scheduling system for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, to help them know when the various shelters and campsites might be full. Here's … Full story »

Can real-time computer analysis make chess a good spectator sport?

Some fokls at the MIT Media Lab have a cool "playful" project in development, called DeepView, a pun on chess computer Deep Blue. They're trying to use statitics and game … Full story »

Northeast U.S. saw "unprecedented" sea level rise in 2009-2010

"Sea level change is a complex phenomenon, especially on the regional scale, where changes to the global ocean circulation can play a major role. The east coast of North America … Full story »

Zealand Falls Hut wants to relicense its hydropower dam (it has a dam?) 

I've stayed at Zealand Falls Hut in the White Mountains several times, and I knew about their solar panels and little wind turbine - but I didn't realize they also … Full story »

Measles kills toddler in Germany, which is also facing an anti-vaccination push

The U.S. isn't the only country facing a resurgence of measles due to people shunning vaccines. Germany has also seen an uptick, with tragic results, reports the BBC: An 18-month-old … Full story »

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 »

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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, April 15

TOPIC: Who was here before Europeans arrived - and how do we know?

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



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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