Saturday, January 31, 2015
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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 »

Why isn't PSNH a big booster of electric cars?

I will be participating this morning in a panel discussion about electric cars at a PSNH conference. I was invited because of our Science Cafe NH about electric cars earlier … Full story »

Potential laws: Accept bitcoin, regulate drones, and make the mastodon (or maybe mammoth) the state fossil

This is the time of year when state legislators file LSRs, which are holding patterns for future bills. Literally hundreds of them are filed - there are 400 state representatives, … Full story »

Two cautionary tales about people getting ahead of the green-energy curve

The world - our children's and grandchildren's world - needs us to switch away from traditional energy sources, fast. But sometimes people can do it too fast, as a couple … Full story »

How does 3D printing work on the space station, without gravity to hold layers together?

The first 3D printed object in space has been made (it's a cover plate for the 3D printer itself - how meta), which raises a question I've had since the … Full story »

My M.C. Escher fanboy-dom: in print, on radio and soon, in person

The dual shows about M.C. Escher running in Manchester at the Currier Museum of Art and the SEE Science Center are cool, which is why I wrote about them in … Full story »

Crazy is the new weather normal

New England, including me, continues to shake off the surprisingly destructive Thanksgiving snowstorm - a big branch fell on our Civic and dented the roof badly; nobody taller than 5'2" … Full story »

MIT's still pissed about losing the Ig Nobels to Harvard, so they got ...

The Festival of Bad Ad-Hoc Hypotheses, or BAHFest, founded by the guy who draws the web comic "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal." The Wall Street Journal wrote about it (here) and … Full story »

Sex, violence and advanced math - three things to alarm people

In a tongue-in-cheek (at least, I think it's tongue-in-cheek) warning attached to a movie review of "The Imitation Game," the Alan Turing movie, the NY Times channels xkcd* with the … Full story »

More debate about prostate cancer screening, the topic of our last Science Cafe

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the last Science Cafe NH, which discussed medical screening, was the admission from the three physicians that sometimes they ordered tests which weren't recommended … Full story »

Pope-mobile? What about the poop-mobile!

Getting energy from human waste is not a new idea: Nashua, for example, is one of many cities that has an anerobic digester at its wastewater treatment plant that not … Full story »

Huge N.Y. Army base gets 100% of electricity from wood - is that good?  

Biomass energy - burning wood to produce electricity - is controversial within the green-energy field. Although it seems like a no-brainer to replace oil/coal with wood, because the latter sucks … Full story »

And the best sentence in today's Boston Globe is ...

From the story about MIT's football team: Quarterback Peter Williams has thrown for just over 957 Smoots this season. … Full story »

Is that a wet bulb on your thermometer, or are you happy to see snowmaking?

Ski areas hereabouts have started to open despite the lack of natural snow, thanks to the technology of hurtling water into cold air so that it crystalizes. Snowmaking is a … Full story »

Can't get enough ballot selfies? Hear me on "The Exchange"

If it seems I can't shut up about "ballot selfies," then here's more confirmation: Yesterday's The Exchange started with me babbling - er, informing the world - about it. Here's … Full story »

Last night, we heard the perfect Science Cafe sentence

Last night's Science Cafe NH in Nashua was the usual full house at Killarney's Pub. The discussion was about medical screening, and how much of it is too much. The … Full story »

Google engineers: Even best-case renewable energy adoption won't fix climate change

You want to read something depressing? Read about a discussion by Google engineers exlpaining why the company stopped funding R&D in renewable energy. Here's a tidbit: Even if every renewable … Full story »

Science Cafe in Nashua tonight (Wednesday) - can there be too much medical screening?

Can there really be too much screening for cancer? Yes, although how much is too much - that's a tough question. We'll be discussing it in four hours at Science … Full story »

Rooftop solar electricity: Cost-competitive with coal, oil in all 50 states by 2016?

Solar power is wicked expensive, right? Well, the falling cost of solar panels and, more importantly, falling "soft costs" for installation and permitting, plus an increase in financing options, is … Full story »

Drone operators can be fined or charged for operating 'recklessly'

The government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly, a federal safety board ruled Tuesday in a setback to small drone operators … Full story »

Aspirin a day may prevent a second heart attack, but apparently not the first one

Aspirin really is a miracle drug that accomplishes all sorts of surprising things. I take a couple a week to reduce the risk of skin cancer, which is a problem … Full story »

Ebola's scary, but the flu is actually a whole lot scarier

Interesting science cafe in Lebanon this Thursday (they call it Science Pub), comparing the medical risk of Ebola with influnza. It's a bit of a drive but this could be … Full story »

Vermont's solar boom: Government support meets eco-geekery

The weekly newspaper Seven Days has an excellent long look at the components of Vermont's solar-power boom: As I've noted before, that state has about 30 times the per-capita solar … Full story »

Honeywell sued over employee medical screening (maybe we'll discuss this at Science Cafe) 

Honeywell has been sued by the federal government because it requires employees and their spouses to take certain medical screening tests. The company says it is a way to encourage … Full story »

As the climate changes, spring’s early arrival alters Gulf of Maine  

Over the past eight years, the date that scientists use to mark the transition to spring based on water temperature has gotten earlier by roughly two weeks for oceans off … Full story »

Restoring rivers vs. retaining history - a debate swirls around Milford's downtown dams

The rivers of New England are littered with dams (this 1999 study counted 3,789 of them, but I bet it missed lots of little tiny ones). There are big dams … Full story »

Red Cross says it has emptied me of blood 6 times over

I'm scheduled to donote blood today, as I do every 8 weeks. The Red Cross scheduler, who called to remind me, said their records show I have give more than … Full story »

Maine considers ranked-choice voting - a.k.a. "instant runoff" ballots

Democracy is a big fat kludge, a clumsy, taped-together hodgepodge of a system aimed at figuring out what's best for society. (Churchill's comment that "Democracy is the worst form of … Full story »

Are PSNH rates stable because of its generating plants? Professor says no

Mike Mooiman, a business professor at Franklin Pierce University, has a blog about energy in New Hampshire that is quite interesting. His latest post is more about finance than technology … Full story »

Where did the advertisements go?  

Google's Doubleclick ad server is down, which means that a gazillion web sites (including this one) are suddenly without advertisements. Before you celebrate, remember that the tiny amount of money … Full story »

The ban on cod fishing is a complicated exercise

As you've probably heard, the federal goernment has put a six-month hold on cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine as of tomorrow, because stocks of the once super-abundant fish … Full story »

At 11 a.m., humanity will land on a comet ... on a comet?!?!?

At about 11:03 a.m. our time, the European Space Agency ship Philae will land on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.   Landing on a comet ... who'd'a thunk it? Phil Plait has … Full story »

What the Internet is for: Searchable database of 16,000 public toilets in Australia

The Australian government has established a searchable database of 16,000 public toilets in that country.It's called The National Public Toilet Map and it's brilliant. It's searchable by location or attributes … Full story »

I got to use "the rut" in a lustful sense in a story today. Thanks, deer!

This is my favorite headline for a story of mine in a while: "With deer hunting season starting Wednesday, it’s acorns vs. lust" The story is about tomorrow's start of … Full story »

FAA: Flying drones over crowded stadiums could land you in jail

The FAA is cracking down on people flying drones over stadiums - during football games, usually - because of safety concerns. The Washington Post writes about in today's paper, noting … Full story »

What if that big new natural-gas pipeline came through NH instead of Massachusetts?

As I reported in Saturday's Telegraph (read it here), energy giant Kinder Morgan has filed several possible alternatives for the huge (2.2 billion cubic feet/day) natural gas pipeline it wants … Full story »

Study: Wind turbine noise can be irritating but there's no medical "syndrome"

A study from Health Canada states the obvious: "Wind turbine noise did not have any measurable effect on illness and chronic disease, stress and sleep quality. ... However, the louder … Full story »

What if passenger rail came *almost* to Nashua but not quite?

As part of my job I sometimes interview bosses and CEOs in the Nashua area, and I can say that without exception, these folks would like to see passenger rail … Full story »

Protests set in Mass., Vt. (but not NH) against FCC "net neutrality" rules

The FCC has proposed rules about "net neutrality" that many advocates say fall short of what's needed, handing too much power to large ISPs - in this case, cable companies … 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, Feb. 18

TOPIC: The science of sugar

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



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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