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Nashua;57.0;;2014-10-01 06:17:19

A new source to check online rumors, from a long-time expert in news corrections


They certainly wasted no money on designers.

If you're a reporter you've heard of Craig Silverman, who has made a name (and at least a partial living) analyzing corrections and errors by newspaper and broadcast journalists. He started out mostly poking fun via a blog/website/whatever called Regret the Error, but has expanded over the years into analyzing errors and offering suggestions for improving journalists' work. I use his accuracy checklist often.

Silverman is now targeting Internet rumors, partly because they have a bad habit of morphing into news accounts. He has a new site called (note the URL suffix) as part of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, which seeks to provide sourcing and determine which are real and which aren't.

Snopes is a much older version of the same idea. It's created by couple, and is popular enough that it has been attacked by groups who don't like being debunked.

Part of me thinks this is hopeless - it's so incredibly difficult to tell truth from fiction online, when all "news" sources look the same, that killing rumors is Whac-a-mole to the Nth degree. But I suppose you have to try.

The most typographically difficult sentence in New Hampshire law


Quick! Call an industrial chemist!

Writing a story about "spice," the synthetic marijuana that is causing law enforcement and health-care headaches, I discovered the most typographically interesting sentence in the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSAs), or state law:

"Synthetic cannabinoid agonists or piperazines” means any chemical compound that contains Benzylpiperazine; Trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine; 1,1-Dimethylheptyl-ll-hydroxytetra-hydrocannabinol; 1-Butyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole; 1-Pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole; dexanabinol; or 2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl] -5-(2-methyloctan -2-yl)phenol).

It was added to the Controlled Drug Act two years ago.

Despite being the third-largest elected body in the English speaking world, I doubt whether the New Hampshire Legislature (which is dominated by retired people, since the job doesn't pay anything) has many chemists. The clerk must have had fun reading this sentence aloud.

Why is there a ray gun pointed at a pond filled with 14,000 trout?


What's going on at the Milford Fish Hatchery?

It was a lovely cool morning morning today when I took the above photo of a weird-looking contraption that is shooting invisible rays (whoa!) at a rainbow-trout-filled pond at the Milford Fish Hatchery.

What's going on, you wonder? You'll have to read my Telegraph column on Monday to figure out - until then it's my secret. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

By land or by sea: Competing plans to improve electricity grid between NH and Boston

New Hampshire Business Review has a nice article about two competing plans to create new electricity-grid connections between Southern New Hampshire and Boston: One by land (in existing rights of way) and one mostly by sea.

One plan, from National Grid and Northeast Utilities – parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire – would add alternate current upgrades, constructing 25 miles of 345-kilovolt and 115-kilovolt overhead lines in existing power line areas. The new lines would connect a substation in Londonderry, N.H., to Tewksbury, Mass. National Grid would also build an underground line from Wakefield, Mass. to Everett, Mass.

The second plan, called SeaLink, and proposed by New Hampshire Transmission – a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, owner of the Seabrook nuclear power plant – would build a high-voltage direct current line originating at its transmission substation in Seabrook, traveling under the ocean floor for 50 miles before surfacing to connect to the Mystic substation in Everett, Mass. Eighteen miles of the line on land would be buried four to six feet underground.

Four NH hotels to offer charging stations for Teslas, other electric cars


This is not a picture of my garage.

Four "upscale" inns in New Hampshire are setting up Tesla charging stations for electric cars. These aren't the fast 480-volt Supercharger stations being built along turnpikes, so we're not talking 40-minute recharge; they're 240-volt chargers, similar to the stations that Tesla owners put in their homes. Still, not bad.

And, I'm told by a company spokesman, they will be usable by non-Tesla cars like Leaf and Volt.

The stations are part of what Tesla calls its "destination charging" network openeing in a number of hotel chains. I think these four, announced Wednesday by Hay Creek Hotels, are the first in New Hampshire.

Hay Creek Hotels owns four inns in New Hampshire: Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, Exeter Inn, Wolfeboro Inn and The Centennial Inn in Concord. They also owns similar properties throughout the Northeast.

India puts a cheap but useful spacecraft in orbit around Mars


This is probably the most important number involved with Mangalyaan, the Indian spacecraft that entered Mars orbit yesterday, as reported by the Washington Post:

India’s $72 million Mars orbiter is the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. Modi said that India’s Mars mission cost less than what it took to make the Hollywood space movie “Gravity."

The Hindustan Times points out that India is the first country to successfully send a craft to Mars on its first try. Around 51 spacecraft have been sent to Mars, either orbiting or landing, and about half have failed.

Here's the mission's home page.

Yes, I miss manual typewriters



OK, this is really stupid and not worth $309, but I am sorely tempted to buy one: A Bluetooth-connected keyboard that looks like, and hopefully feels like, a manual typewriter.

A bonus: You don't have to return the carriage at the end of each line.

Here's the website. Christmas isn't far away, you know.

NSF suggests entrepreneur try crowd-funding - is that good or bad?

I'm doing a story about a local entrepreneur trying to develop and interesting technical system (let me finish the story and then I'll tell you about it). He received an small National Science Foundation grant but is looking for more funding, as are most entrepreneurs - and to my surprise says that one of the suggestions from NSF was to pursue crowd-funding!

There are several crowdfunding sites out there dedicated to science and technology research, as compared to indie films or tech geegaws, so I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. But having by the National Science Foundation, one of the major funding sources for science in this country, suggest you try crowd-funding is ... well, I'm not sure what. Maybe it's cool and forward-thinking on NSF's part, or maybe it's a sign of desperation born of continued cutbacks in R&D funding.

Half-full? Half-empty? Hmmm .....

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant begins ramping down  


Courtesy photo
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant, which uses the Connecticut River for cooling.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station will cease operating by the end of the year; its owner says it doesn't make enough money to keep going. The Brattleboro Reformer reports that it has begun the slow march to shutdown.

If you want to keep an eye on the process, there's a citizen panel overseeing the process (very Vermont-ian, that) which will hold its first meeting on Thursday, Vermont Public Radio reports.

As always when mentioning Vermont Yankee, I tip my hat to the plant's domain name: An ad man's dream! I wonder who they'll sell it to?

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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, September 17 (we take the summer off)

TOPIC: Marijuana, the biology of what it does and doesn't do to us.

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


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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