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What Time Was It? Surprise!

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

The bombers were enormous. They left their bases in Germany and set their courses for London. As they advanced toward the the British coast by night, operators stood ready at their dishes, waiting to detect their approach and call out the fighters. The early raids proved unstoppable but eventually the British pilots learned to bring […]

Discoveries

Monday, October 13th, 2014

This is a day when we think about the discovery of the New World. It is a good time to think about the meanings of discovery. There are probably places where the question “Who discovered America?” could provoke a fight or at least start a heated argument, because there are several possible answers. Paleo-Indians The […]

Are Answers “Out There”?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Whenever we have a problem, a logical thing to wonder is if the solution is “out there”? Depending on the problem, that question can be deeply philosophical and here we can really only skim the surface. Back in my days as a grad student in physics that was something that would come up in late-night […]

Failing Fast

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Trying to fail may sound like a truly odd concept. Trying to do it fast probably sounds even more bizarre, but there is a point to it. When a problem itself is even remotely interesting, the solution is often not something that is easy to find. Many documents might be needed and little shards of […]

The Contemplation of Things

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I was reminded of a wonderful quote this week. I was watching a PBS documentary about the photographer Dorthea Lange who had a copy of it hanging in her studio- The contemplation of things as they are without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest […]

A Man of Letters

Monday, September 1st, 2014

I’ve been translating Swedish letters lately and I’m struck by the personalities. Most letters from more than a century ago start with the discussion of health. It seems to be a general feature of letters in the western world at that time. There is the boilerplate proclamation of good health and the question about the […]

While the Shutter is Closed

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Sometimes one hears that the census is like getting a snapshot of a family taken every ten years. The time between “exposures” does change from place to place but many countries have settled into the once per decade pattern. In the U.S. state censuses can sometimes be used to cut the time that the shutter […]

Near Enough

Monday, April 14th, 2014

David J. Hand, the author of the book The Improbability Principle has a list of items that go into his principle- The Law of Inevitability The Law of Truly Large Numbers The Law of Selection The Law of the Probability Lever The Law of Near Enough In the book he describes events that seem like […]

Coincidence?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The other day I went to the library to pick up a book I had on hold. I found the book and a magazine on the shelf waiting for me. I checked them out and was casually flipping through the magazine while I waited for my daughter’s choir practice to wrap up. In the back […]

Not Omniscient

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Last week after a presentation one of the audience members came up to the front to say hello. She said that after hearing my introduction she had to tell me that she had been a physicist in the 1950s and that she understood the connection between being a physicist and being a genealogist. She added […]

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