More News of the Subatomic Bestiary


Despite hurtful criticism of WC’s attempts to explain quarks, and Randall Munroe’s brilliant upstaging of those lame efforts, WC returns to the subatomic bestiary, with news about neutrinos. Neutrinos occupy the third row of the table of fermions. Because they are electrically neutral – by definition having no electric charge – there are only three…

WC Attempts to Explain Particle Physics


Back in the early Pleistocene, when WC was just a pup, stuff was made of protons, neutrons and electrons, collectively atoms. It didn’t get any smaller than that. Along came Murray Gell-Mann and his crowd of physicists, who developed the Standard Model of physics, creating a whole new bestiary of subatomic particles. There’s dozens of…

Lake Idaho and the Snake River Volcanic Province

Yet Another Giant, Ancient Lake


The Western Snake River Plain is a desert now. Sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush growing on layers of ash and loess, which in turn lie on thousands of feet of basalt, congealed lava. It’s a desert, and a few minutes there in the summer will remove any doubts you might have that it is a desert.…

Image of the star KIC 8462852 (Boyajian’s Star) at infrared (left) and ultraviolet (right) wavelengths.

Tabby’s Star


“When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” — Attributed to Wener Heisenberg, 1901-1976 Tabby’s Star, technically a distant star in the constellation Cygnus, known officially as KIC 8462852, is the latest astrophysical puzzle to challenge…

The Argument for Federal Research: the Oleo Sponge


The late Senator William Proxmire (D, Wisconsin) used to belittle pure research, handing out “Golden Fleece Awards” to federal-subsidized researchers whose work he thought had no scientific value. Eventually, his name became a verb, meaning to unfairly obstruct scientific research for political gain, as in “the project has been proxmired”. Senator Proxmire was accused of recklessly attacking…

Would you buy a used car from this man?

WC Is Discouraged


Humankind seems to have invented reasoning, and it has mostly served us well. But reasoning evolved as a skill for plains apes, who included it as a tool for the bigger goal of cooperative living. It’s increasingly clear that reasoning as a tool can be subverted to that larger goal. Three books WC has read recently…