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The Dark Side: What we re missing in the night sky

Thu, 08/02/2007 - 02:00 -- Hal Harris

One of the most memorable experiences of my youth was when I was camping in the Mojave Desert. Having lived all of my life up to that time in Los Angeles, I had never seen a truly dark night. Lying under the stars, I found it very difficult to close my eyes because of the extraordinary beauty of the sky, full of stars and planets - the Milky Way clearly visible.

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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Sun, 07/01/2007 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

Like Malcolm Gladwell s Tipping Point , Nassim Taleb s Black Swan threatens to become a permanent part of the lexicon. In this best-selling book, he makes the argument that evolution has prepared us to over-emphasize continuous, Gaussian relationships because they occur much more frequently than do rare but momentous, unpredictable events.

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Beautiful Evidence

Wed, 05/02/2007 - 02:00 -- Hal Harris

The first of this series of books by Edward Tufte, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" was the one that, in my opinion, would be of most practical use to the average scientist. That was six volumes and twenty four years ago. I would recommend the most recent one, "Beautiful Information", as a logical continuation.

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The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration

Tue, 05/01/2007 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

The folly of spending more per liter to buy water than gasoline has been mentioned in Hal's Picks previously (July 2003). That article, by Michael Schermer, emphasized the waste of money that this boondoggle constitutes. In the New York Times magazine this week is another argument against the practice, and that is its impact on the environment.

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An Exact Value for Avogadro's Number

Thu, 03/01/2007 - 00:00 -- Hal Harris

The currently accepted formal definition of a mole is the number of carbon-12 atoms in exactly 12 grams of the pure substace. This is not a good operational definition, however, because it takes too long to find, purify, and count all those atoms. The best experimental value is based on x-ray diffraction experiments on silicon crystals and puts the number within 0.0000010 of 6.0221415 x 10^23.

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Exploding Disk Cannons, Slimemobiles, and 32 Other Projects for Saturday Science

Thu, 02/01/2007 - 00:00 -- Hal Harris

Neil Downie runs a Saturday science program for kids in Guildford, UK, that appears to be the most fun that anybody could have. This book is the third in a series that describes projects that he has invented for kids to build and investigate (often with the help of an adult).

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