Assuring a Wet Future for California
By Bob Hazard   |   September 14, 2021

Lack of potable water is a more serious problem than COVID-19. Without water the average person dies within three days. A horse can go five days without water; a camel 10 days; plants can survive two to three weeks. Without water, all life perishes. Water makes up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface; the […]

What Will it Take to Act on the Climate Crisis?
By Robert Bernstein   |   August 31, 2021

Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my! As expressed so well by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, these are the things we evolved to fear. Unfortunately, in the modern world, these are not the things that really matter. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its latest report emphasizing the urgency of […]

 

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Believing is Seeing
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 25, 2021

As far as believing goes, it’s hard to know what to call myself. I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist, or even an Agnostic. But, to some extent, I admire and envy people who do have strong beliefs — so long as they don’t try to impose them on other people. But there’s […]

What is Infrastructure?
By Robert Bernstein   |   August 24, 2021

When you hear the word “infrastructure” do your eyes glaze over? As I write this, Congress is debating an infrastructure bill that is on the order of a trillion dollars. Is that a lot or a little? Almost by definition, infrastructure is all the boring stuff that enables all the cool things in society to […]

Train of Thought
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 19, 2021

Many people seem to forget that the automobile was not the first “horseless carriage.” For most of the 100 years before motor cars began to appear on our roads, self-propelled vehicles originally powered by steam, had been crisscrossing the world’s continents. The main difference was that “locomotives,” as they were called, required a very special […]

What is a Personal Choice?
By Robert Bernstein   |   August 12, 2021

The 1960s TV show Get Smart often offered deep insights cloaked in humor. In the episode, “Do I Hear a Vaults?” the Chief gets locked in a bank vault with agent Larrabee. There is only enough air to last 24 hours and it is on a time lock that won’t open until the end of […]

Feeling Cornered
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 12, 2021

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,Eating a Christmas pie;He put in his thumb,And pulled out a plum,And said, “What a good boy am I!” Your childhood probably included this “nursery rhyme.” But it provokes many questions: If Jack Horner really was a “good boy,” why was he sitting in a corner, which even today […]

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Idle Pleasantrees
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   August 5, 2021

A man named Joyce Kilmer managed to publish five books and have five children before being killed in World War I. But he is remembered only for one imperishable poem, called “Trees,” which concludes with the modest words: “Poems are made by fools like me,But only God can make a tree.” True enough, I suppose, […]

Then and When,“Instead of Past, Present and Future, I’d prefer Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry.”
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 15, 2021

I am often asked (in my dreams) how I ever got to be so smart, so wise, so good-looking, so popular and successful. Then I wake up, and the only question in my mind is, how can I get through one more day, with this aging mind and failing body? Here I am, on an […]

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Plate Tectonics: A Revolution in Geology
By Tom Farr   |   July 15, 2021

Almost everybody who’s looked at a map of the Atlantic Ocean has noticed that South America and Africa fit together. Alfred Wegener noticed too and proposed in 1915 that they indeed were together long ago. He was laughed out of the room. The reason was that he couldn’t say how and why they had split […]

Water Sight to Behold
By Ernie Witham   |   July 15, 2021

I nodded at the approaching hikers. “We’re the official counters,” I said. Pat, sitting beside me, pretended to log it into her phone. There was a steady stream of hikers both coming and going, but we weren’t really counters of course. And the only thing officially we were – was out of breath.  We were […]

Of Humans and Their Obsession with Heads
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 8, 2021

The practice of making an “either/or” type of decision by flipping a coin has a surprisingly long history. The Romans had coins with a ship on one side and the emperor’s head on the other, so their equivalent of “heads or tails” was “ship or head” – in Latin, “navia aut caput.”  It has always […]

The History of Complaining
By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   July 1, 2021

Many large businesses have or used to have “Complaint Departments,” where a specially trained employee deals soothingly with dissatisfied customers. To my knowledge, there is never a corresponding “Compliments Department.” The only approach I’ve ever seen to that idea has been an occasional jar labelled “TIPS.” In this online age, it can be much more […]

Can You Estimate That?
By Robert Bernstein   |   June 24, 2021

“How many piano tuners are there in Boston?” That was the first question on our first problem set of freshman physics at MIT. The question was not really about pianos or the people who tune them. It was a way to get us to make estimates based on facts that we know. The first step […]

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