My New Hat Let Me Show You It


By two_kittehs 

Do you think it will go with my new spring look? Or do you like this one better?

More About Light in Cosmos

A brief recap of the properties of light that we have encountered so far in Cosmos.

  • The speed of light through vacuum is nature’s speed limit.
  • Light travels in straight lines.
  • The speed of light depends on the medium.
  • Visible light is composed of seven primary colors.
  • Energy of light waves depends on their wavelength.
  • Our eyes are sensitive to a small band of electromagnetic radiation.

These properties were hiding in plain sight but it took centuries and the work of many individuals to unravel these properties.  Lots of imagination and hard work went into getting nature to reveal its code to us.  You may ask, how does this concern me?  Why should I care?  It does because the entire edifice of modern life, from your hand held device to your camera phone uses this knowledge.  To paraphrase Newton, each of us can see farther because we are standing on the shoulders of giant. Technological progress is possible because of research in the pure sciences. Unfortunately funding for science is getting shortchanged these days in the name of fiscal prudence, see for example, sequestration.

Still to come:

  • Light can demonstrate both wave-like and particle like phenomena.
  • Light waves are transverse electromagnetic waves.
  • Light can travel through vacuum

The last property has been taken for granted but never been elaborated upon by Neil De Grasse Tyson while narrating Cosmos.  There is a great story lurking behind that fact, I hope he tells it in one the upcoming episodes.


My reviews of previous episodes here , here and here.

New Spring Look, Revealed

Does you think, this is a good look for spring?


By two_kittehs

Nicholas Kristof Pens Another Obtuse Column

Was Nicholas Kristof always a bard of false equivalence or did he become one recently? St. Nick thinks that the Republicans should get some credit for bringing to light the causes of poverty, even if they get the solutions wrong.   He may be damning them with faint praise but I think he is giving the Republicans far too much credit.

  According to St. Nick they get the rhetoric right, never mind  their actual policies.  May be that was true in some bygone era, these days, even their rhetoric drips contempt.  Has St. Nick forgotten the 47% moochers of the last election season?

So what are the conservatives/Republicans right about according to Kristof?

Strong Families: Conservatives highlight the primacy of family and argue that family breakdown exacerbates poverty, and they’re right.

Way to confuse cause and effect.   Poverty makes it hard on a family or to even have a family.  Being married is no guarantee to economic prosperity.    Also what is this strange obsession conservatives have about people’s marriages? At best, this is a peripheral issue to the macroeconomics of income inequality and poverty.  You are already entitled to bigger tax deductions if you have a family. What more besides arranging marriages can the government do on this front?


JOB CREATION President Reagan was right when he said that the best social program is a job.


It is sad that Kristof has the exhume Reagan to come up with a sensible Republican voice.  The actual policies of the Republican  are much more favorable to people with investment income, than they are to wage earners.  Despite productivity gains, trickle down economic policies have not made the average American wealthier. The gains have gone to a tiny sliver of the population, the so called 1%.

SCHOOL REFORM Republicans were right to blow the whistle on broken school systems, for education in inner-city schools is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

How is demonizing teachers and their unions going to make  problem schools perform better?

Kristof may not accept the Republican solutions, but he adopts their framing which only serves to obfuscate the issue of income inequality and blames the poor.  Doesn’t NYT already have David Brooks to do that?

Why should the party of the Ryan Budget  get credit for shedding crocodile tears over the problems that they helped create and are doing nothing to solve.  In fact they have thrown every conceivable road block in President Obama’s effort to jump start the economy right from early 2009.  The refusal of Republican governors to expand Medicaid in their states is a recent case in point.   Via Paul Krugman,

this is what the health economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform — and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states “are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.” Indeed.

It is high time that supposedly liberal columnists stopped giving Republicans  a fig leaf to hide their sheer callousness and ineptitude. 

You are trying my patience, again.

Head Bead

By two_kittehs

Kickstarter For Carolyn Walker’s Second Album

I would like to share my friend Carolyn Walker’s  Kickstarter project with you.   Carolyn Walker is a singer and songwriter based in Western Massachusetts. It will the fund the recording her second album, Incarnadine.  In her own words:

It seems like everyone is doing a crowd funding project now a days.  Kickstarter alone has reached the 1 billion mark for monies raised since its inception in 2009.  I self-funded my first album, Resolution, which was a big challenge.  Since then I have come to the conclusion that I will not be able to record another album unless I turn to crowd funding.

When I was in school I had the honor of playing in the UMass orchestra under a wonderful and inspiring conductor.  He had many motivational stories and funny anecdotes he’d share with the orchestra.  During one rehearsal he told us we should not be professional musicians; instead we should be doctors and lawyers.  With a laugh he added we would then have enough money to give to the arts.  After the orchestra members had a good chuckle, the conductor continued:  music is not a profession you do for money.  Music is what you do because it is your passion, because you cannot see your life being any other way.

Unfortunately you cannot make and record music without money: buying and maintaining instruments, studying for years to learn your craft, hiring recording engineers and other musicians, and manufacturing CDs are all just the tip of the iceberg.  And yet our world has such immediate and easy access to free music!  In light of this it has given me great heart to have seen how fellow songwriters have launched their own vibrant and successful projects and received incredible amounts of support.  Not just from doctors and lawyers, but from students, friends, family, strangers, graphic designers, yoga instructors, fellow musicians, retired folk, and all those who make up the greater community.  It reminds me that this isn’t about the passion of one musician, but a shared passion of all those who experience the music.  From the patron who faithfully buys tickets to all the shows, to the stranger who walks into a coffee shop for a quick pick me up and lingers a little longer to hear the lonely girl in a corner singing her heart out, all of these people make a difference.

Here is one of the songs from her last album,

I have the CD of Carolyn’s first album and I have also heard her play live.  She is as talented as she is beautiful.

If you like music that’s from the heart, you should check out her Kickstarter project.  If you want to know more about Carolyn you can also check out her website here.

Resistance Is Futile

Please Welcome Your New Kitteh Oberlord

Kitteh With Thumbs

By two_kittehs

Let There Be Light, Review, Cosmos Episode 5

At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz                       –Lolcat Bible



Note :1nm = 10-9m

It is as if Neil De Grasse Tyson read my last review, and decided to give us the physics behind the light show of last week.  He covered a lot of ground, this week.    This episode began its exploration of light with geometric optics and pinhole cameras and ended with speculation about dark matter.  This week’s  history lesson told us about  the contributions of the ancient Chinese experimentalist and philosopher, Mozi,   and the Arab philosopher-scientist Alhazen, of the ancient Indian mathematical concept of zero.  An excellent counterpoint to those who insist that Christianity  was  an essential  aspect of the scientific revolution.  Unfortunately  Mozi’s teachings did not survive the Chinese thought police.  Like the Inquisition era Catholic Church they too were afraid of the open exchange of ideas.  No one has a monopoly on either the smart or the stupid but the cultures that allow an open exchange of ideas flourish, while those who stifle them, don’t in the long run.

Continuing our exploration of light, Tyson revisited  Isaac Newton and  his discovery of the spectrum of visible light.  Newton figured out that sunlight or white light is a composite of  the seven primary colors, VIBGYOR (Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red).   Newton was not the main star of Sunday’s Cosmos, instead it was Joseph Fraunhofer, for his contributions to spectroscopy.  He was the first to observe the solar spectrum with a telescope and analyze it.   De Grasse Tyson then described the atomic structure of  hydrogen, and quantum mechanical explanation of its spectrum. He then generalized it to atoms of elements more complicated than hydrogen.  Thus looking at the spectrum of a heavenly body we can  figure out what it is made of.

In a brilliant graphic Tyson demonstrated how the New York skyline changed when we focused on the different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.   The different parts coinciding with different wavelengths. To explain the concept of a wavelength, Tyson compared light waves and sound waves.   Missing however was any mention of Thomas Young, who experimentally proved the existence of the wave nature of light.  Also, there was no mention of Newton’s corpuscular theory of light which had to be eventually discarded since it could not explain interference and diffraction.

What I love about physics in particular and science in general, that it does not matter whether you are Newton or Einstein, if what you say does not agree with experiment your theories have to go.  Put up or shut up.  Physics does not bow to the rules of the thought police.

Tyson still has to discuss the wave-particle duality. Though, he briefly touched on quantum mechanics while discussing the hydrogen atom he has yet to talk about the Uncertainty Principle.  I am sure that the quantum revolution of  the early part of the last century  will be the subject of a future episode.    The changes it  brought about,  in how we perceive both matter and light were radical.  As is always the case, that revolution too had its own thought police.

Previous reviews of Cosmos,  here and here.

Houston We Has A Purrblem

Major Tom

By two_kittehs

When I checked ICHC this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a  picture  I captioned had made it to the first page of both ICHC and ICHC/lolcats, over the weekend. My first in 2014, all in all a good start to the week.  More first page lols here and here.

Pundits React to the Cosmos Reboot

Greg Pollowitz at the National Review thinks Cosmos is boring;

I think we have a real dud of a show in the making.

I beg to differ, my reviews of Cosmos are here and here.

Daily Beast’s  David Sessions, argues that Bruno was a theologian not a scientist.

What Cosmos doesn’t mention is that Bruno’s conflict with the Catholic Church was theological, not scientific, even if it did involve his wild—and occasionally correct—guesses about the universe.

Sessions must have fallen  asleep while watching the episode, because I distinctly remember De Grasse Tyson mentioning that Bruno’s was not a scientist.

Andrew Sullivan at the Dish, finds the history lessons cartoonish.

The segment previewed above is on the 16th century priest and philosopher Giordano Bruno, which includes deGrasse Tyson intoning that the Roman Catholic Church sought to “investigate and torment anyone who voiced views that differed from theirs”. Really?

Yes, really. Has the great scholar of history not heard of Galileo? Besides, what does it matter if Bruno was not a scientist? I thought Andrew Sullivan was against torture. Or is torture okay if condoned by the Catholic Church?

Besides have Sessions and Sullivan not heard of Copernicus? He delayed the publication of his book until the year of his death.  The book, postulated a heliocentric solar system based on his observations of the planets.  Perhaps, because as a man of the cloth, Copernicus was aware of the blow back from the Church if he published his thesis.

What exactly is Bruno’s being a priest supposed to prove? In fifteenth and the sixteenth  centuries, not many besides priests and noble men had the time to dedicate their life to philosophical or scientific questions.  I don’t really get Sullivan’s and Sessions’ criticism.

Cosmos Episode 4: The Journey Across Space-Time Continues

Neil De Grasse Tyson and Cosmos continue its journey through space-time.  The reason this journey seems stranger than science fiction is because it  is beyond our direct sensory perceptions.  In the interior of stars, the effects of both quantum mechanics and relativity cannot be ignored.   We can safely ignore quantum mechanical effects in our day to day lives,  unless we are dealing with matter on the atomic atomic scale or smaller.  As for relativistic effects, they become important  only when we approach the speed of light.   If you are interested in exploring what quantum mechanical  and relativistic phenomena would look like if we could experience them via our senses you should read the Russian born physicist, George Gamow’s Mr. Tompkins series.

Coming back to Cosmos, this week’s protagonist was the British astronomer William Herschel, voiced by none other than Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart to  non-Trekkies).  Herschel is credited with discovering Uranus among other things. The  exploration of space-time  dealt with the consequences of applying Newton’s laws of motion and that of universal gravitation to the astronomical objects.  Tyson also tackled the concepts of action-at-a-distance through the presence of  a  force field.  We  learned about an astronomical unit of distance, a light year, and the mind bending consequences of nature’s speed limit, the speed of light.

We were also introduced to  Maxwell’s equations and the origin of electromagnetic waves of which the visible light is but a very small portion.  If human beings are the products of intelligent design then pray tell why our eyes are sensitive to only a tiny fraction of the  electromagnetic spectrum?

I wish the show had spent some more time on the idea of ether, the Michelson-Morley experiment which failed to detect its existence and proved that light unlike sound did not need a medium to propagate. De Grasse Tyson introduced the work of Albert Einstein and talked about both the General and the Special Theories of Relativity.  The show ended with a thought experiment exploring what might be inside  of a black hole. A collapsed star with a gravitational pull so great that even light cannot escape it.  I do wish though that Tyson would spend more time discussing  the physics behind the dazzling  light show.

Although, none of the physics De Grasse Tyson discusses is cutting edge, most of what he tackles would be covered in undergraduate physics, it is timely and necessary.  Especially if it helps bridge the gulf that separates lay people from practitioners. The depth of scientific ignorance, seen in debates over climate change and evolution,  even by media heavy weights is mind boggling, so the timing could not have been better.

Lasting economic success is built on technological progress which is not possible without basic science.  This fact  seems to be lost on  policy makers, who give preference to tax cuts for the 1% over funding for basic science.   Industry is not going to step in to fund basic research, or any product that can’t be marketed for an immediate return.   We need science for the sake of science, to satisfy our innate curiosity, a purpose higher than increasing quarterly earnings.

You will find the review of the earlier episodes of Cosmos, here.


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