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Contact:

I'm LinkedIn and Google-Plussed.

Mail and packages, use maildrop:
Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Blogs

Safety With Style

© Norman Sperling, February 20, 2014

We all appreciate the safety advantage of highly-reflective dayglo-type vests and such. They really do make their wearers more visible, and more noticeable to people not specifically seeking them. I’m confident that that clothing helps safety.

Many people who aren’t required to wear them use them anyway, such as my fellow bicyclists. We want maximum visibility to drivers who aren’t always mindful of bike riders.

But that clothing shouldn’t be so industrially-ugly! The current offerings mostly use straight lines that could just as easily outline the girders of a building. They look as if their specifications were written by a mechanic.

Hand the same materials to clothing designers and see what they come up with. It has to be catchy for safety, so about the same amount of dayglo-type fabric should be exposed. But areas might get enhanced with thin dark borders. And the shapes could take on many stylish flights of fancy and art - look at what they do with spandex for bikers.

I don’t see why safety vests can’t be made good-looking as well as functional. That would lure more people to use them more often, improving safety. And it should help workers who are obligated to use them do so less grudgingly.

What's the best way to meet?

January 30, 2014
Dear Friends,

I’m passing through a number of cities and want to meet people like local JIR subscribers and astronomers. Someone suggested simply circulating an announcement that I’ll be in a certain place at a certain time, like a student union lobby or coffee house. This seems way easier and cheaper than renting a meeting room. What sort of times and places do you think would, and would not work?
weekday midmorning
weekday midafternoon
weekday evening
weekend midmorning
weekend midafternoon
weekend evening

The next several are probably Las Cruces, NM, and the Texas cities of El Paso, Fort Worth, and Dallas. In late February, Florida, then a bit northward from there.

Thank you for your thoughts!

Best wishes,
Norm
normsperling [at] gmail.com

Uncertainty Done Right

(c) Norman Sperling, January 21, 2014

We astronomers KNEW we didn't know what Comet ISON was going to do. We knew its brightness was extremely unpredictable. We knew that fizzling was one major possibility.

This time, as if in a unified front, practically all astronomers told practically all media the same thing. They told it so emphatically and so uniformly that the media had no choice but to tell that to the public, though the media strongly prefer concrete certainties. The public was well served.

So this time there's no backlash against Science, no criticism, praise for the correctness, and praise for the videos and graphics.

What a stunning contrast to the Kohoutek debacle of 1973. Initial computations - wildly optimistic - predicted brilliance, which the media trumpeted. So telescope companies ramped up production, especially because maximum brightness coincided with the holiday season. The media largely ignored later cautions, and the comet's dimness left Science seeming "wrong", and companies with expensive warehouses full of every scope they expected to sell for the next *year*.

Long Lines and Gotchas

©Norman Sperling, August 4, 2013

Several times I’ve waited in long slow lines at some government facility, only to learn at the front that they consider the area to be a security zone so I have to lose my little pocket knife. And there’s no locker just outside to stow it in. And my turn for the thing I want will take another x hours. And I can’t leave the area without forfeiting my place and having to start over.

What really annoys me is the blatant lack of communication. Electronic signs could be posted along the line, clear to the far end, telling the terms and the waiting times. The same information could be posted online for the hordes who now use smartphones. A whole lot of people would be able to handle the situation a whole lot better.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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