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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

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


Welcome to "Everything in the Universe", my blog on Science, Nature, and the Public. I often explore their intertwinings. New posts should appear
roughly weekly, so if you want to check regularly for new items, every Monday or Tuesday you ought to find something.

I don't try to be literary, but I do think before I write, and write only when I have something to say. When news spurs a reaction, mine aren't the
fastest knee-jerk comments, they're more often a considered reflection.

Some entries are full-blown essays, others are ideas that can be presented briefly. I don't yak and I don't blather. When I don't have anything to
say, I don't say it. If my message needs 2 paragraphs, you don’t have to slog through 10 paragraphs to get to it. I try to get things right.

Please also enjoy my previously-published articles posted here.

Comments and suggestions are welcome: eMail me at normsperling [at] gmail.com. I read them all, but don't always post them. To prevent descent into
harsh put-downs, political stabbings, rancor, advertising, and irrelevancy, I squelch those.

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

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

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard

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.

Yesterday's Dumps, Tomorrow's Mines: Minerals and MinURLs

© Norm Sperling, November 1, 2010

The world's market for rare-Earth metals is now dominated - 97%! - by China. China says it will continue selling them, but neighboring Japan now suddenly seeks to buy from Viet Nam instead. A lot of high-tech consumers worry about how much they will be able to obtain, and for how long.

2 major sources have not been properly surveyed and exploited.

Many of those rare-Earth elements go into high-tech devices. Those devices wear out or become outmoded, are discarded, and go into dumps. We build up enormous dumps, filling valleys and building "Mount Trashmore"s.

When rare-Earth resources run out, or become scarce for ecological or political reasons, it should be more practical to mine old dumps and extract the needed elements from today's discards. Over centuries, I suspect that today's polluted dumps will be reclaimed, re-exploited, and re-consumed as resources.

At identifiable strata and pits in dumps, one can find the discards from datable years. And we know when certain chemicals were used. To facilitate reclamation, dumps should be mapped as accurately as practical in 4 dimensions. Zones should be labeled by dumping dates, and any other distinguishing characteristics, too. Time-lapse photos taken from standard vantage points should help the mapping. Seekers of a rare-Earth element can excavate the zones buried a few years after it was used, without having to slog expensively through unlikely zones.

To what degree is it practical to map older dumps? Many capped landfills are turned into parks after their initial organic outgassing subsides. How closely do their records of filling match new drill-core logs? How do those compare to ground-penetrating-radar scans?

Another waste source is ignored even more: mine tailings. Where nature concentrated a valuable mineral, well enough for miners to extract it, the discards simply got dumped. These mine tailings are often eyesores and sometimes accused of fouling their environment. It's time to take modern, high-quality chemical analyses of tailings from each mine. Surely something valuable will show up somewhere. Mineralogists and geochemists will discover new correlations.

Re-mining tailings has many advantages: they're already concentrated, they're already pulverized and therefore easy to process, and the (re-)remaindered tailings should be (re-)discarded in a much safer manner, which the newly-extracted fraction should pay for. Perhaps robots can stuff tailings that contain nothing likely to become valuable back into the depleted mines they came from, reducing the hazard of collapse.

Mapping dumps, and screening mine tailings, will produce new mineral resource locators - minURLs!

ET Isn't Phoning Us

© Norm Sperling, October 25, 2010

One of humanity's longest longings is to find life elsewhere in the Universe. The search has been somewhat respectable scientifically for more than 3 centuries. Does any other scientific topic have a longer track record for not finding what it seeks?

The oldest book I own is a 1695 discussion on the possibilities for life elsewhere: Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757). It surveyed what was known about life, and what was known about conditions elsewhere, and noted where the 2 surveys found common ground.

Books on the same topic from the 1800s and 1900s take much the same reasonable approach, though they differ markedly as scientific understanding of life, and alien habitats, improved.

The Science changed about 1960, when radio astronomers began searching for ET's signals.

Multiplying Fall Colors

© Norm Sperling, October 16, 2010

Fall colors are dappling most of the country. In parts of the Appalachians, Rockies, and Sierra, Fall colors are so impressive they're tourist destinations. A few colors can even be seen here in the perpetual-Spring climate around San Francisco.

Most areas can make a lot more of it than they do. Here's a cheap, easy way to turn Fall colors into a big attraction.

This is NOT what I taught them!

© Norman Sperling, December 24, 2015

My eyes are starting to uncross after grading 60 essay exams. Most responses were great. But a few messed up my head even worse than my eyes.

* Astronomers always dread a night sky will disrupt their view of the night sky.
* The sun’s declination is higher during the summer and lower during the winter ... which causes the sun to be in a different position that is off by a few days.
* Erosion, atmosphere and tectnonic motions give rise to impact craters.
* A meteorite hit the earth and caused the extinction of the solar system.
* The middle stuff which is the lighest or heaviest forms layers in the middle.
* Neutron stars are not very massive relative to their mass.
* I saw the Andromeda Galaxy and quite logically, a surplus amount of dark matter.
* Ellipticals stay in a spherical looking plane.
* Earth has a core ... Then there is the mandible.
* [Telescopes] must be over 1 mil degree to view in X-ray.
* The late-early bombardment
* Main sequence stars tend to stay towards the center of the galaxie simply because they spend the least time drifting.
* Everything inside the Solar System is blue shifted.
* Reflection nebula reflect the star’s light through from the other side.
* The area between the planet and star is always equal as the planet moves.
* Gravity is directly proportion to masses and inversely proportional to the square of the rate they travel.
* Living species such as planets and animals
* Saturn is located behind the Kieper belt that has the finest rings seen because it consit of asteriod and ice crystals of the past.
* Galeleo using reflectors in his telescoped helped see father objects, however they distored color so you could see the color of anything.
* Galeleo was a pioneer above most in his era, but his bigest acomplishment was finding Jupiter, which help save Voyager 2. The incident was that Jupiter has been discovered yet, but the scientist of Voyager 2 studied Galelio’s notes which Voyager found and kept going to where they found Saturn as well.

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

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