I'm back! In more ways than one

Regular readers have noticed that I've been away from blogging at this site for a while. This happens periodically when my creative muses flit off in directions away from writing. I also needed to take a deep breath after an extremely busy semester. Hooray for Summer! Another reason is that I've been doing quite a bit of blogging over at Women In Astronomy

But never fear, I have returned! For now.

Not only am I going to start posting again (for now), I have also decided to take my own advice and created a new website. It's embarrassing that I've been at Harvard for almost a year, and yet my group's only web presence is at my old Caltech site. D'oh!

So I present to you, dear readers, The Johnson ExoLab @Harvard! Since Apple discontinued iWeb, I decided to try out an online WYSIWYG editor called Wix. I have to admit, I didn't search and test drive many options. But after signing up for a premium account, I really like the Wix editor interface, and $12.99/mo isn't bad for all the features you get with a premium account. Comments Johanna said… I love your introduction, "Of all the wonderful diversity we experience day to day, there is one thing we all have in common: planet Earth." I hope more astronomy (and all STEM) labs adopt a philosophy similar to the one you advocate through ExoLab. Popular posts from this blog On the Height of J.J. Barea Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto). Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship. Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes. So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all. I started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from NBA.com, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw: I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe… The Force is strong with this one... Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1." I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35." Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1) So$6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48\$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…