Something is Going Well Around Here!

The 1,000 “like” road marker disappearing in the rear view mirror…

The WP auto-post function just told me that I have accumulated 1,000 “likes,” which are all because the imaginary “you” have been appreciating what I’ve been pouring forth since June 22nd. It hasn’t been four months yet and I have so many “likes!” Who knew?!?

I’ve logged 87 posts (one was a repeat, so doesn’t really count and one was a reblog in respect for a new WordPress-induced friend) in 111 days, meaning that I’ve hit about 78% of the days between start and present. Not bad. Could be better. Let’s see if I can pick up the slack.

Thank you, everyone!


I Was Nominated (and Accept)

Confabler nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award!

My distant, yet close friend Confabler has nominated me for the Shiny Shiny Sunshine Award. I love her imagination and sense of whimsy; she lets her muse du jour lead and she follows. There’s a wonderful freedom to that which is (1) difficult to allow in the rational process of “writing” and (2) enjoyable to find.

1. If you were to choose an insect that would take over the world after human extinction, who would that be?

It sort of depends on our route to extinction. If it involved an epidemic, the population of flies might see a giant uptick. This would be a good one:

Gauromydas heros

If it is a slow process, then I nominate the Japanese Rhinoceros beetle because it would be awesome if creatures  with such improbably fashioned protuberances were to be the alpha species (Megasoma and Titan beetles would be acceptable alternatives):

Allomyrina dichotoma

 If our extinction took all other terrestrial life along for the ride, I would like to see this enormous isopod (a relative of our terrestrial roly-polies) rule the seas (note inclusion of actual human hands for sense of scale):

The underside of a male Bathynomus giganteus, a species of giant isopod captured in the Gulf of Mexico in October 2002.

2. How old were you when you first read Harry Potter? And your favorite author of course?

I was pretty old when I read my only Harry Potter book (the first one). I didn’t enjoy it enough to complete the series, although I’ve seen all the films and enjoyed them well enough. In the period I read that first one, I was typically reading a lot of history and didn’t find that it was a good use of my time. When I was really young, I read the Classics Illustrated versions of novels, which were quite good at introducing a curious young mind to the wonders of literature without having to do the work (sort of illustrated CliffsNotes (I didn’t use these in school though), if you will). When I was a little older, I read Robert E. Howard, Sax Rohmer, John Carter of Mars, H. Rider Haggard, Stanley Weinbaum, George McDonald fantasies, etc.

My favorite author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez for One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. His writing is so rich, amusing, full of simple wisdom and abundant humanity it is hard to believe he was just a human being writing about the lives he saw playing out around him. I literally would read some passages and have to put the book down as if I had just sipped the richest chocolate elixir in the world and needed to savor it until I sipped again. His Spanish-to-English translators did a good job in getting it right; Gregory Rabassa (OHYoS translator) was even praised by Garcia Marques himself!

3. If you were invisible what is the craziest thing that you would do?

Here’s an odd one: Go and hang around bigots, transcribe their conversations, and publish them for the world to see how terrible people speak when they think no one is listening (but, oh yeah, we have the internet so this already happens). If I could walk through things, which seems fair since I’m invisible, I would go around seeing what it felt like to do that—see if there were different textures to different things on the inside than on their surface.

4.what food makes you feel like a hungry hyena?

This has changed so much over time! These days, I don’t get this kind of urge anymore. In my early adult (late teen?) years… ICE CREAM!!!!

5. A song that makes you dream?

Gymnopedie #1 by Erik Satie

6. Have you ever planted a tree?

Yes. Unasked but answered: quite a few!

7. Choose your man: superman/ Spiderman/ iron man and if he was your best friend one thing that you would make him do?

Can I choose Supergirl? If I can, I would have her take me around to various places in the world, build shelters so I could stay there and visit free, then whisk me off to the next place on “our” list (she would be enjoying the sight-seeing with me, of course! What kind of boor do you think I am?!?!).

8.How much time do you spend in front of the mirror everyday?

As little as possible, which involves shaving and brushing my teeth. I find that shaving my teeth first helps with the brushing.

9.why you started blogging and tell us about the post enjoyed the most making.

I was having a bunch of conversations with people who did not seem to understand the wonderful humility of learning and doing science and wanted to see how well I could write about how science is a discipline that can assist us all in not leaning out too far over our skis (getting ahead of ourselves and pretending we know stuff we don’t). Blogging has become so much more than that since my first post on June 22, 2016, and I have had so much fun writing fiction and revisiting some poetry I wrote several decades ago (and finding them easier to “fix” than I remembered).

I’m not sure which of my posts I enjoyed the most. They’re all my children so I like them all? I probably like the odd bits of fiction that I had no idea were inside me when I woke up and then found them on the page looking up at me. I like The Big Day of these. Of the science posts, I like The Mess: Parts 1 & 2 and the Appendix 1 items best (maybe). Of the historical pieces, I like Risk Management. Of the life pieces, I like Building Blocks the best. Anyone who reads this is encouraged to make up their own mind; I am hopelessly biased.

10. Which social media platform are you addicted to (including WordPress)?

I don’t do much social media except WordPress. I don’t like Facebook at all and deleted my account. WordPress is addicting but in a very healthy way! You get to create something and share it with new friends from all over the world. That’s a great addiction have.

Now the rules:

1.thank the person that nominated you.

Thank you, Confabler. You are a true virtual friend, and I don’t mean that in any Pokemon way either!

2. Answer the questions from your nominator.


3. Nominate fellow bloggers you follow.

Hereinafter lie the following nominees in no particular order (order, of course, being an illusion):

Confabler – it would be completely wrong not to boomerang this thing back at her; how could I like what she writes and like that she nominated me but ignore why we share interests at all?

November_child –  in her poetry, every word is judiciously considered for its various meanings and the images they stir and she makes great short stories that are deep and playful and serious all at the same time

anonymouslyautistic – for doing an AMAZING job of writing about this misunderstood spectrum of living – and for inviting others who share her interest to contribute

English Lit Geek – because she searches the web and her library for poems that communicate her inner soul to us all out here in the ‘sphere and I appreciate this!

Wiser Daily – because this guy writes REALLY well about every single subject he wraps his mind around, because he is not a scientist but writes extremely clearly about science, because he is just a damned good writer!

Breathmath – because they are doing an astonishingly serious job of trying to get the world to see the beauty in mathematics

Sheryl – because she’s written a book, is working on others, has great tips for doing the same, and kindly visits my offerings fairly often

The Nexus – because he writes REALLY well about physics and does a great job of doing what I set out to do, whether I’m doing it on any given day or not

The Biology Yak – because she is passionate about biology and shares her passion in every word on every topic she chooses

afternoonifiedlady – even though I have no idea what it is to be an afternoonifiedlady, I love her rants about living with and without her ex and trying to wrestle with notions of romance – she is very witty and amusingly pissed off!

Yaskhan – for her lovely, succinct way with words

urbanagscientist – because she is at least as worried about the misunderstanding of science as I am

Luke Atkins – because he writes really well about difficult subjects and he writes like the stuff matters a lot, which it absolutely does!

And there are more in my list of 119 writers that I am following but this is enough for now.

4. Give them 10 questions to answer.

If you wish (and I clearly cannot impose this on any of you, please respond to confabler’s funny questions. I enjoyed them, maybe you will too!

Kind regards, MSOC

It was Generous of confabler to choose me. Now I have to Jump off and do other stuff!


We are all (I assume) very comfortable with the tangible, observable facts that surround us. I am sitting in a chair at a desk in front of a computer I assembled a couple of Augusts ago from parts recommended on the www. My desk is cluttered with papers, CDs (some music, some software), a few groupings of office supplies, and some random stuff that I haven’t gathered the courage to toss yet.

We are all (I assume) very comfortable with the tangible, observable facts that surround us. I am sitting in a chair at a desk in front of a computer I assembled a couple of Augusts ago from parts recommended on the www. My desk is cluttered with papers, CDs (some music, some software), a few groupings of office supplies, and some random stuff that I haven’t gathered the courage to toss yet. Oh, and a work glove – I really have no idea what it’s doing here. Beyond the desk, there are a few tables, one for a scanner, one for a printer, one for a reading light next to my recliner (I should call this the Sleepinator™, or perhaps the Napinator™, as I only nap (or “have a kip,” thus the British trademark for the Kipinator™ is born) in it). My cat (her name is Emma) is sleeping on the window seat (a little earlier, she was sleeping in my left armpit as I read in the Napinator™).

A brief paws for a picture of my kitty (it’s a little blurry, but captures her majestic qualities quite well I think; as she spends a lot of time sleeping, this is an “action” shot).


The floor has a nondescript light brown carpet but is covered by a Persian rug. Various electronics lie about with a nice efflorescence of cabling (I prefer LAN lines to WiFi), and too many books in boxes (although tidy boxes, I might add). Beyond the walls and windows, all objects as well, lies the planet at large, with a scattering of trees interspersed liberally with asphalt and concrete, grass and weeds, shrubs and (less obviously) the invisible beds of fungi waiting to fruit a body and exhale a cloud of spores so that more invisible beds of fungi will grow (and let’s not forget their friends, the adventitious bacteria, etc.). There are squirrels and a variety of birds with wonderful voices, a few neighborhood cats and when accompanied by their obedient masters a variety of dogs, usually of the small and yappy kind (see majestic cat above). An unnecessary miscellany of automobiles, some small and energy-efficient (relatively speaking), some comically large, supported on wheels that would do a gargantuan earth mover proud, move around out there, rushing on errands that may or may not be as important as indicated by their speed. And then there is lots of earth and rocks and sky and, eventually, ocean and, down further, mantle and magma and other molten earth essentials, simmering away at 3,000 to 3,500°C (5,432°F to 6,332°F for non-scientists and Americans) and at a pressure of 1,250,000 (1.25 million) times the pressure up here in my writing room.

Inner Structure of Earth

Above our sky lie other stars, other planets and moons and asteroids and comets and meteors with all of the associated atmospheric heterogeneity imaginable (methane or sulfuric acid or nitrogen or hydrogen sulfide of frozen water or… well, just about anything) and maybe other life forms, other squirrels and cats and dogs and grass and weeds and shrubs and trees and intelligent bipeds (I mean, whom among us really knows at this point in our young, relatively unevolved lives; there are, apparently, in excess of 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) galaxies known to date (with the limits of our present instrumentation) and each of those galaxies is estimated to have 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) stars, each with who knows how many planets and moons and asteroid belts and all the rest). There is a ton (by which I mean way more than a ton) of “stuff” around us, very near and extremely far away and we have some idea of what constitutes it all – molecules (small and large), elements, atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, subatomic particles, weak and strong attractive forces, electromagnetic particles and waves (energy), gravity, all the subatomic particles you can blast out of nuclear hiding places in the various kinds of accelerators we have designed and built.

But all of it, if gathered into a giant ball in giant and ethereal hands like a ball of dirt, composes about 4% of the substance of the known universe. The rest of the universe is composed of “stuff” called dark matter (26% of the universe) and dark energy (70% of the universe). As what I have just said may be new to your way of thinking (and/or you may have just stopped reading as I may be entirely nuts), this is an excellent time and place to watch the following video by Dr. Patricia Burchat of Stanford University.

Note how completely energized she is by these ideas (I really love to see passionate people talk about their work). Now, when Dr. Burchat and others in her field speak or write about “dark” matter, they are using words in a very imprecise way. They are finding words that are place-markers for the mathematics that they have worked through, math that is perched on the shoulders of other math worked through by other physicists and mathermaticians, reaching back to the Greeks. But you need to be a deeply committed practitioner of those disciplines to understand what really underlies the metaphorical “dark matter” and “dark energy.” I am attempting – as Dr. Burchat does – to expand on these insufficient metaphors.”Dark” matter isn’t dark in color – it’s not black (a color that appears to our eyes and minds when an object has absorbed ALL wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum), it is not dark in a spiritual or theological sense, it is not dark in the way that

“Dark” matter isn’t dark in color – it’s not black (a color that appears to our eyes and minds when an object has absorbed ALL wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum, which is in turn a very tiny sliver of the overall electromagnetic spectrum), it is not dark in a spiritual or theological sense, it is not dark in the way that Scandinavian “black” metal is dark (that compels me to reach for the “stop” button).

Dark matter is only apparent because of its influence in the fabric of the universe, its effect on gravitational forces that, by way of Einstein (and Riemann) permeate that blackness up in the sky at night and hold the shiny bits (including our apparently sky-blue bit) in place. The observation of dark matter is seen in the behavior of galaxies; stars at the edge of galaxies, if only under the influence of gravity, should move more slowly than stars closer to the center. They don’t; the speed of stars rotating around the center of a galaxy move at the same constant rate as the stars towards the middle of the galaxy, so there must be matter that is interacting throughout the galaxy that forces the exterior stars to move at that rate. An oversimplified analogy might be that we do not see air, but we see the effects of wind (but air and winds are composed of atoms of gasses and have mass and energy that we understand very well, so this is a poor, earthbound analogy indeed). The effect of dark matter is seen not only in the circulation of outer stars (and their planets, etc.) around the center of the galaxy but in how galaxies cluster together and how the light from individual galaxies smears due to gravitational lensing. This unseeable matter has enormous effects in our universe, but we are still struggling to find a method of “seeing” (this is a poor word to use here) it. For some stunning computer simulations of how the universe might have evolved in the presence of dark matter and dark energy, watch the “full-size” version of the film at this website (bottom of page).

Now, if all 96% of the remaining “stuff” in the universe was dark matter, solar systems and galaxies and clusters of galaxies would tend to cluster and the universe would not seem to be expanding outwards. Instead, we (well, astrophysicists and their ilk) observe a universe that is expanding. Space itself is spreading apart. The hypothesis is that this occurs due to dark energy, the predominant “ingredient” in the universe, one so powerful (in spite of its unseeable nature) that galaxy clusters and the universe that contains them in a web of gravitational force are expanding away from each other, the opposite of what we would expect to see from the more neighborly, clustery behavior of galaxies and their contents.

This is weird suprahuman stuff, stuff beyond touch and beyond our usual intuition, unless one bathes the brain in a nutrient-rich broth of advanced mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and similar elixirs. The concepts of dark matter and dark energy are elusive to those of us who crawl the earth looking for groceries and the next mortgage payment, but I am extremely (EXTREMELY!) pleased that some of us are paying attention to how this whole amazing thing fits together.

To close, while I was writing this thing I thought about a great Brian Eno song called “Help Me Somebody” from his amazing collaboration with David Byrne “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” The song centers on samples of Reverend Paul Morton letting his congregation know what time it is but is fattened up by funk of the most satisfying kind, delivered by Eno, Byrne, John Cooksey (drums) and Steve Scales (congas, other percussion); I dare anyone to stay still while listening to this track.

The “lyric” (i.e. Rev. Morton’s sermon) includes the following, which I will paraphrase:

“It’s so high you can’t get over
It’s so low you can’t get under
It’s so wide you can’t get around”

I obviously dilute Reverend Morton’s intent here, but the song and lyric popped into my mind and seemed to be telling me that this is the nature of the universe – so high, so low, so wide. That’s the 96%. We live in the 4%.

As in all of these weighty posts, I encourage whatever readers I have to explore the additional materials. Some of them might make your brains hurt or itch or explode or collapse in on themselves. All of those are good! Do more of the things that make these things happen! There is great happiness available to those that feed their minds!