Author Archives: Stephen

The LOLTrek guy. Science lecturer, robotics researcher, award-winning interactive fiction author, Disasterpiece Theatre and WhatTheCast podcaster, and occasional programmer.

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Cars in Science

In my ongoing question to provide scientific input into everything regardless of its applicability, I’m now helping put the science in cars! I’m working with Jason Torchinsky, a contributor to the car site Jalopnik, on articles that combine physics and cars. First up is Jason’s discussion of how to build a lunar rover for as […]

Liza Loves Animals On the Internet

Misty has been haunting Pinterest ever since she discovered that it would serve her a never-ending stream of Doctor Who-related content. A while back she thought, what if I showed our animal-obsessed daughter the Pinterest board that has nothing but animals on it?

The answer: Liza becomes so enamored of Pinterest that her gasps of excitement […]

Have a Powerful Day!

Yesterday I tweeted a link to Rhett Allain’s fun article comparing name-brand batteries to dollar-store batteries. Rhett covers numerically approximating integrals, energy, energy density, and cost per joule of energy. As a bonus, his commenters taught me about eneloop batteries. My take-away from his article: if you’re going to use disposable batteries and you’re buying […]

Three New Space Quest Fan Games

Growing up, I loved the Sierra On-Line video games. They were the first adventure games I played that had graphics. Oh, the graphics they had! Sixteen colors! (Assuming you had an IBM PCjr or a Tandy 1000, like me.) And the music! Blippy bloopy music! Plus instant-death and read-the-designer’s-mind puzzles!

Look, it was the ’80s. We […]

This SOPA/PIPA Protest Thing is Way Overrated

If you paid attention to the internet at all yesterday, you probably saw people complaining about the proposed US bills SOPA and PIPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act are designed to help content creators fight piracy.

Oh, sure, there’s been a lot of whining from the usual suspects about how […]

Three Very Small Exoplanets

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which is looking for planets outside our solar system, has found three of the smallest exoplanets yet. They’re all smaller than Earth — their radii are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times that of Earth’s — and the smallest is about the size of Mars.

They’re very close to their star, too close to […]

Two Articles About Publishers

One, SF author Charlie Stross discusses publishers’ insistence on locking ebooks with DRM.

The corporate drive for DRM is motivated by the fear of ebook piracy. But aside from piracy, the biggest ebook-related threat to the Big Six is called Amazon.com. Until 2008, ebooks were a tiny market segment, under 1% and easily overlooked; but in […]

Ready Player One Reinforces Some Bad Geek Outlooks

(This is a critical essay about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and as such contains a lot of spoilers about the book.)

In 2044, cheap energy has ended and climate change and wars wrack the world. Most people escape reality by spending their time in OASIS, a virtual reality created by a programmer named James […]

Science Experiments for Unimpressed Kids: Surface Tension

A while back, Eli and Liza excitedly talked about water striders. “They walk on water, dad!”

As a scientist, I never miss a teachable opportunity. “You know why water striders can walk on water?” I asked them. “It’s because of surface tension. I’ll show you!”

How to Demonstrate Surface Tension

This easy and fun experiment will be sure […]

Flash Mob Fandom

For a few months now I’ve been doing the Disasterpiece Theatre podcast with Alex, where we come up with terrible ideas for Hollywood movies. We’ve had some guests on the podcast, like Colin Ferguson, but none quite like Misha Collins. He’s one of the stars of the TV show Supernatural and has a reputation for […]