Famous Physics Cat, Second Only to Schrodinger’s #physics #science #cats #research #quote

siamese cat

This isn’t FDC Willard, but let’s pretend it is, with some of his many academic awards

“Science must be understood as a gutsy human enterprise.” Stephen Jay Gould

Yes, scientists are human. They even have a sense of humor – consider the career of F.D.C. Willard. He’s known for being listed as an author for several serious research papers, and he’s a cat.

It seems Jack H. Hetherington, a Michigan State University physics professor, wrote a soon-to-be-influential paper on the low-temperature physics of helium-3 isotopes. He was the sole author, but in the formal tone of research, he had

written the entire paper using the “we” pronoun. This was against the journal’s style rules. Hetherington’s paper would surely be rejected if it wasn’t retyped. livescience

visit Kate Rauner's blog - science and scifiLike any of us, he hated the idea of retyping his paper, so he solved his problem with a touch of whimsy. He added a co-author, his cat Felis Domesticus Chester, or F.D.C. He gave F.D.C. a family name following the usual practice of Americans, adding the cat’s father’s name of Willard. Now there were two authors and no need to change the paper.

Hetherington’s solution wasn’t a secret. His colleagues were fine with it and even enjoyed the joke. F.D.C. Willard became famous in the small world of helium-3 physics.

visit Kate Rauner's blog - science and scifiSeveral years later, a French paper on helium-3 appeared under a single author’s name: F.D.C. Willard. Apparently, the actual research team could not agree on a version of the paper that satisfied them all, so they decided to credit America’s best-published cat instead. livescience

F.D. C. Willard appeared henceforth repeatedly in footnotes, where he was thanked for “useful contributions to the discussion” or oral communications, and was even offered a professorship by a Professor and Imminently Erstwhile Chairman:

In response to your valued letter of 25 November: let me admit at once that if you had not written I should never have had the temerity to think of approaching so distinguished a physicist as F. D. C. Willard, F.R.S.C., with a view to interesting him in joining a university department like ours, which after all, was not even rated among the best 30 in the 1969 Roose-Anderson study… Can you imagine the universal jubilation if in fact Willard could be persuaded to join us, even if only as a Visiting Distinguished Professor? wikipedia

On April 1, 2014 (note the date) the American Physical Society announced that cat-authored papers, including the Hetherington/Willard paper, would henceforth be open-access, rather than behind a pay-wall.

This post is mostly quotations, because I can’t improve on reality.

If you plan a career in research, be sure to take your sense of humor with you.


Mystery of Dark Matter May Be Explained by Showing It’s Not There #poem #poetry #Physics #gravity


There is evidence for dark matter. Weak gravitational lensing data from the Hubble Space Telescope imply this distribution of dark matter.

You and I are special
Along with all we view,
Just one in five of all that is
From this stellar clue.

The galaxy of the Milky Way,
Rotating fast, should scatter.
Based on the mass of stars we see
There must be hidden matter.

For decades we’ve accepted
This mystery profound.
It’s central to the notions
That cosmologists expound.

But data’s always coming in
As telescopes get better,
Till movements of the stars
Are described by normal matter.

Perhaps it’s relativity
That we don’t comprehend.
The shape of space and gravity
Were never quantum’s friend.

So what’s the answer when
Disagreement is so keen?
Why, get more data till we know.
God’s subtle but not mean.

by Kate Rauner

Christian Moni-Bidin, an astronomer at the University of Concepción in Chile, and his coauthors have a forthcoming paper in the Astrophysical Journal. Based on the hundreds of stars, all within 13,000 light-years of Earth, visible material explains their motion. Unseen dark matter isn’t needed, at least not this close to Earth.

The next step is to replicate the calculations for millions of stars. If dark matter really doesn’t exists, then gravity is messier than either Newton or Einstein realized.

Thanks to Albert Einstein for the quote in that last line, and to livescience.com for their article.

Live Like a Normal Person Until UFO Memories Absolutely Shatter Your Security #scifi #fantasy #books

feedbackFeedback contains three stories:

  • one set in the Koreas (an unusual choice for science fiction and well done) where a South Korean rescue helicopter goes down behind enemy lines while on a search for survivors of a UFO crash
  • one in New York City where Jason is drawn to an oddly lost young woman, and
  • an epilogue off-world.

They all tie together by the end.

Jason is a physics student and I enjoyed his professor being more interested in the equations he “doodled” on the backs of his homework pages than in the assignment. His best friend talks in vulgar banter all the time, which you may find funny or irritating. Once Jason invites the odd young woman into his apartment to dry off from the rain (it rains a lot in this book), things get rapidly odder.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say physics explains all the bewildering events and apparent inconsistencies that Jason experiences. You’ll recognize the premise involved even if you don’t read much science fiction, but there are satisfying twists at the end.

Peter Cawdron’s book is wildly popular – in the top 3% of its best Amazon kindle category. If any of my books did that well, I’d be doing a very big happy dance. Those reviewers who disliked the book generally said the ending confusing or left events poorly explained. Even some of the reviews Amazon calls “critical” as opposed to “positive” said the book was enjoyable, including some from readers who are not usual science fiction fans.

In addition to some action-oriented violence, possible triggers include a few f-bombs, the best friend’s randy chatter, and torture.

A note on torture:
As most Americans, I was horrified at the Abu Ghraib scandal where members of our military tortured Iraqi prisoners. While individuals must be accountable for their actions, I couldn’t help but feel our nation had let our soldiers down. The military is supposed to protect them, but these men and women were allowed to practice evil in a way that must scar them as well as their victims. Was it poor training? Lack of oversight? Deficient understanding by those in charge?

Or is it a larger cultural issue?

Since Abu Ghraib I’ve become sensitive to torture scenes in TV, movies, and books. I never realized before how pervasive torture is in our entertainment. Even old favorites from my youth, like Star Trek TOS, include torture – though mostly performed by “bad guys” in older shows. Today, even the “good guys” torture, commit violence, or threaten torture to succeed. Now I’ve even got a president who thinks torture is okay.

Are we creating a culture where torture is acceptable? It’s enough to make me wish for the good old fashioned Superman.


Start with Book 1 today

Help me reach for the Amazon ranking of my dreams! Okay – so that’s self-centered. But I’m collecting some good reviews on my science fiction books so you may enjoy one – including my On Mars series – available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and favorite online retailer. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

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Universe’s Missing Piece #physics #science #poetry #boson #poem

Simulated Data model from the Large Hadron Collider

Simulated Data model from the Large Hadron Collider

In all of creation,
In all the gains and losses,
There only are four

That’s the Standard Model
Which for years has served so well
Predicting interactions
On the cosmic

Yet something has been missing,
Something that evades,
Dark matter and dark energy
Beyond the model

Oddly interacting
Are dark light’s weak protons
That could be an anomaly
Or protophobic

The ideas are exciting,
But confirmation’s key
Before our minds can grasp
What makes up

by Kate Rauner

Thanks to csmonitor.com/Science and a new study published in Physical Review Letters that might indicate a fifth fundamental force exists.

R&R 3 coversAll my books, including collections of my poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. Read one today.

Poetry of Science #poetry #geek #poems #nature #read #amwriting #amreading

Poems inspired by science https://books2read.com/u/bOrE99Hurray.

After working through several versions with problems like, the page numbers are missing, Rhyme and Reason Three is available now in a digital edition at Amazon and other major on-line book-sellers. The paperback edition is on Amazon and Create Space.

No matter how many notes I take, I learn something new with each book I publish – darn it. So I’ve also updated the formatting for Rhyme and Reason and Rhyme and Reason Two.

Now’s the time to collect all three.

My poetry is inspired by the real, objective world we all share and by Richard Feynman – one of the most important physicists of the 20th Century and certainly the most interesting. He wrote that

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part… It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?”

Spheres of methane and ammonia make me rhyme, and so does earthbound science. Rhyme and Reason Three includes the popular Desert Watermelon. Here’s an excerpt:

Ruby slabs of watermelon
Decorate my table,
While in the wild deserts
Its ancestral stock is stable.

Civilization could collapse,
There could be Armageddon.
But in five thousand years,
Survivors could
-Again –
Have watermelon.

Be the first poetry lover, science lover, or geek to own R&R3.

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Center of the Universe #space #physics #cosmology #science #ego #poem #poetry

You’ve heard that space is expanding,yertle the turtle
You’ve heard that science is sure
That galaxies fly from galaxies
For as long as time will endure.

But if space-time is expanding,
Just what’s it expanding into?
What’s beyond the edge of
The universe that we view?

Just more and more that we’ll never see,
Each frame of reference is valid.
Each star at the center of everything
Regardless of how much is added.
So I might be forgiven for saying
That I stand in a special place,
That I am the center of everything,

Of energy, matter, and space.

By Kate Rauner

R&R 1 2nd edition ebook coverThanks to space.com for the question, and for giving me an excuse to believe I’m more important that you are! My poem reminds me of Dr Suess’s Yertle the Turtle 😀

Visit my blog for a poem every-other-post (about) or try one of my collections. Rhyming poems for fun, inspired by science.

Physics & Biology Helped Us Evolve #science #cancer #NASA #Earth #Mars @MarsOneProject

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

For three billion years, life on Earth consisted of single celled organisms. That was so soon after the planet cooled, it leads some scientists to believe life may be common in the universe. Then 800 million years ago, multicellular life burst on the scene and rapidly evolved. Since it took so long to make the multicellular leap, some scientists believe this sort of advanced life may be rare.

Individual cells started grouping up. They collaborated, differentiated, grew in size and ability. Some sacrificed themselves for the good of the many. Compared to the long, dull years of single-celled living, the resulting diversification barely took any time at all. Before long the world was full of trilobites and anenomes, then fish, ferns, pterodactyls, tyrannosaurs, bees, whales, cacti, kangaroos, not to mention us.

Biology: why did life change? How?

A single gene, called RB, studied in a sixteen-cell species of green algae may explain cells banding together into more complex creatures – and may also explain why some cancers grow in us today. Thanks to mutations in the gene, RB can cause cells to clump together into altruistic colonies, or cells in us to selfishly run wild.

Ironically, cancer may be the price we pay for existing at all.

But complex life needed more than variations of RB to evolve.

Physics: life needed Earth to change
RB may have launched complex creatures more than once before our ancestors lasted long enough to evolve.

Scientists think that until 500 million years ago, life on Earth fell victim to high-energy blasts from the sun, [the early sun produced a lot more cell-killing gamma, ultraviolet and x-rays than it does today.] The atmosphere then was too thin to fully protect our single-celled ancestors, whose DNA would have been damaged by such powerful rays. That kept them from becoming more complex.

As the early Earth cooled, heavy metals sunk to the center. Still very hot but now under extreme pressure, the inner core solidified and spun inside the still-molten outer core.

Bingo! A strong magnetic field was generated, deflecting radiation and protecting the atmosphere from being stripped away. Combined with an aging, more-sedate sun, cells were no longer regularly smashed back to their simplest forms.

The details are hard to pin down and studies will continue. “The origin of life remains one of most challenging themes in science.” And, I might add, one of the most fascinating.

Poor dead Mars
The failure to form a proper dynamo of solid inner core and molten outer core may help explain why Mars lost its early atmosphere and has essentially no magnetic field. Perhaps the planet was just too small to manage the trick – Mars is only half the diameter of Earth. The combination makes Mars a hostile planet for life. Whether life ever started there is unknown, and the chance life persists if it did once gain a toehold is unlikely, but NASA and others are working to find out.

Colonize Mars with scifi
The combination also makes Mars a difficult place for us to consider GLORY Ebook 300 dpi (200x300)colonizing, but from NASA to Mars One, people are ready to go. For now, you can only travel to Mars in your imagination – or in mine! Check out my scifi On Mars series at Amazon or your favorite on-line retailer. Tragedy and despair follow the first colonists to Mars, but exploration, optimism, and love await them too. With a clue to survival from a cat! Read today. Or, as we say on Mars, tosol.

Thanks to Washington Post here and here for stories and quotations.