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Math & Science  (I was a physics major)
T. Buckingham Thomas physics Oberlin WOBC Richwood Tom Thomas Chyron Infinit Pittsburgh
Articles that are largely about scientific or mathematical questions are listed below.

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Genesis Years

If we recalculate the Bible's "begats" in a certain way, Methuselah lived only 107 years, not 969.

King Solomon's Pi

Does the Bible say that the value of pi is 3.00, not 3.14?


The Edison of Oberlin College

Elisha Gray invents the telephone.


Frau im Mond

A silent movie takes a woman and her friends on a rocket trip to the moon.


Atomic Ping-Pong

Learning about nuclear fission and stereo sound with the help of a very tall bus.



The Flying Yardstick

Under the stereo-imaged catalpa tree, I invent an inefficient flying wing.

Nix to Redox

A modest suggestion for a change in chemical terminology.

Alma Mater

In letters to my mother, I tell of my studies at Oberlin College and some of the people I met there.

Catalysts Aren't Cheerleaders

A lecture from freshman chemistry.

The Relativitator Files

Correspondence, possibly flirtatious, about a whimsical "scientific instrument."

Passing Notes

A quarky tale of two physics majors.

Apollo on the Moon

My reactions to that historic year, from letters.


"We are stardust: billion-year-old carbon," wrote Joni Mitchell.  Carbon's in all living things.  They're organic.



Determination of Audience Size

Preparing to leave Syracuse, I propose how ratings could be measured at Marion CATV.

The Ted Baxter System

WJM-TV's fictional newscaster invents a method for betting on football that actually works.

Science and Computers

Musing about scientific issues, I acquire calculators and an early "home computer."


 Adjusting the exponents in the formula for an ellipse gives it superpowers.


Be skeptical of the mentalist with a balloon.


The Arctangential Error Meter

When is an analog display like a fence?


The 1988 design for a one-handed computer keyboard.



Clouds in My Coffee

Another physics major was curious about these swirls until I found a relevant article.  Bad rhymes ensued.

Left on Base Doesn't Matter

Correlating baseball statistics with winning.

Powers of Ten Museum

An imagined vist to a museum of models on widely different scales, from atoms to galaxies.

Augie and the Topology of Leashes

Why the pup next door had to bark for help.



The Year 2001

Should it be prounounced twenty-oh-one?

Pickover's ESP Experiment

A link to a web page for the credulous.

Oberlin College Science Center

A photo tour of the new and remodeled labs and classrooms, October 2002.

The Diamond Brick Road

A graphical representation of one season's race in a baseball division.

Merchant of Nothing

Playing the probabilities to make the gullible think they're buying something of value.

I Need a Stat, Stat!

The statistic doesn't actually have to be relevant; it just needs to seem that way.

Socrates and Leadfoot

Two philosophers discuss why Pittsburgh drivers slow down for tunnels.

Divine Digits

Zoey's ideal dollhouse, my three simultaneous equations in two unknowns, and our idealized concept of God.


If we can be immunized against certain diseases, does the same principle work for homeopathy?  No.

Mirror Images

Why does a mirror swap things left-for-right?  Why not top-for-bottom?


How Tomorrow Came To Be

On February 1, a wager to decide when spring begins.

Homecoming Weekend 2014

Oberlin welcomes back my classmate the science radio star.

The Hyperope

Cataract surgery clears up my vision.

Phooey on the Eclipse

Those dark glasses to protect our eyes from the solar eclipse were a conspiracy to hide something, says Fui.


Advancing knowledge outmodes old beliefs

An obtuse response

Animals in trouble turn to people for help

Apes:  if we evolved from them, why are they still around?

Apollo 1 fatal fire, and a reminder at Expo 67

Area of 54.5 million ft2 compared to area of two counties

Banking right on a bike but left in a car

Big Bangs may be cyclical

Biorhythms are bunk, but I charted a "moodogram" in 1964

Birds suddenly begin singing on March 21

Birds vanish; might climate change be a cause?

Beep-beep!  A 1957 song celebrates the first satellite

Blade counts for propellers and windmills

Blue Moon explanation (four full moons in a season)

Calendar trick to determine day of the week

Call-in polls depend on who's calling

Cell phones are sometimes not held to one's ear

Center for Inquiry merits a brief visit

Climate will run out before we run out of fuel

Clock face marked with 120 divisions instead of 60

Coffee-making can perk you up as much as coffee-drinking

Cornstalks are noisy when they're growing

Correlation doesn't mean causation

CVS Pharmacies sued for selling fraudulent "remedies"

Days with more than 24 hours?  Why not?

Dodecahedron:  A Halloween costume

Dream incorporates dialogue from the TV show that's on

Earthrise” view from the Moon appeared in a 1929 movie

Eclipse of 2017: my view of partiality

Electricity out?  Nothing to worry about

Energy-conserving drivers should watch their Hours Per Gallon

Epoch began January 1, 1970

Epoch setting brings darkness to your Apple

Escervaire:  A curve

ESP testing with Zener cards:  why those odd symbols?

Faces differ widely in shape

Full moon:  cause of lunatic activity?

Game 5's winner wins 5 out of 6 series; why?

Global warming deniers simply don't want to admit it

Global warming shifts the bell curve (more area under the tail)

Global warming: should oft-flooded Nichols SC move to higher ground?

Heat may eventually become unsurvivable

How does that machine know whether to heat or to tick?

Humidifiers keep my apartment around 36%

John 1:1 rewritten: In the beginning were the laws of physics

"Leagues under the sea":  How deep is 20,000 leagues?

Learning the tech of radio stations and computer systems

Mars?  Humans aren't going there

“Math” lapel pin worn by candidate Andrew Yang

Measuring diagonally can make dividing easier

Moon doesn't look smaller when it moves to the horizon; why not?

Moon orbiter "Charlie Brown" heads home, leaving "Snoopy" behind

Moon phases from a lunar viewpoint

Moonshade is not colder than direct moonlight

Non-standard coordinate systems for maps

Numerator top, denominator bottom; how do we remember that?

Ohio River flows north, to my surprise

"Organic" foods are those that contain carbon, correct?

Percentagewise, reducing expenses slightly might increase profits hugely

Physics for poets, astronauts, and Ken Jennings

Placebos, including kisses and magic herbs

Predicting precisely where the sun will set

Probability is low, although not zero

Psychic "predicts" a fusion reactor

Psychics are frauds, says Mark Evanier

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring encouraged disease and famine?

Renewable energy and Pittsburgh and the Paris Agreement

Round peg fits square hole more nearly than the reverse

Seasons begin six weeks earlier for Celts

Snowier winters for Cleveland?

Stats on high school testing are stated misleadingly

Stealth bomber in my neighborhood?

Stegosaurus in my neighborhood?

Sundials may have defined "clockwise"

Temperature graph, inside my apartment during a heat wave

Ten below?  Global warming?  Yes, without it we'd have eleven below

"Too hot" or "too cold" weather makes up 73% of the year

Turnpike transponders could flag speeding drivers

Venusian surface, death star Mimas, Sputnik

Weed races up to reach the sun

Winter's frozen waters force seagulls to Pittsburgh

"Year without a summer"?  How about no winter?


The public is grossly misinformed
about how the real world works,

the media feeds that ignorance,

and we urgently need to address this situation
before we are populated by a generation
of affluent but unaware citizens

who can lead our species back
into another Dark Age —
and are already forming up ranks to do just that.

No, that is not overstating the case.

A lot of people hate my skepticism, and I think I understand why. The psychics offer wonders and endless possibilities in a world that often seems difficult and mundane. They promise health, wealth, wisdom, eternal life. But if you examine the record, it's not the psychics but the hard-nosed scientists who have actually delivered the things that improve human life. And, to me, science describes a world far more interesting than any psychic fantasy. It's a good world — not perfect — but it's ours. So we'd better learn to live with it, the way it is.

James Randi

Being anti-science is un-American. This country is the aspirational child of the enlightenment, not the idiot son of biblical literalists.

— Bradley Whitford

Science flies us to the moon.  Religion flies us into buildings.

Victor J. Stenger