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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Remembering Norman Edmund

© Norman Sperling, January 25, 2012

Norman W. Edmund founded Edmund Scientific Company on a card table in his home in 1942. When he retired in the mid-1970s, it had over 200 employees. He died at the age of 95 last week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to which he had retired.

I vividly remember devouring every new issue of the Edmund catalog while I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s. The catalog always had a lot of "tutorial" segments - several paragraphs each, usually with diagrams, so the users could understand the technicalities of the equipment. They weren't particularly slanted toward Edmund products, and they taught a great many people a lot about their hobby and its hardware. Only a few catalogs (like Orion) continue to do that, though it's absolutely the best policy and should be fostered. Tutorials are NOT waste-space, and they foster brand loyalty: I trust the company that makes the effort to tell me the straight information.

I met Norm several times in the 1970s, while I consulted for his son Robert. In those years Norm kept his desk in the main office, kept a bunch of neat science-thingies around, and had appropriate input. But I also sensed that he kept his distance from daily operations, carefully avoiding stepping on toes.

What always impressed me was how nice he was. Plain, no affectations, no flaunting. And he passed all that on to the rest of his family, several of whom I met. They're all nice. They treat people well. They treated me very well. It wasn't just a put-on performance, it was genuine.

To Norman and Robert, "treating people nicely" is business policy as well as personal. While it's true that being nice to people is good customer service and good business, I think they are nice to people simply because they think that is the right way to be. I learned a lot from that.

They didn't outsource service. Callers were transferred to people who knew the technicalities they needed. Customers could get replacements and refunds.

Robert once told me "Customers will always complain. They'll complain about price, or they'll complain about quality. As long as I'm president, they aren't going to complain about quality." Which is to say, the stuff he designed, produced, and marketed would actually work well. And it did. Sure, humans aren't perfect and hardware isn't perfect, but when problems cropped up, the company tried hard to fix them, and usually succeeded.

Norman Edmund was well-respected as a leader in science business, an advocate of science education, a business leader of Greater Philadelphia, an expert fisherman, and a gentleman who "lived long and prospered". I'm really glad I knew him.

What Food Ingredient Does What to Your Body?

© Norman Sperling, January 19, 2012

Over the decades, I've suffered from a variety of afflictions. Doctors know how to fix some of them. Others have no known cause (that's called "idiopathic"). Some treatments are expensive, some treatments are ineffective. And some of my ailments and frailments not only have no known cause, they have no known treatment.

I discovered long ago that 2 of my problems trace to conventional foods that are widely regarded as "healthy". I discovered one of those entirely by accident, when the price of that favorite food skyrocketed and I boycotted it for a month ... and felt much better! Trying variations on the theme of that food isolated the components that hurt me. I've never found an antidote, so I strictly avoid the stuff.

I've recently discovered that a newer ailment traces to 2 other very common food chemicals. Eliminating those chemicals enormously reduced my affliction ... and also made a marked improvement in my general "aches and pains" – call it "creakiness" – of advancing age. The affliction I minimized seems quite rare, but the creakiness of old age is famously widespread.

So if you're not in perfect health, I recommend conducting a series of experiments on yourself, by eliminating for 2 weeks all foods that contain a selected ingredient. Pick one of the listed items below (or something else that you suspect might trigger problems), read every label in your food supply, and only eat things without that one ingredient for the next 2 weeks. Keep scrupulous notes. For many, I suspect there will be no health difference, meaning that that's not an ingredient that hurts you. Restore benign ingredients to your diet, and move on to another item for another 2 weeks and see if that makes any difference.

Of the dozen ingredients below, 4 definitely hurt me. I take an antidote for one, and avoid the other 3. I have little idea why those 3 substances hurt me, or why now instead of long ago – perhaps my body chemistry has changed. Figuring that out might enable a smarter response than pure avoidance. I won't bias your experiments by telling you which ingredients hurt me; your body isn't quite the same as mine so that shouldn't be an issue anyway.

sodium bicarbonate
salt (reduce to recommended daily dose; don't eliminate, because some is vital)
fructose, or high-fructose corn syrup
sodium nitrate (usually comes with sodium nitrite)
citric acid or a citrate

Note that this experiment should be safe because you're not adding a new chemical, you're subtracting one. You definitely must read every label. Finding alternatives may bring somewhat greater variety in your diet.

If a change makes something happen that feels bad, STOP! Go back to your old ways, and maybe move on to another item on the list (or from your own list).

Results of changes noted, and of no-changes noted, are both valuable. Please let me know.

Completely Erase Computer Deletions

© Norman Sperling, January 12, 2012

Computer and software competitors come up with more and more features, but here's one that users would appreciate, that shouldn't be hard, and is decades overdue:

When the user tells the computer to "delete" something, the machine should totally delete it. Not recoverable, not traceable ... not there anymore. At all. Really. That's what most people intend, most of the time, anyway.

I recently read that the only way to completely erase something from a computer is to physically destroy the hard drive, and I think that's contrary to every user's intent. I want to "really delete" stuff, using my judgement. I own the computer, I bought the software, I put stuff on, so I should be just as able to take stuff off.

To not really delete constitutes misbehavior, and perhaps fraud, on the part of the software maker. If some software engineer has secretly decided otherwise, that's a huge disservice to the customers.

My computer seems to have created about 200,000 files without my telling it to. I can't tell what's in them. Were those things I deleted, or would want to? Obsolete versions of everything? Every website URL or contents ever viewed? Software I've replaced? Clear those out of my computer permanently! I want my computer to be fast again, and I (rather than the software maker) know what I don't want to keep.

I've heard that stuff that common users, like me, think we've deleted, but that the computer actually has kept, is sometimes used to sue people. That's bogus!! If a user has instructed the computer to delete something, and that user lacks the technical skills to recover it, it's functionally deleted and the law should recognize that.

I've also heard that such "data recovery" is used to destroy the privacy with which many people view things meant to be private, and meant to be kept private. If so, the software design and marketing is more guilty than the customer suckered into using it.

DNA Fingers Human, Not Yeti, Source of Finger

Norman Sperling, December 29, 2011

Physical evidence, scientifically analyzed, reveals reality far better than anecdotes, story-telling, and wishful thinking.

Proponents of the "Yeti" (Himalayan "abominable snowman") touted a finger taken from a "Yeti" hand displayed at the Pangboche Temple’s monastery in Nepal in 1958. If the Yeti is a real species, that wouldn't contradict Science, but it would add a fascinating complication to the complex story of humanity's heritage.

The finger's DNA has now been analyzed. It's human.


The news report pointedly doesn't state *which* finger it is, but I have my suspicions.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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