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I'm LinkedIn and Google-Plussed.

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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
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

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.

David versus Sony

© Norman Sperling, June 5, 2011

Hackers seriously penetrated Sony's online systems over the last couple months. Millions of users aren't getting the entertainment they seek.

Sony needs to personally contact the hackers who are bedeviling its websites.

Sony needs to talk to them personally, leader to leader. They need to placate and pacify the hackers as much as possible.

But most of all, Sony needs to sign them to a contract to produce a movie about their heroic David-versus-Goliath exploits against ... Sony!

Prose Between Cons

© Norman Sperling, May 26, 2011

The Maker Faire was a wall-to-wall joy. I got to roam a little and was boggled time and again. But mostly I was chained to my booth, which my son Mason dubbed as all about "smarts and smiles". As a "Commercial Maker" I could sell over-the-counter, and did quite well. Our new book Don't Try This in High School attracted lots of attention and good sales. Contributing author Jim Stanfield helped out at the booth and showed how his real-life ellipse compass works. Mason helped a lot both days. My son Lumin demonstrated how to solve a 6x6x6 Rubik's Cube, which therefore promptly sold, followed shortly by a 5x5x5. I also sold off a rich variety of old books (partly from my own library), and a hodgepodge of other stuff. I also had mobius strips and a klein bottle, which lots of parents excitedly explained to their children.

In addition to the much-appreciated greenbacks, I got another form of enrichment: hundreds of sharp and cool people telling how much they like my creations. Approval and endorsement does absolute wonders for the spirits. That heartened me tremendously the 3 previous times I was a Maker, too.

This time, I had a booth-mate, and it helped him just as much. Steve Johnson introduced his new book Have Fun Inventing, and delicious giclee art prints of humorous bicycles, clothes, and other inventions. He sold a lot on the spot. But the nonstop plaudits lifted his spirits even more than the money weighed down his wallet.

I've barely glanced into his new book and love it already. I'll review it in full when I get a chance, but I can tell you right now it's fabulous.

This coming weekend I'll serve on panels at BayCon, the science fiction convention, and sell at SkeptiCal, the Skeptics' convention. My BayCon panel topics are:
* "The New Propaganda" (Society's defenses against falsehoods) May 27, 5:30-7 PM
* "Irreproducible Results" (Science fun and foibles) May 28, 10-11:30 AM
* "Red Empire, or, Being Tide-Locked Isn't So Bad After All" (planets around red dwarves) May 28, 11:30 AM - 1 PM
* and "What's So Punk, Then?" (Past the "cyber" and the "steam", where's the "punk"?) May 30, 1-2:30 PM. I think they put me on this panel because I'm writing a Steampunk astronomy novel, The League of Farsighted Astronomers.

Water and Placebos DO Have Effects

© Norman Sperling, May 15, 2011

Some substances that are usually regarded as having no effect actually do have effects.

* Water, as in homeopathic treatments.
* Placebos, as in medical tests and treatments.

I have seen homeopathic treatments strongly criticized as being useless and having no effect, because they’re “only” water. Yet water itself has many effects.
* Peeing usually makes you feel better.
* Drinking a lot of water is recommended for several medical and nutritional situations. It is suspected to dilute or flush precipitates that would otherwise form painful kidney stones, for example.
* And drinking a lot is often recommended in treating colds and other illnesses.
So plain old water, whether labeled homeopathic or not, CAN have effects.

“Placebo” is Latin for “I make you feel good”. That’s an effect, not the absence of one. (By that centuries-old definition, boyfriends and girlfriends are placebos.)

In the last half century, “placebo”’s definition and applications have changed importantly several times, but discussions rarely specify which version is meant. Always check just what speakers and writers mean by the term.

Placebos are rarely neutral and rarely have zero effects. Many different substances that have been used as placebos have known effects.
* Sugar, as in “sugar pills”, makes people feel better. Huge quantities of sugary treats are consumed because they make people feel better. Sugar levels in the blood affect athletic and intellectual performance as well as mood. Mary Poppins taught us that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Sugar is NOT neutral!
* In some cases, the sugar is lactose, which often has major detrimental effects. For 30% of American adults, and 70% of the world’s adults, lactose intolerance generates explosive, compelling diarrhea. A good reference is Steve Carper’s Milk is Not for Every Body, published by Facts on File, 1995.
* For testing against new medicines, several other substances are combined to mimic known effects of the tested substance. Some of these qualities make people feel better, some make people feel worse. They are NOT neutral!

Scholarly books on placebos:
* Anne Harrington, ed: The Placebo Effect – an Interdisciplinary Exploration. Harvard U Pr 1997. RM331.P53 1999
* Daniel E. Moerman: Meaning, Medicine, and the “Placebo” Effect. Cambridge U Pr. R726.5.M645 2002. Says the effect is in the meaning.
* Arthur K. Shapiro: The Powerful Placebo: From Ancient Priest to Modern Physician. JHU Pr. RM331.S53 1997. scholarly source for Thompson & Moerman.
* W. Grant Thompson: The Placebo Effect and Health. Prometheus 320p. R726.5.T488 2005. excellent survey. Use the effect!

Don't Try This in High School

Don't Try This in High School

Good science in good humor! Sharp, science-minded high schoolers will love these spoofs and lampoons. Give them this book:
* for holidays, birthdays, graduation
* to tide them over a long trip or a boring recuperation
* or just to encourage thinking and laughing at the same time.

Witty twists open minds to exciting, refreshing new thoughts. Selected from the science humor magazine, The Journal of Irreproducible Results.

Yo Mama’s Physics
Frog dissection
Chocolate cake
Insect rights
Even prime numbers
Crossword puzzle from Hell
Triplets raised apart
Cluedness
Coin stacking
Marmite versus Vegemite
Cat hair
Mentos

Free bonus! An invisible imaginary companion, as described inside.

Printed in USA. Autographed any way the buyer wants.

$19.95
The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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