This is Pascal’s Triangle. Do you see the pattern determining the next row? Basically, you add the two numbers above to get the next entry. So the next line would read: 1, 7, 21, 35, 35, 21, 7, 1.

For those who like math notation:

The formula for nCr is:

(The ! means factorial, aka: 5! = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 = 120. It’s super useful in basic statistics, but that’s another entry.)

The weird thing about this is not how you make the pattern, but that the pattern is actually useful!

The sum of the rows gives the powers of 2.
Row 0: = 1 = 20
Row 1: = 1 + 1 = 2 = 21
Row 2: =  1 + 2 + 1 = 4 = 22
Row 3: = 1 + 3 + 3 + 1 = 8 = 23 …

If the second number in the row is prime, (because the first number in all the rows is 1, so skip it) the all of the numbers in that row are divisible by it. Check the 8th row that I wrote out up top as a good example:

1, 7, 21, 35, 35, 21, 7, 1

Something called the Magic 11’s:
If each row is a single number, it is a power of 11:
1 = 110
11 = 111
121 = 112
1331 = 113
14641 = 114  …

Here’s my favorite one. So let’s say you are trying to solve (x + y)n for some variables x and y, raised to the power n.
(x + y)0 = 1
(x + y)1 = x + y       aka 1x + 1y
(x + y)2 = x+ 2xy + y2
(x + y)3 = x3 + 3x2y + 3xy+ y3
(x + y)= x4 + 4x3y + 6x2y+ 4xy+ y4

The coefficients are the entries in the triangle! Crazy.

There’s a whole bunch more that’s probably only interesting to people who do math alot, but it’s pretty damn nifty. Check out for more.



In addition to being a word in English which contains all 5 of the vowels, it is also a word I didn’t know until I started reading The Iliad today. It’s contained in the foreword to my edition and it means, according to’s app…

1. Holding tenaciously to a purpose, course of action, or opinion; resolute
2. Stubborn or obstinate

From on pertinacious:

“Philosopher, mathematician, and writer, Bertrand Russell once said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

This week’s words describe people who fall somewhere in that spectrum. Do any of them remind you of someone you know?…

“A man is pertinacious when he defends his folly and trusts too greatly in his own wit.” Geoffrey Chaucer; Canterbury Tales: Explicit Secunda Pars Penitentie; 1387-1400 (Translation: Walter W. Skeat). …


Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle. -Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)    ”

Thanks to Anu Garg for a great website!


There’s so much more nature to appreciate than I ever realized. Growing up in a city, I really believed that nature and people should be kept separate. Little did I know that that is not only impossible but super duper wrong. If anything, we city dwellers need to appreciate the nature that fills our lives and the easiest way to do that is learn about the plants growing in vacant lots, the birds tweeting in trees and where the nearest wild spaces are to our homes.

I’m not much of an environmentalist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just a nerd that loves learning and I’m thrilled to have discovered a whole new world I’ve been overlooking all my life.

Barn Owl. Photographed by Carol Freeman

Photographing Endangered Species 

Ash-har Quraishi | January 26, 2012 10:00 am on Chicago Tonight
“Wildlife photographer Carol Freeman is on a quest to capture the images of Illinois’ most endangered species.”
I love the thoroughness of this project. There’s a list and she’s going to go through it. The list’s contents are precious and rare. The exploration of them is inherently valuable and time sensitive. I love it!
You’ll have to check out the Endangered Species Photography Project Photos link above to see more of Carol Freeman’s gorgeous photography. I can’t include them in my blog because it’s a Flicker page. But using her photos as a reference, and the list above as well, here’s some info on these species, from Wikipedia mainly.
Piping Plover
How cute is this guy? Wait till you see the photo of the chick below! Adorable.
Piping Plovers live on sandy beaches, with two populations on the east coast and in the mid-west on the shores of the Great Lakes.
Both of these photos are from Ontario, Canada. “Piping Plovers migrate north in the summer and winters to the south on the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and theCaribbean. They begin migrating north beginning in mid-March. Their breeding grounds extend from southern Newfoundland south to the northern parts ofSouth Carolina. They begin mating and nesting on the beach in mid-April.”
“Like many other species of plovers, adult Piping Plovers will often feign a “broken wing display“, drawing attention to themselves and away from the chicks when a predator may be threatening the chicks’ safety. … A major defense mechanism in the chicks is their ability to blend in with the sand. It takes about 30 days before a chick achieves flight capability.”
“The piping plover has been listed by the United States as “endangered” in the Great Lakes region and “threatened” in the remainder of its breeding range.”
By the middle of the 20th century, the Piping Plover population in the Great Lakes region was down to a few dozen. But current conservation efforts have increased populations to over 6000, over 3000 of each populations. “Current conservation strategies include identification and preservation of known nesting sites, public education, limiting or preventing pedestrian and/or off-road vehicle traffic near nests and hatched chicks, limiting predation of free-ranging cats, dogs and other pets on breeding pairs, eggs and chicks, and removal of foxes, raccoons, skunks, and other predators.”
Least Bittern

“These birds nest in large marshes with dense vegetation from southern Canada to northern Argentina. … They migrate from the northern parts of their range in winter for the southernmost coasts of the United States and areas further south, traveling at night. They mainly eat fish and insects, which they capture with quick jabs of their bill while climbing through marsh plants.”
Forster’s Tern
“It breeds inland in North America and winters south to the Caribbeanand northern South America. … This species breeds in colonies in marshes. It nests in a ground scrape and lays three or more eggs. …The Forster’s Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, but will also hawk for insects in its breeding marshes. …
The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.”
It is most similar to the Common Tern.
Common Tern

“All populations of the
Common Tern are strongly migratory, wintering south of their breeding ranges in the temperate and subarctic Northern Hemisphere.”
Although the world population numbers in the millions, the Great Lakes region holds a declining population of less than 10,000 pairs.
“In the nineteenth century, the use of tern feathers and wings in the millinery trade cause large decreases in Common Tern populations in both Europe and North America, especially on the Atlantic coasts and inland. Sometimes entire stuffed birds were used to make hats.” That’s some crazy crap. A whole bird on your head. How big was the hat beneath it? Could the women get through doors? Ridiculous.
Black-Billed Cuckoo
“Their breeding habitat is edges of wooded areas across North America east of the Rockies. They nest in a low tree or shrub, sometimes on the ground. They sometimes lay eggs in the nests of other birds. They migrate to South America. … These birds forage in shrubs or trees. They mainly eat insects, especially tent caterpillars, but also some snails, eggs of other birds and berries.”
It’s a bit difficult to judge by this photo, but adults are about 12″ long.
Marsh Valerian
Highbush Blueberry

This one especially is a species’ whose photos by Carol Freeman are excellent and should be checked out. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

“This plant is also the most common commercially-grown blueberry in North America. In the wild, it is enjoyed by birds, bears and small mammals.”
I had no idea that blueberries were native to Illinois! Sweeeet… I wonder if I can procure some seeds so that my back yard may contribute to restoring this species to the state. And make some jam.
Horned Bladderwort
What a terrible name for such a cute flower!
According to Wikipedia, this plant is “probably  carnivorous”.
What the heck does that mean? Either it eats bugs or it doesn’t. Is it so rare that no one has observed it digesting bugs? It just looks like it would?
“It grows as a terrestrial or subaquatic plant in marshes, swamps, and pools in shallow waters, mostly at lower altitudes. It was originally described and published by André Michaux in 1803.”
Come on Michaux! Did you see it with digesting bugs inside the flowers or not?
Ill-scented Trillium

Again, Freeman’s photos are waaaay better.
I wonder how bad this smells to be named ‘ill-scented’ and is there a ‘well-scented’ trillium?
It’s also known as the Stinking Benjamin, so … pretty bad, I guess.
“The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, as they are pollinated by flies. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and crystal raphide, and should not be consumed by humans.”
Star Flower

So lovely.
Not much else to be said, but it’s super cute.
Lakeside Daisy

Federally Threatened! Oh no! It’s so sweet looking.
“This wildflower is rare because of its restrictive habitat requirements and the limited distribution of its seeds. … The largest population in the United States exists in Marblehead Peninsula along Lake Erie in Ohio. Habitats consist of dry dolomite prairies and gravel prairies, gravelly hill prairies, sand-gravel terraces along major rivers, ledges along cliffs, and limestone quarries. This wildflower is found in rocky areas with sparse vegetation and can tolerate minor amounts of disturbance.”
“Lakeside Daisy is a rare native wildflower in Illinois, having been found in only Tazewell and Will counties.”
Yellow-lipped Ladies Tresses Orchid
I didn’t know there were orchids native to the midwest! I thought they were more exotic. Neat-o!
(I think this is actually a photo of a Wide-leaved Ladies’ tresses Orchid, but you get the idea. From the Connecticut Botanical Society.)
OK. This is getting messy and waaaaay tooooo long a post. But really neat-o! I knew so little.

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe (constituting about 75% of the universe’s chemical elemental mass), it’s relatively rare on Earth because it is the lightest element; it basically floats away.  Hydrogen does form compounds with most elements and as most people know, it is found in water molecules, and also most organic compounds.

Protium, the most common isotope of hydrogen, has one proton and one electron. Unique among all stable isotopes, it has no neutrons

“Hydrogen gas (now known to be H2) was first artificially produced in the early 16th century, via the mixing of metals with strong acids. In 1766–81,Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that hydrogen gas was a discrete substance, and that it produces water when burned, a property which later gave it its name, which in Greek means “water-former.”

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a colorlessodorlessnonmetallic,tasteless, non-toxic, highly combustible diatomic gas with the molecular formula H2. Industrial production is mainly from the steam reforming of natural gas, and less often from more energy-intensive hydrogen production methods like the electrolysis of water. Most hydrogen is employed near its production site, with the two largest uses being fossil fuel processing (e.g.,hydrocracking) and ammonia production, mostly for the fertilizer market.

Hydrogen is a concern in metallurgy as it can embrittle many metals, complicating the design of pipelines and storage tanks.”

NGC 604, a giant region of ionized hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy

Hydrogen is found in great abundance in stars and giant gas planets, like Jupiter.

“Throughout the universe, hydrogen is mostly found in the atomic and plasma states whose properties are quite different from molecular hydrogen. As a plasma, hydrogen’s electron and proton are not bound together, resulting in very high electrical conductivity and high emissivity (producing the light from the Sun and other stars). The charged particles are highly influenced by magnetic and electric fields.”

From BBC News:

“The European Southern Observatory gets the new year off to a colourful start with this image of the smoky pink core of the Omega Nebula, 6500 light-years from earth in the constellation Sagittarius.

The image was captured using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and shows the rose tinted heart of this stellar nursery with its newest offspring burning a bright bluish-white. The dominant reddish colour is produced by hydrogen gas glowing in the intense ultraviolet light of these hot young stars.

It was taken with the FORS (focal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument on Antu, one of the four unit telescopes of the VLT. Exceptionally steady air during the observations has helped to make this one of the sharpest images ever taken from the ground.

Their animated video zooming in on the Omega Nebula is also worth a look.”

Tom FeildenArticle written by Tom FeildenTom FeildenScience correspondent, Today programme
Doesn’t he look cheery and chipper? I’m nervous for him because whatever he’s looking at is about to eat him.

Indonesia consists of 17,508 islands, about 6,000 of which are inhabited. Where do I even begin?


Starting on the left, there’s Sumatra, the largest and, best known, as of late, as the epicenter of the earthquake which caused the enormous tsunami of 2004. This was most devastating in Aceh, the westernmost province on the island, which, interestingly enough, implemented a form of sharia law in 2003. 87% of Sumatrans are thought to be Muslim. Sumatra is the largest island entirely within Indonesia, and the sixth largest island in the world.

Sumatra has a huge range of plant and animal species but has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years, and many species are Critically Endangered such as Sumatran TigerSumatran Rhino (similar to the Javan Rhino discussed in another posting) and Sumatran Orangutan.

Rafflesia arnoldii

To the east of the major mountain chain, big rivers carry silt from the mountains, forming the vast lowland interspersed by swamps. The region produces oil from both above and below the soil—palm oil and petroleum. Sumatra is also the largest producer of Indonesian coffee. Unique species to the island include Rafflesia arnoldiithe world’s largest individual flower, and the Titan Arum (the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence).

Titan Arum

Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit names of Swarnadwīpa (“Island of Gold”) and Swarnabhūmi (“Land of Gold”), because of the gold deposits of the island’s highland. Sultan Alauddin Shah of Aceh, on letters written in 1602 addressed to Queen Elizabeth I of England, referred to himself as “king of Aceh and Samudra”. The word itself is from Sanskrit “Samudra“, (समुद्र), meaning “gathering together of waters, sea or ocean“.

Sumatra came under the control of the Dutch East Indies and became a major producer of pepper, rubber, and oil. In the early and mid-twentieth century, Sumatran academics and leaders were important figures in Indonesia’s independence movements, such as : Mohammad Hatta (the first vice-president) and Sutan Sjahrir (the first prime minister).

Minangkabau home. The society is generally matrilineal.

The people represent many different ethnic groups, speaking 52 different languages.  Ethnic Malay dominate most of the eastern coast, while people in the southern and central interior speak languages related to Malay, such as the Lampung and Minangkabau people. The highland of northern Sumatra is inhabited by the Bataks, while the northernmost coast is dominated byAcehsEthnic Chinese minorities are present in urban centres.

young Minangkabau women attending a high status wedding











Batak Warriors, 1870

The creation myth of the Batak peoples varies, so I will summarize what I learned from Wikipedia as the story of the daughter of a god of the skies. In the beginning the gods lived in the skies, below which lay a sea and the underworld dragon, Naga Padoha. The god Mula Jadi Na Bolon, whose name translates to the “beginning of becoming”, begets three daughters whom he gives as wives for his three sons, who resulted from the fertilizing of a hen by Mula Jadi. Mankind is the result of the union of the three couples. A granddaughter flees from her intended husband, a lizard-shaped god, and slides down a thread to the world of the seas. Out of compassion, Mula Jadi sends his granddaughter a handful of earth, which is spread out on the head of the dragon. Earthquakes are the result of his restlessness.

I find images of solar farms amazing. They just don’t look real. They’re so enormous and homogeneous.

From, via Wikipedia:

“As of December 2011, the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are the Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park (China, 200 MW), Perovo Solar Park (Ukraine, 100 MW), Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant (Canada, 97 MW), Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station (Italy, 84.2 MW), Senftenberg Solarpark (Germany, 82 MW), Finsterwalde Solar Park (Germany, 80.7 MW) and the Okhotnykovo Solar Park (Ukraine, 80 MW).”

I can’t find any photos of the park in China.

Europe’s biggest solar park was completed Dec 29, 2011 after its Vienna-based developer, Activ Solar GmbH, obtained financing from two Russian banks. (from











Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant - located in Sarnia, Ontario, across the Canadian border from Port Huron, MI

Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station, Italy

Senftenberg Solarpark, located in eastern Germany on former open-pit mining areas







And then there’s the Planta Solar 20 (PS20) solar power plant, which is a solar thermal energy plant in Sanlucar la Mayor near Seville in Andalusia, Spain. It is the world’s most powerful solar power tower. The 20 megawatt (MW) solar power tower produces electricity with large movable mirrors called heliostats.

It’s amazing… A field of mirrors reflect light to the tower, which uses the heat to produce steam and turn a turbine generator.











A reporter from the BBC describes it thusly:

“From a distance, as we rounded a bend and first caught sight of it, I couldn’t believe the strange structure ahead of me was actually real. A concrete tower – 40 storeys high – stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside. The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out. In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air. The effect is to give the whole place a glow – even an aura – and if you’re concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.”


Where to begin? 

I think many people are aware that there are several states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. And maybe we know that there’s something called plasma, but I never really understood what it is and it only exists under weird conditions. Basically the molecules of whatever substance you’ve got form hard connections and move very little when in a solid state, usually induced by a lower temperature. Take ice as an example. The molecules aren’t moving much and have formed structures that maintain a strong connection. So ice is hard. And then there are liquids, in which their molecules move more freely but are still bound to each other, but also with less strength, so liquids can take on the shape of their container. Like water. And as for gas, the molecules are separating and moving around a lot more, like steam. So we understand that heat is a means by which we can transform matter from one state to another.

These transformations are called physical changes which is an important distinction between a chemical change, where the molecules change. For example, water is made of H20. A chemical change would mean that the H20 could become an hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms or some other combination of the atoms.

Then there’s the structure of atoms. There are electrons, protons, and neutrons. The electrons have a negative charge and surround the nucleus of the atom where the protons and neutrons reside. And now we get to the wonderful chart, the Periodic Table of Elements.
















So that’s a whole lot of information. Some of it you know like Hydrogen and Helium are the first two and that Oxygen is number 8. And maybe that salt is NaCL, which is Sodium Chloride, a combination of Sodium, an alkali metal, and Chlorine, a nonmetal.

The atomic number indicates the number of electrons, protons and neutrons, usually. Sometimes electrons and neutrons are different in special cases. And that also determines the weight of the atom.

I guess I’ll leave it here for know and we can get into the nitty gritty of the elements another time.