24 September 2011

Plus or Minus … Oh, Nevermind

I’m blasting Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind as I write this … I have to stop every few words to rock out on my air drums and sing along to the chorus (“Hello, hello, hello, hello, hellllo”) of “Smells LikeTeen Spirit,” the album’s anthemic lead track. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the album was released. Twenty years to the day, in fact, as it was released on September 24, 1991. And after that long, it still never fails to get my adrenaline flowing.

Authentic "grunge" apparel worn
by yours truly, circa 1991.
Actually, I should say after about 19 years and 9 or 10 months; I first heard SLTS over Thanksgiving weekend 1991 (or was it Christmas?) when my oldest brother — having returned home from college for the holiday — excitedly told me about this cool new song he’d just heard. What did I do? I did what any 12-year-old kid with a budding interest in popular music (and access to cable TV) did at that time … I turned on MTV, of course. When I flipped over to the station, there it was; the music video was just starting. Perfect timing. I was hooked.

I’ll leave the long homages and retrospectives to others better suited (See NPR’s coverage from this past week or the Experience MusicProject’s exhibit). But, as my own form of minor tribute, allow me to present one scientist’s guide to Nirvana, annotated with the relevant discipline with which I’m certain the band members were fascinated. Enjoy:

21 September 2011

Good news for Webb Space Telescope; Bad news for other scientists?

A full-size model of the James Webb Space Telescope outside Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. (Image credit: NASA)
Perhaps for this post I should temporarily rename the blog to Plus AND Minus Science. Allow me to explain …

Last week, the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee released its recommendations for FY2012 funding (pdf) for the various departments and agencies it oversees. Of note for us science types are details about NIST, NSF and, of course … [drumroll] … NASA! So how do the numbers look? Well, not great at first glance, although “not great” might be the best that could have been hoped for given the current economic climate. The biggest (proportional) hit is taken by NIST, which would see its 2012 funding cut by 9.3 percent compared to 2011 levels and by over 30 percent relative to the administration’s request. By comparison, the other agencies fair well: the recommendations would see NSF’s budget cut by 2.4 percent relative to 2011 and 13.7 percent below the 2012 request, while NASA’s would be lowered by 2.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively. So those are some of the minuses. But where do the pluses come in (other than suggesting that the cuts aren’t as bad as they could be)?

20 September 2011

I'm back...and I'm on Twitter!

Greetings! Thanks for coming back for more +/- Science. (Or, if you're a first timer, welcome, welcome.)

It's good to be back myself. Naturally, I didn't think I'd be away so long...I spent most of my time this summer in Washington D.C. and away from Wisconsin. Weather-wise, not a good a trade-off. But, on the plus side, I got to work for (*warning: plug alert*) a great outlet named EARTH Magazine for several months. In case you don't believe me, this was my office space (don't mind the apple core)...

Pretty nice digs
I'm looking forward to adding posts regularly again and hopefully generating some interesting conversations.  One final note...I'm on Twitter, finally. Caught the bug over the summer tweeting for EARTH, and now I'm striking out on my own. Follow me at @Tim_Oleson. You can view recent tweets on the sidebar at right.

Thanks again for reading.