Monthly Archives: November 2004

Fair Brewing

It just so happens that I have a friend in the coffee and tea business. Better yet, they do fair trade, organic coffee and tea. Plus, I’ve got a can of their coffee beans sitting on my desk that I get to sniff at regular intervals. Yum!

Don’t you wish you were me? Well, you can be! Check out Taylor Maid Farms

Either that, or we can check out their store in Sebastopol someday . . .

[Ed note: Scripps alums among us might note the use of a La Semeuse-type figure for their logo.]

mars needs… cookies?

The folks over at the “Mars Homestead Project”: are collecting recipes to compile a “Mars cookbook”: Know any good ones? I’m not sure how one would test low-pressure and low-gravity baking on Earth, but there are probably some creative ways to get around that. 3-Bean “Spirit”: Chili, anyone?

on natural philosophers

New Scientist has a beautiful “interview with Benoit Mandelbrot”:, who discovered the Mandelbrot set and brought fractals to the masses. It’s refreshing to see someone with such history and brilliance at the same time. Mandelbrot is 80 years old, yet he’s still pursuing revolutionary branches of mathematics.

bq. [I am] A mathematical scientist. It’s the official name of my chair at Yale and it was chosen with care. It is deliberately ambiguous. In a different era, I would have called myself a natural philosopher. All my life, I have enjoyed the reputation of being someone who disrupted prevailing ideas. Now that I’m in my 80th year, I can play on my age and provoke people even more.

I have a personal fondness for Mandelbrot because the idea behind fractals — complex forms emerging from a simple function recursively applied and geometrically expressed — provides a compelling reason why it’s possible for us to understand the workings of a complex Universe at all. It doesn’t have to be just randomness out there. We can discern patterns that may turn out to be simple and elegant, even when they are capable of infinite variety.

reason and “balance”

The Columbia Journalism Review has a thought-provoking “article on media coverage of science”:, specifically the role of “balance” in determining the journalistic merit of a science article. This has been on my mind lately, since public perception of scientific topics like climate change, medicine, and evolution is so crucial to making sound decisions.