Rain From Heaven

Took this photo yesterday in the courtyard during a thunderstorm.


It is the first time that I was actually able to see the rain almost in a slow motion.


They weren’t drops, but literally streaks of water zipping down from the sky.


The feeling was so pure and refreshing to clean the air and the ground. 


To replenish our reservoirs, ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans. 


To nourish the fruit of the Earth and make it grow. 


We use up and make dirty, but G-d replenishes and makes clean! 😉


(Source photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Mao Tse Tung – China Leadership Watch

So this was absolutely amazing today. 


We had a meeting and someone brought in a bag of “prizes” as an icebreaker.


Low and behold, one of the items being given away was a Kim Jong-il (father of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s current leader). 


“Coincidentally,” this just one day after the historic peace summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. 


Why anyone would give a watch like this away is mind-boggling to me. 


I am curious if anyone knows what the inscription on the back is?  


Anyway, I think this watch is an amazing piece of history, especially from the isolated nation of North Korea.


I can only imagine what the history of this timepiece is and how it got here to NIST.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Radio-Activity

So earlier in the week, I had a great opportunity to visit the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). 


It was fascinating to see the reactor, control room, and all the cool experiments–not things you see every day, right? 


For safety, we had to wear devices that measured radioactivity and also go through machines that checked us afterward. 


When one person in our group went through the scanner, it went off with a red alert, and the poor individual obviously got really scared–like OMG is there some contamination on me or something.


But they went through again and it turned out it was just a false positive, thank G-d. 


I guess these really can be dangerous substances to work around, but still so marvelous how the scientists harness these neutron beams and direct them to all sort of fascinating scientific experiments. 


Being around all this science makes me think whether if I could do it all again–wondering aloud–whether I would pursue an education in one of these amazing scientific disciplines and work in the lab like a “mad scientist”–exploring and discovering new things and figuring out the mysteries of the universe and how the world really works. 


What a fun, fun field to work in!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and Art by 4th grader, Phillip Kenney)

Trace Amounts of Cocaine

So this is a funny story from today.


I had a wonderful opportunity to tour a couple of labs at NIST today.


One of them does work in contraband detection.


The scientist asks if anyone has any money in their wallet.


I pull out a dollar and hand it to him.


I ask him what happens if he finds any traces of bad stuff on the money from me.


He says, “A cage will fall from the ceiling” and I’ll be in big trouble.


Uh, we all laugh a little.


He unfolds the money and puts it into the machine that looks for the contraband.


Oh sh*t, it comes up in the “red”–positive for cocaine.


Someone else says jokingly, “A little leftover from the weekend?”


I joke back, “Na, It’s from this morning before work!”


Ha, ha, I think. 


It turns out the scientist explains that 90% of our currency actually tests positive for cocaine


I’m wondering whether this is a commentary on drug use and even the opioid epidemic in America.


The lab director explains a theory that the automated money counters spread traces of the drugs from bills and contaminates the other currency.


Aside from this little experiment today, I got to learn so much about creating standards for contraband detection systems and equipment and in another lab about magnetism. 


It is unbelievable how smart these scientists are–they are so unique and of the best in the world.


I am so happy to be able to learn from them even if it’s contraband on money. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Happy Just The Way We Are

Great speaker today at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


Mike Reiss, producer and writer for the hugely successful Simpson show–the longest-running series on primetime TV with 30 seasons and over 600 episodes!


The topic was “The Science Behind The Simpsons.”


Whether the guest was Stephen Hawkings or Leonard Nimoy–there was no shortage of scientists and science in this animated, comedy show that taught us much about life.  


The video clip above was a short capture of the Simpsons singing “We are happy just the way we are.”


Incremental change and continuous improvement is so important to our growth and maturation in life.


Yet, there is also a lot to be said for being happy with what you have and who you are. 


There is so much to be grateful for and plenty to enjoy at the moment. 


Many people are on the proverbial roller coaster to nowhere.  


It’s nice to get off the roller coaster and finally be somewhere that makes you happy and fulfilled. 


Mary Poppins get hit by the airplane at the end of the skit, and you know what, she’s not even missed. 😉


(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)

Net-Zero Energy House

Today, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Net-Zero Energy House.


As its name implies the residential home makes as much energy as it uses. 


It is run by one of NIST’s 7 laboratories, the Engineering Lab’s Energy and Environment Division.


The 2,700 square foot home is super-insulated and hyper-energy efficient.


It runs on only 12,000-13,000 Kilowatt per year compared to a typical home that guzzles 40,000 KW. 


You can see the array of solar panels on the roof and there is a two-way exchange of energy to/from the grid as available/needed. 


There is also solar thermal water heater. 


The home simulates a family of 4 living there cooking, bathing, watching TV, etc. 


There are 600 sensors inside the house that monitor everything. 


The garage maintains the computers and controls for the research. 


Overall, I was very proud to see the wonderful scientific research being done here. 


It was truly impressive and good for the nation and the planet.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Measurement And Standards Are Our Friends

So I learned that Metrology is the science of measurement. 


And measurement is the foundation of scientific research and creating standards. 


Scientific research and measurement are about exploration, discovery, and innovation.


Further, it is about finding the facts; it is objective; it is truth; it is essential to maintaining integrity. 


Standards also help to ensure dependability, because there is a common reference and you know what you are getting. 


A great true story that demonstrates the importance of measurements and standards is the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.


This was the third worst urban inferno in American history. 


It destroyed over 1,500 building across 140 acres. 


Fire engines responded from as far as New York and Virginia. 


But the problem was that they invariably could not help. 


Why?  


Because their fire hose couplings could not fit on the Baltimore fire hydrants–they were not standardized.


Without standards, we don’t have interoperability. 


We don’t have a reference that everyone can go by. 


It’s as if we’re all working on our own desert islands. 


This defeats the power in numbers that make us together greater than the sum of our individual parts. 


Science and technology help us advance beyond just ourselves and today. 


Measurement and standardization help us to build a better and stronger society. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)