Cheap, easy, no-mess cold-brew coffee 3


I’ve just finished teaching week four of the amazing Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego; in addition to spending a week working closely with some very talented writers, I came up with a new and cheap way to make astounding cold-brew coffee.

I bought a $10 “nut-milk” bag and a plastic pitcher. Every night before bed, I ground up about 15 Aeropress scoops’ (570 ml) worth of espresso roast coffee — the $20 Krups grinder is fine for this, though I wouldn’t use it with an actual espresso machine — leaving the beans coarse.

I filled the bag with the grind, put it in the bottom of the empty pitcher like a huge tea-bag, and topped up the pitcher with tap water (distilled water would have been better — fewer dissolved solids means that it’ll absorb more of the coffee solids, but that’s not a huge difference). I wedged the top of the bag between the lid and the pitcher and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I took the bag out of the pitcher and gave it a good squeeze to get the liquor out of the mush inside. Add water to the pitcher to fill to the brim and voila, amazing cold-brew. You can dilute it 1:1 or even further.

Cleanup was easy: invert the bag over a trashcan or garbage disposal, rinse off the bag, and you’re ready to go.

This produced very, very good coffee concentrate, with only a little grit settled into the bottom 3mm of the pitcher (easy to avoid). It may just be the cheapest and easiest cold-brewing method I’ve yet tried.

Cheap, easy, no-mess cold-brew coffee 4


I’ve just finished teaching week four of the amazing Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego; in addition to spending a week working closely with some very talented writers, I came up with a new and cheap way to make astounding cold-brew coffee.

I bought a $10 “nut-milk” bag and a plastic pitcher. Every night before bed, I ground up about 15 Aeropress scoops’ (570 ml) worth of espresso roast coffee — the $20 Krups grinder is fine for this, though I wouldn’t use it with an actual espresso machine — leaving the beans coarse. I filled the bag with the grind, put it in the bottom of the empty pitcher like a huge tea-bag, and topped up the pitcher with tap water (distilled water would have been better — fewer dissolved solids means that it’ll absorb more of the coffee solids, but that’s not a huge difference). I wedged the top of the bag between the lid and the pitcher and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I took the bag out of the pitcher and gave it a good squeeze to get the liquor out of the mush inside. Add water to the pitcher to fill to the brim and voila, amazing cold-brew. You can dilute it 1:1 or even further.

Cleanup was easy: invert the bag over a trashcan or garbage disposal, rinse off the bag, and you’re ready to go.

This produced very, very good coffee concentrate, with only a little grit settled into the bottom 3mm of the pitcher (easy to avoid). It may just be the cheapest and easiest cold-brewing method I’ve yet tried.

Fukushima upgraded to Level 7 nuclear event—what’s that mean?

The nuclear reactor crisis at Fukushima Daiichi has been upgraded to a 7 on the International Nuclear Events Scale. That’s the same rating as Chernobyl. It’s interesting to me, though, how these two events can share the same rating, but still be quite different in several important ways.

For instance, Chernobyl released a lot more radioactive material (Fukushima has still only released 1/10th of Chernobyl’s radioactive output) in a much shorter period of time. The slower pace of Fukushima, combined with the Japanese government’s significantly more open and responsive approach, means there have been fewer significant health impacts caused by Fukushima so far.

But the differences don’t all work in Fukushima’s favor. It’s likely to take longer to get this crisis under control, and Fukushima cleanup crews will have to deal with a lot of contaminated water that wasn’t present at Chernobyl. Because of that, there’s a possibility that these two disasters could look more similar over the long-term view than they do right now.

Nature “The Great Beyond” blog: How Fukushima is and isn’t like Chernobyl
NPR: Fukushima vs. Chernobyl — still not equal

Art and science are intertwined

“Almost all Nobel laureates in the sciences are actively engaged in arts as adults. They are twenty-five times as likely as average scientist to sing, dance, or act; seventeen times as likely to be an artist; twelve times more likely to write poetry and literature; eight times more likely to do woodworking or some other craft; four times as likely to be a musician; and twice as likely to be a photographer.”Bob Root-Bernstein, Ph. D., physiologist and MacArthur Fellow. (Via S.C. Kavassalis)

 

Read This: Written in Stone

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How are you related to a duck-billed platypus? Do you know?

At a quick glance, you might suspect that mammalian evolution is like a flight of stairs. At the bottom, there’s reptiles. Take a step up, and you find the weirder egg-laying mammals, including our friend, the platypus. Another step up, and you’ve reached the marsupials, which are much less reptilian, but still don’t quite have the same reproductive system as we do. Finally, at the top, you find the majority of the mammal kingdom—creatures like us, neither egg-laying nor pouch-wearing.

This progression seems so obvious. It’s neat and tidy, and orderly. It’s also wrong.

The process of evolution is actually much, much messier. In its wake, it leaves multiple dead ends, whole orders or classes gone extinct, or whittled down to a sole surviving species—the last bastion of a once-proud lineage. And evolution does not work towards making humans. That’s entirely the wrong way to think about it. The creatures alive today are not our ancestors. Instead of a stair-step, with humans at the top, we stand alongside the kangaroo and the platypus, each of us at the end of its own narrow road. If we look back, into the past, we can see those paths turn and branch and cul-de-sac. Go far enough, and our paths meet at a crossroads. But in between that common ancestor and ourselves, the road is littered with cousins that didn’t quite make it.

It’s not an easy road map to follow. Not for us laypeople, certainly. That’s clear anytime you read a news story about a new fossil discovery, or watch yet another school board debate whether evolution should be taught at all. But the path of evolution wasn’t obvious to the people who first traced it, either. In fact, many of the mistakes and misconceptions common with the general public today were first made by natural historians and paleontologists, themselves. Evolution is messy, and the evolution of evolution was doubly so.

It’s that story—how the theory of evolution arose and how the details shifted to fit new evidence—that science blogger Brian Switek tells in his book Written in Stone, a handy primer for anyone who wants to better understand evolutionary theory, or the way that science, in general, works.

Continue reading “Read This: Written in Stone”

Central European folk-dancers illustrated sorting algorithms

Robbo sez, “Sapientia University has posted a series of videos using folk dances as a way to visualy demonstrate various sorting algorithms. It’s intensely geeky – and just downright cute too.”

I love sorting algorithms — I actually use bubble-sorts in real life all the time when I’m trying to make subtle qualitative distinctions (picking the best three flowers out of a bunch, say).

Take one Central European folk dancing team, a small folk band and an added overlay showing array locations and get them to dance the algorithms in time to “appropriate” folk music. The result is slightly surreal and for a time at least slightly hypnotic.

Sorting algorithms as dances (Thanks, Robbo!)

Wicked Plants on exhibit in San Francisco

 Wikipedia Commons 5 5F Hemlockseeds

(Totnesmartin photo/Wikimedia Commons)

San Francisco’s gorgeous Conservatory of Flowers is hosting an exhibit titled “Wicked Plants,” all about poisonous plants and their place in history, from the lethal ricin-producing castor bean, to hemlock — aka “dead men’s oatmeal” (above), to white snakeroot, the weed that did in Abe Lincoln’s mom. The exhibit is named for Amy Stewart’s book “Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins” that tells true tales of these fearful flora. For example, in 1978, Bulgarian dissident journalist Georgi Markov was assassinated with a poke to his leg from an umbrella tipped with ricin. From the Conservatory of Flowers:

 Images Wickedplants As visitors enter the exhibition, they find themselves in a mysterious, untended yard behind a ramshackle old Victorian home. Peeking through the window, it’s clear that a crime has just taken place. A man is slumped over on a table, a goblet in his lifeless hand, as the lady of the house flees in the background. Crows caw, and a rusty gate creaks. In the overgrown garden, moss covered statues rise up out of an unruly thicket of alluring plants. Beautiful flowers and glistening berries bewitch the eye, but consider yourself warned – these plants have names like deadly nightshade, poison hemlock and white snakeroot. Here lurk some of the greatest killers of all time.
 

Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins(Conservatory of Flowers)

“Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins” by Amy Stewart (Amazon)

A new physics, or a statistical error: Round-up of news from Fermilab

Last week, JArmstrong posted to the Submitterator about the big news out of Fermilab last week. Shorter version: An analysis of 10,000 proton-antiproton collisions made in the lab’s Tevatron particle accelerator turned up an anomaly that may, or may not, end up representing a very important discovery. Adding to the excitement, the Tevatron is scheduled to be shut down later this year—partly because the Large Hadron Collider is now up and running, and partly because the Tevatron program is out of money.

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

So what’s it all mean? Here’s what I’ve gleaned from reading several different accounts of the story:
• The anomaly is reported as being at “3 sigma levels”, which is a way of describing the likelihood that it represents an important finding, compared to the likelihood that it’s actually just showing an error in the data. This is a fairly high level of certainty, but that doesn’t mean the finding is certain. In fact, findings at 3 sigma levels turn out to be nothing often enough that many physicists and physics bloggers are urging the public to not get too excited about this one. Even the people who made the discovery are a little surprised that it’s getting this much attention.
• If something really has been found, it’s not the Higgs Boson.
• It’s going to be weeks before you hear anything more definitive. Other teams will have to run their own analysis of the Fermilab data, and see if the same anomaly turns up. Meanwhile, data from other particle accelerators will be studied to see if the anomaly shows up there, as well. Until there’s confirmation that the anomaly shows up everywhere, there’s not much more news to report.
• Nobody seems to be seriously speculating that a new discovery could save the Tevatron. Even if this anomaly turns out to be something that changes our understanding of particle physics, it’s being discussed as a swan song, not something that could reinvigorate the program.

Continue reading “A new physics, or a statistical error: Round-up of news from Fermilab”