Science Caturday: Feline scientists in training

Hi folks — Greg Gbur aka “Dr. SkySkull” here!  Michele couldn’t be here for Science Caturday this week and she asked me to fill in.  My wife and I have a lot of cats at home, who are of course all scientists in training, so I thought I’d share a few of their research interests.

First up is Rascal, one of our youngest cats at about 3 years old.  He recently showed interest in a “simple electric train” that you can built with magnets, a battery, and coiled copper wire.  A video demonstration of this effect has been making the rounds recently, and I just wrote a blog post explaining the physics of it.

"Iz magneto-electric mouse!!??"
“Iz magneto-electric mouse!!??”

Next up is Fluff, who is about the same age as Rascal but is not related.  We went on a “kitten-adopting frenzy” around that time!  Fluff has shown great interest in magnetic levitation, though in the end of his research he decided that he hates it.  And terra-cotta warriors.

These little platforms are fun to play with and can be ordered online.  They use time-varying magnetic fields to stably levitate the platform, in a manner similar to that of maglev trains.

Our cat Sophie has followed in my career path somewhat!  I started my physics career studying fundamental particle physics, and eventually decided that I preferred less fundamental but still interesting optical science.  Sophie started out ruminating over the implications of string theory…

"What if the whole universe is made of stringzzzz...zzz..."
“What if the whole universe is made of stringzzzz…zzz…”

…but, like me, grew fascinated by pretty lights!  Christmas trees tend to do that to cats.

"My Dogz... it's full of starz!"
“My Dogz… it’s full of starz!”

I could go on, but I think you can see the point! Have a happy holiday season, everyone!

Count Like An Egyptian: More fun than you think!

Greg Gbur is an associate professor of physics, specializing in optical science, at UNC Charlotte.


I’ve been a fan of ancient Egyptian history and culture since I was a kid. My Dad would take me to the Field Museum in Chicago and we would browse the beautiful Egyptian art and artifacts.  When King Tutankhamun’s treasures reached the Field Museum in 1977, I was there to see them, standing in lines that rivaled those of Star Wars, which opened earlier that same year.

One aspect of ancient Egyptian culture that I failed to pay much attention to, however, is mathematics.  Conventional wisdom for years has suggested that, although ancient Egypt had a functioning mathematics system, it was rudimentary and flawed in many ways. I assumed that this was the case without k10197looking too much into it – besides, what sort of insight could one gain from learning an antiquated system of mathematics?

Now a book has come out that aims to correct these flawed opinions of ancient mathematics: Count Like an Egyptian by David Reimer, an associate professor of mathematics at the College of New Jersey. Continue reading “Count Like An Egyptian: More fun than you think!”