Category Archives: Amateur Science

The experimenter in the basement, the naturalist in the park; science for the fun of it, and the thrill of discovery.

Bending Beta Particles with Magnets

By George Dowell There are many different types of atomic and nuclear radiation. “Atomic” refers to the atom as a whole, but the commonly accepted definition of atomic reactions are those that originate in the electron shell area of the atom. “Nuclear” on the other hand is specific to the nucleus of an atom. Some radiation consists of particles of matter, betas and … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, DIY, Magnetism, Nuclear, Physics | Leave a comment

Borax Bead And Flame Tests

You can perform simple qualitative analysis to detect certain metals in various substances using borax bead, and flame tests. The inoculating loop for these tests is very easy to make. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Chemistry, Experimentation, Geology, Research Tools, Tools | 1 Comment

Citizen Science Musings: The Scientific Art of Roger Hayward

Part of that story involves one of the lesser-known characters in that story, an extremely gifted artist and amateur scientist named Roger Hayward. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Citizen Science Musings, DIY, General Interest, History of Science, Invention, Machine Shop, Makers and Making, Physics, Publishing, Stories, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Citizen Science Musings: Amateurs and Astronomy

Addressing the Peninsula Astronomical Society at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA.

The bottom line of my presentation was that this column began as an amateur astronomy column in 1928, and remained so for the next 24 years. During that time, it was the go-to place for new innovations in mirror grinding, telescope mounts, and all the thousands of details that lie along the way. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Astronomy, Citizen Science Musings, Community, DIY, Events, Instrumentation, Makers and Making, Observation, Publishing, Space, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sky Temperature Sensor

The first sensor to go on my instrument platform may be an infrared sky temperature sensor. The sky temperature can be used to determine if the sky is clear or cloudy and when the sky is clear the temperature is a measure of the total column water vapor above the sensor. The sensor electronics consists of two modules from SparkFun Electronics,  an evaluation … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Climate, DIY, Electronics, Experimentation, Imbedded Software, Instrumentation, Measurement, Programming, Sensors, Software, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Wanted: Raspberry Pi Columnist(s)

Image: PC Magazine

CSL is looking for one or more people who are conversant in using Raspberry Pi and other types of microcontrollers who would like to share their expertise and enthusiasm with our readers. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Community, Computer Science, CSL News, DIY, Electronics, Engineering, Instrumentation, Invention, Makers and Making, Open Science, Open Source, Publishing, Research Tools, Software, Tools | Leave a comment

This Week at Hilton Pond (1-7 December 2013)—#585—“Wandering White-throat: A Long-lived Sparrow Meets Its Demise”

Figure 1. White-throated Sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis (see photo), breed primarily in Canada, but many individuals migrate to the southern U.S. to spend the winter. (Photo copyright Bill Hilton Jr.)

Ever wonder why I devote so much time, energy, and thought to bird banding? In part it’s for the rush (and scientific validation) I get when notified one of “my” banded birds has been encountered at a faraway locale. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Biology, General Interest, Nature Study, Observation, Ornithology, Photography, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Getting Information on Chemicals

Suppose you needed to know something about a chemical. What is it’s boiling point? Melting point? Flash point? How toxic is it? What is the best way to store it? What do you do if it is toxic and someone is accidentally exposed to it? Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Best Practices, Chemistry, Environment, Research Tools, Safety | 1 Comment

This Week at Hilton Pond (1-30 November 2013)—#584—“Ujarráscals In Costa Rica: Hummingbirds Among The Chayote”

The first half of November I was in Costa Rica’s Orosi Valley for our 22nd Operation RubyThroat citizen science expedition to the Neotropics. Mist netting and live-trapping operations were centered at Ujarrás, a riverside agricultural community whose cash crop is Chayote–a squash that flowers prolifically and whose nectar is sought by hummers and other avifauna. Continue reading…

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Citizen Science Musings: Christmas Citizen Science


One of my earliest experiences in what we would today call “citizen science” was participating in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Biology, Citizen Science Musings, Environment, Events, History of Science, Nature Study, Ornithology, Wildlife | Leave a comment