Charles Petzold

William Cowper and the Age of the Earth (June 2019)

In 1785, English poet William Cowper sounded a poetical alarm about people digging into the earth and concluding that it was older than the 6,000 years indicated in scripture. If 1785 seems a little early in the history of geology for such concern, then the question arises: How did Cowper know? Turns out — he read a lot of magazines.

Adventures in Electronic Music: Beeps, Bloops, and Klangs: 1974–1982 (September 2011)

This rambling narrative describes how I spent the late 1970s and early 1980s building electronic music instruments, including a computer-controlled digital synthesizer capable of generating 40 simultaneous voices. Included are photographs, other documents, and over 4 hours of virtually unlistenable "music."

Sesquicentenniality: 1859

When work was sparse in 2009, I wrote a series of blog entries on the 150th anniversary of some notable events, mostly book publications. While 1859 is most famous for the November publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, perhaps the times were changing in other ways as well.

How Far From True North are the Avenues of Manhattan? (July 2005)

A long-awaited answer to this pressing question determined with a little trigonometry and the Google Maps API. (The answer is 29°.) This is the calculation alluded to the New York Times article City of Angles (July 2, 2006).

Maxwell, Molecules, and Evolution (February 2005)

Modern-day creationists have claimed Victorian physicist James Clerk Maxwell as one of their own. This essay analyzes the evidence and discovers that Maxwell's attitude toward evolution was more nuanced than people assume.