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Lee Phillips
March 16th, 2021

About Me

I grew up on the 17th floor of a public housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Its cluster of grimly functional towers scrape elbows with the hulking, utilitarian Manhattan Bridge. This had several consequences: the rumble of the (24 hour) “subway” created an acoustic background to my childhood that causes most subsequent sonic environments to seem as if they are missing a proper foundation; I frequently catch a glimpse of my first home in the opening shots of all those movies set in New York, helicopter-mounted camera framing the harbor, the several bridges, the lower skyline; a picture of my house is on Wikipedia, in the entry about the Bridge — and how many can say that?

I attended Stuyvesant High School, where I haunted Frank McCourt’s classroom for 2½ years, eventually, I suspect, causing him to question the wisdom of his decision to leave Ireland; then Hampshire College, where I studied physics, mathematics, and music. I picked up the first of these threads at Dartmouth, where I developed an interest in fluid dynamics that led to a PhD in theoretical physics.

After completing a postdoctoral project with Prof. David Montgomery in an area where fluid dynamics and plasma physics intersect, I was hired by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where I worked on various problems for the Navy, NASA, DOE, and others for 21 years. Among these projects were: molecular-scale simulations of shocks and detonations in solids, using massively parallel supercomputers (such as the Connection Machine—a new thing in those days); missile tracking algorithms; simulating turbulence; equation of state of deuterium; laser-plasma interactions; techniques for particle simulation of plasmas; hydrodynamic instabilities at interfaces; and design of laser fusion systems for energy production.

I publish articles about science, the use of free software in scientific research, and, now and then, other things, at various publications and here on this website. I’m working on a book about the Julia language for No Starch Press, and with an agent on a proposal for a book about Emmy Noether and her Theorem. I recently gave a talk about that topic at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras. Here is my book about scientific and technical graphics with gnuplot.

I design and program information systems and websites for nonprofits in support of education and outreach in the arts and sciences, including the website of the Friends Arlington’s Planetarium; I also serve on their Board of Directors.

The best way to get in touch with me is by email:

A usually outdated version of my CV.

About This Website

If I were starting this today I would probably think of a more interesting domain name. But I registered this domain and launched this website 20 years ago, so I’m not about to change it now.

Announcements of new things I’ve been up to, along with random other things I find interesting, are added to a news feed, which is duplicated on the front page and also, in abbreviated form, to my Twitter account; just click on the icons at the top of the page to subscribe. (The news feed uses the Atom format, which is compatible with RSS but without the sociopathic history.)

I respect my readers and therefore do not track or spy on you in any way. You will encounter no doorslams begging you to subscribe to my newsletter. No music will suddenly blare from your speakers. There is no huge file of unnecessary javascript. Each of my pages contains a Share link that exposes a set of bookmarking icons for your convenience, but these are the type that do not contain javascript and do not track you. If you find any value here, you can express your delight in a comment or email, or even contribute to my café fund by clicking the coffee cup up top.

Aside from my mostly automated relationship with Twitter, I don’t use any “social media.” Please do not be offended when I ignore your request to join LinkedIn. I didn’t see your invitation because it went right to the spam box.


New content, and old content as I convert it, is in HTML5, served by Apache2 on Debian Linux. The pages and stylesheet validate (except for such things as a few nonstandard elements needed to include htmx enhancements) and should work in any modern browser. However, there is still some old stuff here in HTML4 that might be a bit of a mess; I hope to convert all of this before long.

Most of the site is a web of static pages created by a python program (3000 lines and growing) that processes a collection of notes and articles that I write in Markdown with my own extensions. The amazing Pandoc is central to the system.

The small amount of dynamic content uses python on the server, using some pieces of Django, and served through mod_wsgi.


The blue butterfly used as a favicon is derived from this.

I use open-source software exclusively. In preparing this site I make extensive use of Linux, Vim, the Gnu tools, ImageMagick, Python, graphviz, the Gimp, rsync, and much more.

New items added to my feed appear within seconds on any pubsubhubbub enabled feed reader, such as Newsblur.

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