Category Archives: Excerpts from Kenn’s books

Goats and Pigs, Iodine and Thiamine: a Hypothesis

It’s easy to decide that iodine deficiency plays some role in neurological diseases like ALS and Alzheimers. For over fifty years we’ve known that you’re much likelier to get one of these diseases if you spent your infancy in a region that’s deficient in iodine. Another example: exposure to the fungicide maneb dramatically increases the chances of getting a neurological disease from a toxin; maneb works by disrupting the use of iodine in animals. Our instincts shout that iodine must be involved; but we can’t say it out loud. Although iodine deficiency remains the number one cause of mental retardation in the world, we can’t prove it has a role in Alzheimer’s or ALS. No one has found a smoking gun. Continue reading →

Nearing Pond Scum Time

I’ve been working on a book about the various theories people use to explain the causes of ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s called “Revenge of the Pond Scum,” for reasons that may not be obvious at first. A dozen scientists and doctors have read sections relating to their specialties or theories and suggested a few minor changes, which I happily made. One of those scientists, who coordinates the efforts of several university teams studying ALS said my book “helped me to think about ALS.” Another said “It’s a very, very fascinating book indeed!” Continue reading →

The Power of Calculus

(excerpt from Calculus for Cats by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats, Ph.D. All rights reserved)

Differential calculus is used three ways, each quite different from the other. Mathematicians and cats instinctively understand this so they tend to gloss over the distinctions, which confuses the rest of us. The distinctions arise from what question we want to answer. Continue reading →

Excerpt from Jumper and the Bones by Kenn Amdahl

(this is from Chapter Seven)

I got to the hospital about nine and sat down on the grass in front to wait. It’s extra hard not to pay attention to things when that’s what you’re trying not to do. It was mostly dark out, except for car lights, and building lights and some streetlights. One streetlight was flickering, like it was going bad and that was pretty interesting, but I just looked away. Somebody else was going to have to be the one who seen that light go out. A guy was walking back and forth on the sidewalk saying stuff to himself, but the sole of one of his shoes was loose, so it made a clapping sound every time he stepped on it. I pretended he wasn’t even there. Continue reading →

Active and Passive Verbs

(from Joy Writing: Discover and Develop Your Creative Voice by Kenn Amdahl, published by Clearwater Publishing Co. All rights reserved. Excerpts from other books used by permission of their authors and publishers. Do not duplicate.)

Verbs drive sentences the way a locomotive pulls the rest of the train. Choose powerful verbs to pull your sentences.

Verbs come in two varieties: active and passive. Passive verbs include all variations of the verb “to be” and convey a thing’s state or condition. The most common passive verbs are: “be, is, was, were, are, been, and am.” Other words that describe a condition include have, had, has etc. Although they indicate that something possesses something else, possessing isn’t very active. He has red hair. He had a dream.

Textbook writers love passive verbs. Passive verbs remove the writer from the sentence and make it sound less personal and more official.  Maybe textbook writers think passive sentences make them sound smarter. If you want your work to sound like a bad, boring textbook, stick to passive verbs. They’re easy to write. Continue reading →

Chess and algebra

(from Algebra Unplugged by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats, Ph.D. All rights reserved)

Dr. Jim stared into the distance thoughtfully.  Something was bothering him.  We were just finishing breakfast, discussing the algebra book we intended to write together.  It looked like a big project to me, since I didn’t know anything about math.  It looked like a big project to Jim, too, since writing intimidated him.  But for the moment, we were talking about the game of chess.

“I never became good at chess,”  he said.  “Oh, I learned how the pieces move, and the rules.  But I always wondered about something.”

I nodded and drank my coffee.  Chess had been an important part of my life during high school.  Perhaps if any of the girls had been willing to talk to me, I might have less experience with knights and bishops.  Jim fidgeted, trying to think of a way to phrase his question.  He almost seemed embarrassed. Continue reading →


(excerpt from Too Many Clues by Kenn Amdahl)

Not many popular movies feature the microscopic war conducted every day between fungi and bacteria. It’s an ancient struggle with trillions of soldiers, secret alliances and battles that change the course of history. For such a movie to be popular, the bacterial battle would have to intersect with some epic human struggle. Luckily, human history was changed by just such an intersection. I think it would make a great movie. If any Hollywood producers happen to read this, here’s my pitch:

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A Crisis on Elm Street: the junction diode

(excerpt from There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings by Kenn Amdahl. All rights reserved)

“Throw down your weapons and come out peacefully!” The policeman’s voice was distorted by the bullhorn. “We’ve got you surrounded!” The young officer waited a moment, then turned to his partner. “It’s no use. They’re ignoring us.”

Just then, the chief of police pulled up. He was a big man, over two-hundred pounds, with curly black hair and a deep voice. He was a tough, no-nonsense fellow, strong and athletic. You didn’t mess with “the Chief,” as everyone called him. He had been called away from a fancy dinner party at the mayor’s mansion, for which he was grateful, and still wore the tuxedo. No one commented on it. As he walked over to the little group of policemen, his mind cataloged information. An ordinary block, he thought. Little houses, all pretty much the same, nice lawns. This was probably the most excitement they’d had around here for a while. The SWAT team was just arriving, policemen were roping off the area. His men had already evacuated the civilians.

Continue reading →