Friday, September 29, 2006

Can You Guess Which Sexy Woman Has a crush on Einstein?

I'm not one to frequent such magazines, but I came across this teaser in Esquire about the sexiest woman of 2006. They're not giving a name yet, but answered thusly:

Historical person you have the biggest crush on?

Albert Einstein.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hilarity in Physics

I find Stephen Colbert pretty funny. I've watched his show from the beginning without much enthusiasm, afterall, who wants to see someone emulate Bill O'Reilly, even if completely in mockery. But it's been hilarious. The Daily Show, though an excellent show, tends to bring me can so many people allow the world to get like this and not punish those in power responsible for bringing it upon us? But not so with the Colbert Report.

So the show's success got me thinking that maybe the greater physics community would benefit from similar mockery...someone along the lines of an O'Reilly in physics. That person would have to act a bully, take extreme positions and act like dissent only comes from traitors and idiots. Someone capable of shoving some theory down other physicists throats as dogma all the while keeping a straight face as he (or she) castigates us as not knowing what real science is.

But of course, there's someone in the blogosphere very much like this, and who is, in his own way, pretty entertaining. And of course his recent post speaking for the entire Harvard Faculty is hilarious:

As a typical average member of Harvard faculty, I want to say that we admire Bill O'Reilly tremendously. We are proud about him and consider him to be one of the shining examples for all of us and for the students who will make it into the top ten list sometime in the future. ;-)

He just needs to be a little careful. You can't break character even with just a little emoticon at the end!

As a postscript, let me also say that there was no humor in his tasteless comments about Sean and I'm glad that Lubos has pulled them. I'm not sticking up for Sean, he's a big boy and can withstand such matters, but I would hate to see any other bloggers out there getting silenced out of intimidation.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tales of Success and Woe

Rob Knopp has a very worthwhile post concerning his fears of not getting tenure because of an inconsistent track record of getting external funding. Unfortunately, he follows it up with bad news from the NSF. He laments that us faculty can't be open and honest about such fears. The thing is, I worry that indeed his honesty will work against him.

Chad recently pointed out that the MacArthur Awards were announced. It's interesting looking at who gets them, but people may not have seen that recent Fields Medal winner Terrence Tao got one. Not a bad year for him, eh?

Speaking of Chad and Rob, are they both coming up for tenure at the same time? If they both do get it, are we going to have an online tenure party?

Personned Space Flight or Not?

Whatever you may think of DailyKos, they usually have a good science posting every Friday. Today's addresses the resulting science per dollar spent in which unpersonned space flight wins easily. There's more to the story of course, being that there are things to be gained by putting people up there, space tourism and advertising golf balls excluded. I can accept that some people sent up is not a bad thing, but in terms of what we actually have people doing up there, we ain't gaining sufficiently with the shuttle and ISS to justify the price paid. And, inexcusably, the science is really suffering.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Students, Arghh!

I thought things were going pretty well...that is the students seemed to be paying attention and actually working through their difficulties.

Of course, now that I'm finally grading some of their work I have an awful yucky feeling inside. It doesn't help that I'm already way behind on my grading. But that awful feeling consists mostly of this frustration that there really is no point to my teaching. It's kind of like making your bed. What's the point?

So I take a break and go get some food. But I don't feel any better. Then you start to wonder "Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I just suck as a teacher." It doesn't matter that I've been doing this for years. Well, I console myself by hoping that at least they should get better since it's so early on...they can't get worse. Plus, the weather will get worse and that usually Spring, it's the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy teaching, though there are plenty who just can't stand it. And I don't need the best students. I just wish they tried a little harder.

On a related note, I'm thinking about putting together an elective for nonscience majors on modern know the cool stuff such as quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology, and some other things...using popular level books. Am I nuts? Any recommendations for which books? Other tips?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Stoner Geeks?

There's some discussion of just how nerdy us physcists are...for links you might start with Clifford. It's a bit strange that while bloggers are competing for just how nerdy they are, Sean comes along seemingly scolding them for not aspiring to be socially well adjusted grown-ups. No judgement here, I just find it amusing. But what seems especially ironic is seeing Phil's post apparently equating drug use with being cool:

Drugs aside, a lot of astronomers are cool, too.

Maybe I'm just parsing things wrong, because it's almost like he's saying "Exclude the use of drugs by astronomers, and you can consider them cool." But then what am I to make of the "too"? He's saying astronomers are cool in addition to something else? What? Phil, are drugs cool, too?

....Sincerely, William Safire :)

Jobs Links

There's a pretty standard article about a job search in math over at Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Most of it is applicable to physics. I skimmed it quickly, and didn't seen any really good nuggets. But, I did like some of the links it provides.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Physics on Slashdot

Slashdot has a couple posts relevant to physics:

  • The first is a review of The Physics of Superheroes. I don't have the energy (or interest) to read it, especially since I just saw a review of the same book in Physics Today that was not favorable, but I often find Slashdot's comments funny.
  • The second mentions fears of the LHC producing black holes that will devour us. Nothing too interesting, until I clicked on the Board for this Lifeboat Foundation. Frank Wilczek is on there as is one or two other people I know or know of. Not sure what to make of them, but if you're interested, I'd suggest you look at their FAQ which answers the very important question:

    I only have $10 in the bank. Is there a chance I could get on a lifeboat?

Friday, September 08, 2006

DOE Awards Announced

The DOE has moved more into funding academic-type work, and has announced some new, big awards in astrophysics, lattice QCD, turbulence, and petascale, distributed computing.

An unrelated postscript is that it looks like the plot for the season opener of The Simpson's is out (apparently airing in just a couple days). For some funny moments as remembered by physicists see the comments of this post.
Update: CNN has a piece up on Groening's desire to keep making the show because it's fun and which mentions the movie due out next summer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mental Health of Physicists

I'm in a bit of a funk. A paper of mine got accepted recently which serves to thoroughly kill the high from getting it written. So while I'm coming down from that, I'm also passed the mild excitement of encountering new students. This crop has less wonder than previous generations, and boy do they look young (which makes me feel old)! I'm on the verge of some cool new physics that I can just barely see, but every effort to really see it keeps failing and I'm starting to lose hope that things are robust enough to get me there. Plus, I think my allergies and the upcoming change of seasons is taking a toll on my mood as well.

Anyway, hopefully it'll pass, as they have in the past. At least I'm better off than some others who have had nervous breakdowns.

And Andre Agassi finally lost (his nasty comments on Sampras so long ago really turned me off him), Lindsay Davenport and Andy Roddick won. Of course, trying to find any coverage of tennis is pretty difficult...PTI has hardly any coverage, and if you got CNN's sports page, you've got to first click "more sports" and then "tennis". Can you believe that during the U.S. Open they can't even give a link on their main sports page?

Jaffe links to a quick piece at the NYT (free reg. reqd.) on why professorships are so desirable:

But we academics do have something few others possess in this postindustrial world: control over our own time. All the surveys point to this as the most common factor in job satisfaction.

I'm not sure I buy this as the most important or even common factor, but once when I was interviewing for an "industry" job that paid quite a bit more (but nowhere near the double pay mentioned in the article) than my faculty job, I quickly lost interest for two main factors: prescribed working hours and prescribed research topics.

You know, one thing that did cheer me up a bit came from an unlikely place. Usually reading Clifford's posts just makes me jealous...all the hiking, traveling, eating, etc. But I liked this post, and was amazed at the resurrection photos, and enjoyed the pun in the title.