Built on Facts

Archives for July, 2009

I’m a bibliophile. I read books at an inordinate rate and have a tendency to buy them at an even faster rate. Here at Texas A&M I’m fortunate to have access to a library of more than four million volumes, a fantastic interlibrary loan service, and a breathtaking special collections library that among other things…

As a student I know that toward the end of the semester it’s sometimes a struggle to pay attention and retain motivation. As a teacher I have to try to fight that tendency in whatever way I can. It’s not necessarily possible to make a physics quiz entertaining, but sometimes they can at least be…

Electron Microscopes

We’re not too far from the end of the Physics 202 class I’m helping teach, and as we finish things out we’re learning about the particle nature of light and the wave nature of matter. It’s really the very basics of quantum mechanics. One of the applications of this kind of knowledge is the electron…

The Time Traveller’s Surrogate

This weekend I was at the movies with my lovely significant other watching The Proposal (verdict: about what you’d expect). Unusually for a by-the-numbers romcom, the pre-film previews showed no fewer than two promising science fiction films. Science fiction is difficult to cleanly describe – it’s almost more of a flavor than a formula. The…

Sunday Function

We’ve done a lot of discussion of the concept of integrals of a function here on this blog. Their definitions and applications are so broad as to defy any one-sentence description, but one of the most basic is the idea of the area under a curve. More precisely it’s the signed area under the curve…

“The” Feynman Lectures

Roughly a week or so ago the ScienceBlogs front page was discussing the new online videos of the Feynman lectures. Somehow they found one of my old posts on the subject. What I haven’t really seen pointed out that the new online video isn’t actually “the” Feynman Lectures. “The” lectures were given as an actual…

On Gates

Far be it from a ScienceBlog to bloviate insufferably about current events, but I suppose I should weigh in on the whole Henry Louis Gates thing. I suppose this because I’ve had a very similar thing once happen to me. First Gates’ story, then mine. The accounts of Gates and the arresting officer vary on…

Glowing People

Here’s a neat little news article about humans glowing in the dark. The human body literally glows, emitting a visible light in extremely small quantities at levels that rise and fall with the day, scientists now reveal. Past research has shown that the body emits visible light, 1,000 times less intense than the levels to…

Rocket Science

This week the science blogosphere has been spending a lot of time on space exploration and the science of understanding the universe outside our own planet. At risk of being the buzzkill distracting from all the cool space travel history and heated debates about NASA’s future, I think it will be interesting to do a…

Jupiter, Bullets, Antimatter

There’s been some discussion around the web of Jupiter apparently getting walloped by something, probably a comet. As with the more famous Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact, the result is a small dark blot in the clouds of the Jovian upper atmosphere. Small is a relative term – small spots on the surface can easily be as…