Ask Me Uncomfortable Questions

I’m feeling kind of uninspired, blog-wise. I’ve got a few ResearchBlogging type posts in the mental queue, but they’re not going to get written before the weekend, and the other obvious topics are things that I’ve written about N times before, and I’m not fired up for iteration N+1. So, we’ll repeat last year’s uncomfortable questions experiment, which worked pretty well:

Everyone has things they blog about.
Everyone has things they don’t blog about.
Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don’t blog about, but you’d like to hear about, and I’ll write a post about it.

So, fire away. Ask me a question I haven’t talked about before.

(Obligatory disclaimer: I am not promising to answer any and all requests. In particular, questions whose answers might get me in trouble of some sort (“Don’t you just hate [blood relative]?”) will be ignored, or get blow-off answers. I’m uninspired, not stupid.)


  1. #1 Thony C.
    January 6, 2009

    You say you’re teaching “modern physics” so how about a running commentary on the stuff your teaching?

  2. #2 Coturnix
    January 6, 2009

    What is un-modern physics?

  3. #3 chezjake
    January 6, 2009

    If you had the time and inclination to study/learn some science outside of physics, what would you choose? Why?

  4. #4 Jason Failes
    January 6, 2009

    What’s the best evidence for the Big Bang theory?

    The more I read about it (25 years ago to present), the more contrived, ad hoc, and retro-dictive it seems.

    At this point, what would falsify the Big Bang theory?

  5. #5 jj
    January 6, 2009

    As you are now a parent how about issues to discuss with children later. One of my observations that I have shared with my children is that in our current world intelligence is actually a very very important trait for success in almost any area. So how do you and would you balance the issues of mate selection (cold hard facts) vs. the more subjective world of emotions. From a science perspective this is an interesting dynamic because our “mating” genes seem to program us for different responses related to physical characteristics, health, etc.

  6. #6 milkshake
    January 6, 2009

    a personal uncomfortable question: what were your initial career and life expectations when you decided for physics, and how does it compare with the career and life you have now (after getting a tenure)

  7. #7 jj
    January 6, 2009

    Or you could go in a different direction. The title of your blog includes the words “principles” how about those the interaction of the physics principles with a different connotation of “principles” – ethics. What about taking some of those subjects that seem dull and boring (n times) and considering any of the implications of discovery, impact, implementation from an ethical/social perspective. You have discussed science fiction but Mars is becoming less of a fiction.. What is the ethical balance of working toward some future activity (mining, colonization, etc.) of Mars vs. that investment in fixing improving saving the current planet. Or are there ethical issues with future activities on Mars to consider? Are their any breakthroughs in the last couple of years that have major implications ethically?

    The collision of “principles” might be as fascinating as collision of particles

  8. #8 Thony C.
    January 6, 2009

    how about a running commentary on the stuff your teaching?

    That should of course read: you’re teaching!

    Embarrassing, embarrassing.

  9. #9 ObsessiveMathsFreak
    January 6, 2009

    Is modern physics actually getting anywhere?

  10. #10 David White
    January 6, 2009

    Hi Chad,

    Ever entertained the notion that attacks on true science from the muscular political creationism/ID lobby might be vitiated by exposure of their great and inexplicable theological flaw (gasp!) dating all the way back to William Paley?

    Secularists may wince at the thought of accommodating theistic evolution as a legitimate choice, but it seems the best answer to letting science progress unhampered in a world where people need, as they always have, to sort out their own metaphysics. It might simply be preferable to let them do it after the physical facts are available, rather than a priori.

    I’ve tried to make this case here:

    Intelligent Design Rules Out God’s Sovereignty Over Chance

    Physics, politics, school boards, chance…..What’s not to like?

  11. #11 andy.s
    January 6, 2009

    You’re an AMO guy, right? Do AMO physicists need to use Quantum Field Theory in their research, or do you guys just get by using plain old Quantum Mechanics?

  12. #12 Lou
    January 6, 2009

    As a private college professor and a new parent, I’m sure you are aware that the current rates of tuition growth are unsustainable indefinitely. When do you expect to see the rates drop back to inflation levels, rather than continuing to grow 3-4% above it?

  13. #13 Ewan
    January 6, 2009

    You want uncomfortable? Seriously?

    OK: what do you think your biggest failing as a father has been to date?

  14. #14 gg
    January 6, 2009

    Coturnix wrote: “What is un-modern physics?”

    I’ll field that one!

    An example:

    “Ugh! Sticking hand in fire hurt! I wonder if it hurt if I do it again?”


  15. #15 Coturnix
    January 6, 2009

    gg, that certainly sounds un-modern to me ;-)

    And yet, the experiment was born! And the importance of replication!

  16. #16 eddie
    January 7, 2009

    What do you hope the LHC, if it ever gets running again, will not find?

    What will you say when Casey Luskin announces; “Of course, the real reason we never find pre-cambrian bunnies is that GAWD made them from cheese!”?

  17. #17 abb3w
    January 7, 2009

    1) Does the current measurement and understanding still indicate the positive mass-energy of the universe’s particles balances the negative mass-energy of the universe’s space-time curvature?
    2) How can one calculate the combined entropy of the two?
    3) Presuming the net is positive, does the increased entropy over having a Universe instead of Nothing allow justification of the Big Bang “Something coming from Nothing” via the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the (probabilistic) tendency for entropy to increase?
    4) Presuming it does allow such justification, is there an easier way to get a Creationist to understand this than suggesting they take a PhD candidate, post-Doc, or junior professor in Physics out for drinks? =)

  18. #18 Joshua Zelinsky
    January 7, 2009

    Preamble: This question comes because I’ve been reading websites from modern geocentrists:

    1) Under general relativity, is there a valid reference frame that has the Earth stationary? I know that under SR non-accelerating reference frame are fine. But if we assume that the Earth is stationary one seems to get problems (in particular planets past about Jupiter are moving faster than the speed of light). So can we make a valid reference frame where the Earth is not rotating?

  19. #19 Erica
    January 9, 2009

    You’ve probably talked about this before (and I’m sure I’ll be combing your and everyone else’s archives), and I don’t know how uncomfortable it is, but it’s timely. What advice would you give to faculty candidates for doing well in interviews?

    All of us have seen seminars before; that’s the easy part. But the rest is a mystery. What is expected of us during the closed meeting with department faculty (scarily termed “chalk talk” in my invite email)? Also, any pointers for coming off well during meetings with individual faculty? How does one create the impression of being a potential long-term colleague rather than a scared postdoc?

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.