Chad Orzel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College in Schenectady, NY. He blogs about physics, life in academia, ephemeral pop culture, and anything else that catches his fancy.

I was invited to a dinner last night hosted by one of the umbrella organizations for fraternities on campus, with a stated goal of improving communication between faculty and frats. It ended up being kind of a weird crowd– most of the non-students there were Deans of one sort or another; I think there was…

I’ve lost track of who on social media pointed me to this, but this blog post about testimony to the Michigan Legislature is a brilliant demonstration of what’s so difficult about teaching even simple subjects. Deborah Ball, the Dean of the education school at the University of Michigan gives the legislators a simple grading exercise…

It’s the time of year where colleges and grad schools are making admissions decisions, and faculty job search season is winding down (for tenure-track positions in physics, anyway– our search for a visiting professor for next year is still underway). In the spirit of the season, then, Matt “Dean Dad” Reed asks about the writing…

Cosmos F*$&ing Loves Science

The fourth episode of the Cosmos reboot aired last night, and as I said on Twitter it was a beautiful demonstration of why I’m finding this show intensely frustrating. There were flashes of brilliance, but also quite a few bits that left me shaking my head. Thus fitting the pattern of the previous episodes– I…

Uncertain Dots, Episode A

In which we hit double digits, in base ten, anyway. This was mostly about teaching stuff, because I’m between terms, in that weird reflect-on-the-last term/ prep-for-the-next-term space. With a digression about training wheels, which are good as an analogy, but less good for actually learning to ride a bike…

Spring Break

This week is Union’s spring break, and like basically everything associated with Union’s academic calendar, it’s too short. I have to turn in my Winter term grades today, and next Monday is the start of my Spring term class. I also find myself in a place right now were every little thing is pissing me…

Equal Time for the Little Dude

Since not all that long after he was born, I’ve been referring to The Pip as “Little Dude,” which had become ingrained before I realized it was lifted from Otto the bus driver on The Simpsons. He’s not as talkative as his sister yet, which is why she gets more press on the blog, but…

Review and Replication

So, there was this big story in cosmology the other day– Tom Levenson’s write-up is very nice– which has been hailed as one of the greatest discoveries since the last greatest discovery, blah, blah, blah. And now that a few days have passed, we’re starting to see the inevitable backlash, ranging from detailed technical analyses…

Science at Bedtime

“Daddy? How do you make water?” “You mean, what is it made of?” “Yeah, what’s water made of?” “Hydrogen and oxygen.” “Oh. And what’s hydrogen and oxygen?” “They’re chemical elements.” “So, when we drink water, we’re drinking chemicals?” “Well, yeah. In a sense, everything is chemicals. Water’s a chemical, air is made of chemicals. ”…

Uncertain Dots, Episode 9

In which Rhett and I chat about the hot new discovery of primordial gravitational waves (maybe) very briefly before segueing into talking about LIGO, and Cosmos, and why “theory” is a terrible word, and the memorization of constants, and standardized tests, and time-lapse videos. You know, as one does. Miscellaneous items: – I’m a little…