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.

If I Were Ted Chiang…

(That title doesn’t quite scan as is, but if you stick an “a” in there, you can sing it to the tune of a song from “Fiddler on the Roof”… You’re welcome.) The last time I taught my “Brief History of Timekeeping” seminar was in 2012, so I spent a bunch of time on the…

I’m teaching my “Brief History of Timekeeping” class again this term, and as always, I’m tweaking things a bit. This is one of our “Sophomore Research Seminar” courses, intended to introduce students to academic research, so it’s not specifically a physics class, but I’m choosing to take the statements about research outside the student’s field…

The Sun Is Red Because The Sky Is Blue

SteelyKid missed the bus this morning– she was dressed and ready, but I was talking to Kate, and if there isn’t a person at the end of the driveway when the bus comes around the corner, they won’t stop. So I drove her over to school myself (which is faster, anyway). The GE research lab…

Thanks, Common Core

“Daddy, ask me a math problem.” “OK. What’s 18 plus 6?” “Ummm… 24.” “Correct.” “See, I just keep the 18 and then add 2 from the 6 to get 20. That leaves 4 from the six, and 20 plus 4 is 24.” “Right. Good work.” —— “Hey, SteelyKid. What’s 120 plus 180?” “Ummm… 300.” “Very…

Some Follow-Up on Teaching

Yesterday’s Open Letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson struck a chord with a lot of people, and has spread a good distance on social media, which is gratifying. Given the delocalized nature of modern social media, though, it means I’m having essentially the same argument in five different places via different platforms. In the interest of…

(When I launched the Advent Calendar of Science Stories series back in December, I had a few things in mind, but wasn’t sure I’d get through 24 days. In the end, I had more than enough material, and in fact didn’t end up using a few of my original ideas. So I’ll do a few…

An Open Letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson

Dr. Tyson: (I find the faux-familiar thing people do with “open letters” really grating, so I’m not going to presume to call you “Neil” through the following…) First of all, I should probably say “Thanks,” because I’m using some of your material in my class this term– I had them read Stick in the Mud…

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. The fourteenth…

Two new items about Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist: 1) WAMC has now posted the interview I did with Joe Donahue on The Roundtable. This was a fun interview, and covers a number of examples from the book, so I think gives you a really nice sense of what it’s all about. 2) There’s a…

I exchanged a bunch of emails a week or two ago with a journalist who was working on a story involving the possibility of faster-than-light travel. He wanted me to check some statements about the relationship between FTL and causality. FTL creates problems for causality, because if you have an object moving faster than light,…