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.

Music Writing and Science Writing

No, this isn’t another blog post lamenting the fact that music writing gets far more attention than science writing. If anything, it’s a bit of an argument that science writing ought to be less like popular music writing. On Twitter this past weekend Jim Henley, one of the few bloggers I consider “old school” (the…

Uncertain Dots, Episode 11

We took a week off last week because Rhett was away on a Secret Mission, but we’re back and better than ever this week. More uncertain! More dotty! Or something! Topics for this week include oblique references to Rhett’s mission, some discussion of the Geocentric Janeway debacle, good and bad places to have a conference,…

Cosmos Reboot: On Light

Another Monday, another recap of a new episode of the Cosmos reboot. This one was all about optics, and much of it was excellent. This was in part due to the fact that its first couple of historical segments focused on non-Western figures, and I don’t know as much about their background to be able…

On Exclusivity

Yesterday’s frat boy post prompted some interesting discussion, one piece of which is a response from Matt “Dean Dad” Reed (also at Inside Higher Ed), who overlapped with me at Williams for a year, but had a very different reaction to the social scene there. His take mirrors mine from the other side, though, which…

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…