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.

Uncertain Dots 21

Our little hangout thing is now old enough to drink, in episode-years anyway, and to celebrate, we finally figured out how to get live audience feedback during the hangout. Which takes the first couple of minutes of the video, because we’re highly trained professional scientists. Once we got that sorted, we talked about a bunch…

Women of the Arxiv

Over at FiveThirtyEight, they have a number-crunching analysis of the number of papers (co)authored by women in the arxiv preprint server, including a breakdown of first-author and last-author papers by women, which are perhaps better indicators of prestige. The key time series graph is here: This shows a steady increase (save for a brief drop…

I’ve gotten a few queries about this “Impossible space drive” thing that has space enthusiasts all a-twitter. This supposedly generates thrust through the interaction of an RF cavity with a “quantum vacuum virtual plasma,” which is certainly a collection of four words that turn up in physics papers. An experiment at a NASA lab has…

The Social Event of the Season…

…if you’re a first-grader in Niskayuna, anyway. We’ve got 10-15 elementary school kids who are supposed to descend upon our house a bit before lunchtime. Morituri te salutamus… Kidding aside, it’s worth it, because SteelyKid is awesome, and she’s super excited to have a whole mob of her friends over. I just hope the rain…

Eureka! It’s a Book!

I took a short nap yesterday, and of course as soon as I lay down on the bed, Emmy erupted in the furious barking that signals the arrival of a package. When I went out to get it, I found shiny new bound galley proofs of Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist: I knew these were…

Uncertain Dots 20

In which Rhett and I talk about awful academic computing systems, Worldcon, our Wikipedia pages, and AAPT meeting envy. Some links: – Rhett’s Wikipedia entry – My Wikipedia entry – The 2014 AAPT Summer Meeting – LonCon 3, this year’s Worldcon – My puzzling Worldcon schedule We have some ideas for what to do next…

The Fermi Alternative

Given the recent Feynman explosion (timeline of events), some people may be casting about looking for an alternative source of colorful-character anecdotes in physics. Fortunately, the search doesn’t need to go all that far– if you flip back a couple of pages in the imaginary alphabetical listing of physicists, you’ll find a guy who fits…

Kids Those Days

Lance Mannion has a really nice contrast between childhood now and back in the 1970′s that doesn’t go in the usual decline-of-society direction. He grew up not too far from where I now live, and after describing his free-ranging youth, points out some of the key factors distinguishing it from today, that need to be…

I should really know better than to click any tweeted link with a huff.to shortened URL, but for some reason, I actually followed one to an article with the limited-reach clickbait title Curious About Quantum Physics? Read These 10 Articles!. Which is only part one, because Huffington Post, so it’s actually five articles. Three of…

The Physicists of Journalism

This Alberto Cairo piece on “data journalism” has been kicking around for a while, and it’s taken me a while to pin down what bugs me about it. I think my problem with it ultimately has to do with the first two section headers in which he identifies problems with FiveThirtyEight and Vox: 1. Data…