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.

One of the endlessly recurring topics around here is the use of PowerPoint and comparable presentation software. Usually because of some ill-informed rant against the use of PowerPoint. It’s come around yet again in a particularly ironic fashion, via an online slideshow at Slate, the only medium more consistently exasperating than a bad PowerPoint presentation.…

Idle Physics Query: Whistling Bombs

Not that long ago, SteelyKid was doing something violent with toys (she’s very tough, as you can see from the featured image above), and in the process made the canonical falling-bomb whistle noise. And it occurred to me to wonder, why that sound? I mean, I’ve seen footage of falling bombs and the canonical sound…

Given the academic circles I run in, it’s not surprising that one of the most repeated stories crossing my social media feeds yesterday had to do with the changes to the SAT. Starting in 2015, the essay section will no longer be mandatory, and they’re going to reconfigure the reading and math sections to emphasize…

Uncertain Dots, Episode 7

In which we move out of the original trilogy, and into J.J. Abrams territory. Cue the lens flare! This week’s random assortment of topics includes travel, airports, physics models of loading and unloading planes, uses and abuses of curve fitting, odd stuff we get sent to review, and high-speed video cameras. Miscellaneous links: – Rhett’s…

Struggling With Sincerity

In October 1988, I trashed my parents’ basement in order to get into college. OK, the causal connection is a little indirect, but it’s there. I was applying to college that fall, and needed to write an essay to go with my application. I’ve always been able to write stuff with very little effort, so…

What Is Color?

This year’s “Flame Challenge” asks scientists to explain color in terms an 11-year-old can understand. The rules limit answers to either 300 words of text or a 6-minute video. 300 words is ridiculously short, so video is clearly the way to go. Of course, I’m not much of a video expert, but then, one of…

Shave and a Haircut

Kate has been cutting The Pip’s hair a little bit at a time, and this morning he demanded a trim. This is a somewhat fraught process, as he’s two, and thus tends not to hold still very well. While Kate was trying to get him arranged, SteelyKid came bouncing into the bathroom to “watch,” which…

Friday Miscellany

I got book edits this week, gave an exam on Thursday, and pre-registration for our spring term classes is just beginning, so I have a parade of students begging to get into this course or that one to deal with. So I have no more time for detailed blogging, but will do a bit of…

Last week, we looked at the resistance of a voltage sensor by using the discharge of a capacitor, getting a value that was a bit high, but not wildly out of line with the specs. This time out, we’re going to look at the resistance of a current meter, because some students asked about it…

Against “Gen Eds”

Matt Reed, who will forever be “Dean Dad” to me, has a post on “new” topics that might be considered for “gen ed” requirements, that is, the core courses that all students are required to take. This spins off a question Rebecca Townsend asked (no link in original), “Should public speaking be a general education…