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.

“Earthing” Is a Bunch of Crap

A little while back, I was put in touch with a Wall Street Journal writer who was looking into a new-ish health fad called “earthing,” which involves people sleeping on special grounded mats and that sort of thing. The basis of this particular bit of quackery is the notion that spending time indoors, out of…

I’ve had a lot of weird things happen in the time I’ve been teaching, but the above image is my new favorite message from a student. We gave an exam Thursday night, so a couple of my colleagues canceled class on Friday, but I’m going to be at DAMOP the last week of class, so…

Friday Tab Clearance

Here’s some stuff I’ve had open in Chrome for a while, and want to close before we go out of town for the weekend: – Statistics on the professionalization of science blogging, a topic I have banged on about in the past. Nothing really new, but nice to have it somewhat quantified. – Speaking of…

That recent study on active learning continues to generate some press, including a new interview with Carl Wieman about why traditional lectures are problematic. Wieman is pretty blunt about his opinions on the subject, which will come as no surprise to people in the AMO physics community… Anyway, while most of the rest of the…

Uncertain Dots 15

Rhett and I did the 15th episode of our Uncertain Dots hangout yesterday, commenting on a discussion started by Casey Rutherford about what we would like students coming into college physics to know. We had a slight difference of opinion about physics content, but agreed about the importance of algebra (which is like sunscreen). I…

Cosmos and Priorities

While solo-parenting Sunday night, I still managed to get free of The Pip just barely in time to catch the start of Cosmos. This was a strange episode in a couple of ways, chiefly having to do with the selection of topics. For one thing, there’s no small irony in the fact that following a…

Mysteries of Introductory Physics

Every now and then, I run across a question in class that I genuinely don’t know how to answer. If I’m lucky, this happens when I’m prepping a class, rather than when a student asks it live. Like today, when I noticed the above discussion question in my slides (reproduced at the bottom as well…

Botany for Kids

Kate’s arguing a case in Connecticut today, so I was solo-parenting last night and this morning. which means that while I did manage to watch Cosmos last night, and have some thoughts about it, I don’t have the time or energy to write them up this morning. As explanation, I offer this video from dinner…

A couple of weeks ago, io9 ran a piece about the old accusations that Robert Millikan manipulated his data for the electron charge with the headlineDid a Case of Scientific Misconduct Win the Nobel Prize for Physics? that got a lot of attention. I wasn’t as impressed with this as a lot of other people,…

On Beginning to Write

Over at Xykademiqz, a couple of weeks ago, there was a very nice post about the struggle to get students to write. “Very nice” here means that it’s a good description of the problem, not that I’m glad anybody else has to deal with this. I don’t face quite the same thing– my students generally…