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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…

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…

Uncertain Dots 19

In which our hangout turns nineteen; we may need to look into a special guest for the 20th, or something. Or maybe save guest stars for the one after that, when it can drink. Anyway, Rhett and I chat about grading, lab reports, why Excel sucks, and an online experiment that we really ought to…

Uncertain Dots 18

In which our series of Google hangouts becomes old enough to vote and buy cigarettes– but not drink! Miscellaneous things mentioned in this: — My forthcoming book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I turned in the copyedits and figures a week or so ago, and cashed an advance check today, so it’s definitely going…

Right around the time I shut things down for the long holiday weekend, the Washington Post ran this Joel Achenbach piece on mistakes in science. Achenbach’s article was prompted in part by the ongoing discussion of the significance (or lack thereof) of the BICEP2 results, which included probably the most re-shared pieces of last week…

Fermi Fallacies

I’ve seen a bunch of people linking approvingly to this piece about the “Fermi paradox,” (the question of why we haven’t seen any evidence of other advanced civilizations) and I can’t quite understand why. The author expends a good deal of snark taking astronomers and physicists to task for constructing elaborate solutions to Fermi paradox…

Uncertain Dots 17

After a bit of a hiatus because of scheduling issues, Rhett and I are back to talk about… stuff. Mostly summer classes, World Cup soccer, and Twitter. Also, how we’ve each gotten a blog comment from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Miscellaneous links: — My long-ago book review and Rhett’s more recent complaint about Cosmos, where we…

Uncertain Dots 16

For the sixteenth episode of Uncertain Dots, we decided to bring in some guests, Andy Rundquist and Kelly O’Shea for a conversation about standards-based grading. This came up because I’m playing around with this using the same tiered scheme I talked about back in January. This was a fun conversation, and some interesting ideas came…

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…