Pop Culture

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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…

Least Physics-y Physical Activity?

I’m running errands today, so here’s a quick post picking up a question from last week’s Olympic physics hangout: What sport involves the least physics? One of the kids in the classes we were video chatting with asked that, and I really like the question, though it was a struggle to answer. It’s one of…

Olympic Physics Chat

I spent a while on Friday morning talking about the physics of the Olympics with a couple of science classes in Tennessee and Lawrence Norris from the National Society of Black Physicists, organized by Adam “@2footgiraffe” Taylor. This was done via a Google hangout, so the video is recorded on YouTube: The recording seems to…

On the Steering of Sleds

In the previous post about luge, I mentioned that there was one thing that came up when Rhett and I were talking about this, namely why there are differences in times between racers. The toy physics model I set up last time suggests that the difference between riders is only a matter of aerodynamics– two…

On Irony and Ivory Towers

The outrage of the moment in academic circles is this Nick Kristof column on how academics need to be more engaged with a broader public. And it’s really impressive how he manages to take an idea that I basically agree with– I regularly give talks on the need for scientists to do more outreach via…

The Physics of Crazy Sleds

In the Uncertain Dots hangout the other day, Rhett and I went off on a tangent about the physics of the Olympics, specifically the luge. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s basically psycho sledding: people riding tiny little sleds down a curved track at 80mph. The “featured image” above shows Erin Hamlin of the…

The Social Construction of Gravity

One of the more annoying points of contention back in the days of the Sokal hoax and the “Science Wars” was an argument over social construction. This is, loosely speaking, the idea that our understanding of the world is not strictly rational and objective, but is heavily influenced by interactions with other people, and the…

Work. Finish. Publish.

A couple of days ago, John Scalzi posted a writing advice open thread, asking people to share the best advice they’d gotten on the craft of writing. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, much of it fairly specific to fiction writing– stuff about plotting, the use of synonyms for “said,” how to keep…

It’s taken me a disgracefully long time to finish the review copy of Lee Billings’s Five Billion Years of Solitude I was sent back in the fall, mostly because I didn’t read anything not immediately related to the book-in-progress for most of November and all of December. Which is to say, the long delay is…

Sports Are Science

Unless you’ve been marooned on a desert island for the last couple of weeks– or, you know, foreign– you’re probably at least dimly aware that the Super Bowl is this evening. This is the pinnacle of the football season, and also the cue for lots of people to take to social media proclaiming their contempt…