Science

Category archives for Science

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…

As noted last week, I went to SteelyKid’s day camp on Tuesday to talk about being a college professor. This was a little awkward, because I was scheduled to talk to kids ranging from not-quite-three to six-and-a-bit, and really, what do they care about the daily routine of physics faculty? So, I did a simple…

The Angst of Being Positive

The surest sign that I’ve become a Real Author is that there are five months yet before Eureka comes out, and I’m already fretting about negative reviews. Negative reviews that haven’t happened yet, but that I know will come, in a particular form. The book, as you probably know from my prior ramblings on this…

We got an email from the people running SteelyKid’s summer camp asking for volunteers to speak at a career day sort of event early next week. I said “Sure, I can do that, and talk about the glamorous life of a physics professor and book author.” They said “Great, you’ll be talking to several groups,…

Two Cultures of Incompressibility

Also coming to my attention during the weekend blog shutdown was this Princeton Alumni Weekly piece on the rhetoric of crisis in the humanities. Like several other authors before him, Gideon Rosen points out that there’s little numerical evidence of a real “crisis,” and that most of the cries of alarm you hear from academics…

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…

I didn’t plan to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the optics of sending messages with lasers, but then I starting idly thinking about detection, prompted in part by a bunch of conversations with my summer students about single-photon detectors. which led to scribbling on the back of an envelope, which led to Googling,…

Interstellar Laser Communications

In the comments to yesterday’s grumpy post about the Fermi paradox, makeinu raises the idea that advanced aliens would be using more targeted communications than we do: On the point about electromagnetic communications: even we are now using lasers to target communications with space, because it’s simply more efficient and reliable. It’s also basically impossible…

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…