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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…

One of the very best treatments of the scientific method in fiction that I’ve read– I suspect it may be the best, but years on the Internet make me want to hedge everything– is the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. The main character, Rowan, is a Steerswoman, a member of an order dedicated to collecting…

Uncertain Dots 14

Another week, another hangout with Rhett. In which we actually fielded a couple of questions from readers on Twitter, about the reason for inertia and a kind of meta-question. More audience questions would, of course, be welcome. A couple of links to things that came up: Mach’s Principle, a past attempt to explain the origin…

I’ve been setting up schedules with my summer research students lately, and the main constraint we’re facing with that is that I’m going to spend most of August in Europe. Part of this is pure vacation– Kate and I are going to the UK for a couple of weeks. Part of it is the World…

Cosmos and the Sideburns

Last night’s episode of the Cosmos reboot focused on one of the three physicists whose pictures Einstein kept in his office: Michael Faraday. I’m a big fan of Faraday, who famously started his career as a bookbinder’s apprentice reading the books brought into the shop, and ended as one of the greatest experimental physicists of…