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How Does Angular Momentum Emerge?

Yesterday’s post about VPython simulation of the famous bicycle wheel demo showed that you can get the precession and nutation from a simulation that only includes forces. But this is still kind of mysterious, from the standpoint of basic physics intuition. Specifically, it’s sort of hard to see how any of this produces a force…

The Emergence of Angular Momentum

The third of the great physics principles introduced in our introductory mechanics courses is the conservation of angular momentum, or the Angular Momentum Principle in the language of the Matter and Interactions curriculum we use. This tends to be one of the hardest topics to introduce, in no small part because it’s the last thing…

Favorite Quantum Physics in Fiction?

We’ll be accepting applications for The Schrödinger Sessions workshop at JQI through tomorrow. We already have 80-plus applicants for fewer than 20 planned spots, including a couple of authors I really, really like and some folks who have won awards, etc., so we’re going to have our work cut out for us picking the attendees……

Just How Idiotic Are GPAs?

Yesterday’s quick rant had the slightly clickbait-y title “GPAs are Idiotic,” because, well, I’m trying to get people to read the blog, y’know. It’s a little hyperbolic, though, and wasn’t founded in anything but a vague intuition that the crude digitization step involved in going from numerical course averages to letter grades then back to…

GPA’s Are Idiotic

I was thinking about something only tangentially related to grading, when it struck me that the way we go about generating student grade point averages is the kind of mind-bogglingly stupid system that requires lots of smart people working together to produce. Two very different groups of smart people, with very different ways of looking…

I keep forgetting to mention these, but I have two talks coming up: 1) Tonight, March 17, I’m talking about Eureka to the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association on the campus of SUNY New Paltz. This is a version of the talk I gave in Bristol, UK over the summer, but with the soccer content replaced with…

STEM Gender Gaps and Draft Dodging

It’s always a pleasure to see former students doing well, and to that end, we invited one of my former thesis students, Mike Mastroianni, class of 2007, to give a colloquium talk last week in the department. Mike went to physics grad school for a couple of years after graduation, but decided he was more…

The Typing Cure

One of the things I miss about not being able to follow college basketball these days is that I don’t really know enough about the state of the game to understand Mark Titus’s columns at Grantland. They’re kind of sophomoric, but you know, a little of that is sometimes good, and I always enjoyed reading…

Jim Boeheim

It’s the absolute peak of college basketball season, and it still seems weird to be almost completely disconnected from the game. This is not, by the way, the result of any principled objection to the manifest hypocrisies of the NCAA, or anything like that, but a practical effect of having kids. If the tv is…

Terry Pratchett, RIP

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of some mind-boggling number of books, mostly the comic-fantasy Discworld series, died yesterday. He had been diagnosed with a kind of early-onset Alzheimer’s back in 2007, a particularly cruel fate for a writer, but faced it with an impressive degree of grace, and kept writing almost to the end. And, indeed,…