Page 3.14

When you want to know how much energy is emitted into space by radiation from a given object—say, a star—and the answer resembles this:

it’s good to have someone like Matt Springer around to explain it to you. Matt, ScienceBlogs’ newest blogger, writes Built on Facts, and his posts are suitably laden with all kinds of interesting physics facts—and theories, quirks of the universe, and scientific ponderings. Matt’s a grad student studying—you guessed it—physics at Texas A&M and eventually hopes to earn his Ph.D., a goal in which his “most marked characteristic” will certainly come in handy. Read on to learn a little more about him.

What’s your name?

Matthew Springer, but pretty much everyone calls me Matt. The picture is
of my out-of-shape self on a 4 mile hike near Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
The forest and lake are beautiful. My physical condition near the end,
not so much.

What do you do when you’re not blogging?

Mostly work. The proportions vary, but usually it’s a combination of
taking classes, being a TA for the classes I teach, and just recently
getting started with research. There’s plenty of non-academic fun in
there as well, but in strictly in terms of total time it’s definitely in
second place. Probably third if you count sleep!

What is your blog called?

Built on Facts. I think it’s got a nice and dramatic ring to it, but not
until after I actually said it did I realize it’s a bit awkward to
actually pronounce. Too many plosive sounds, but I like it anyway.

What’s up with that name?

It’s from the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell, discussing what physics
is actually all about. “In every branch of knowledge the progress is
proportional to the amount of facts on which to build, and therefore to
the facility of obtaining data.” If there’s no facts or data, it’s not
physics. Or science at all, really.

How long have you been blogging, anyway?

Counting silly Livejournal-style personal blogging, about five years.
I’ve been specifically blogging about physics for about five months now.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

The short answer is that I’m from Louisiana, but now I live in College
Station, Texas. College Station is a fairly small town which exists
entirely for the purpose of supporting Texas A&M University.

Would you describe yourself as a working scientist?

Not yet. You’re not a working scientist until you’re either regularly
producing published papers or getting checks signed by an industry
research department or a national lab. I’m still a new grad student so I
don’t qualify just yet. But I will be a working scientist by that first
definition quite shortly!

Any educational experiences or degrees you’d like to mention?

My undergraduate degree is from Louisiana State University. While it gets
most of its media exposure from its fantastic football team, its physics
faculty is excellent and I immensely enjoyed my education there.

What are your main academic interests, in or out of your field?

My “official” interest is in experimental quantum optics. A little more
specifically, that usually means attosecond laser pulses and the numerous
genuinely amazing things you can do with Raman sidebands.

Last book you read?

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. It’s a little off the beaten path from
what I usually read, but it’s an excellent novel.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

It’s Friday and the sun is shining in a crisp cool sky and I have no
deadlines in sight. I get to enjoy working on physics without looming
pressure, and I have a free weekend to relax and enjoy the world. Sadly
this doesn’t happen much.

What’s your greatest habitual annoyance?

Grading lab reports. I love teaching. I loathe grading.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Far too numerous to name! Edmond Dantes and Obi-Wan Kenobi are two
prototypical examples. Hypercompetence and humility is something real
people rarely achieve simultaneously.

Your favorite heroes in real life?

Regardless of your opinions of their civilian leadership, there’s about
200,000 of them in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What’s your most marked characteristic?

I tremendously enjoy thinking.

What’s your fatal flaw?

I’d tell you now, but I could just as easily put it off till tomorrow…

Who are your favorite writers?

Alexander Dumas, Isaac Asimov, and Neil Stevenson.

What would you like to be?

I really enjoy being what I am. However, the one biggest pipe dream I
have is that someday I’ll stand on the surface of the moon as a tourist.
I’m 23, and science is blazing along pretty quickly. There’s probably a
reasonable chance it could actually happen.