Broken Things

I would post some sort of wrap-up about the Lisa Randall chat yesterday, but Discover is broken. They don't have a link to a transcript on the site-- in fact, they haven't updated the front page to reflect the fact that the chat was yesterday, and is now over. There was a link that would sort of give you access to a transcript, but it's broken now, or at least doesn't work in either Opera or Firefox on my home computer.

It's pretty much of a piece with the chat itself, actually-- I thought it was pretty sharp of them to email physics bloggers with invitations to the chat, but the chat itself was surprisingly primitive. I expected better from a science magazine. You can find a few of the questions and answers at Backreaction (with screen shots) and from Tommaso Dorigo. I wasn't terribly impressed with the questions, and nobody followed up on the one remark that really caught my eye, when she appeared to call the evidence for dark matter "pretty dubious"-- I sent in a question on that, but it didn't get picked by the moderator.

Anyway, it was a nice thought, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

On a vaguely related note, every TypePad blog in my RSS reader updated overnight to go to excerpt-only RSS feeds, so, for example, I had fifty-odd Brad DeLong posts show up as "updated," and reduced to one-line teasers. Thanks, guys, for rendering a half-dozen blogs completely unreadable.

And speaking of "unreadable," Mike Kozlowski is insane.

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I agree with you completely on your review of the chat. I got there 15 minutes late, but didn't pay full attention. Yes, we all know it takes time to type. Yes, if we've been to web chats, we've been to those horribly nonlinear unmoderated chats where there are two or three threads interwoven due to typing/reading delays, with lots of backtracking as new people arrive and ask what's going on.

But the solution can't be to have a 3 minute delay between each bit of dialog coming up on screen. I've seen better solutions to the problem. (Of course, the solution I've seen -- people raise their hands, and when told to "go", just type and it comes up meediately -- wouldn't be so great here, as all kinds of wingnut questions would probably have come forward then.)

Anyway, the fact that the chat required so litte atetntion gave me time to write my N. David Mermin book review during the chat. Of course, since I wasn't paying full attention to the chat, evidently things went past me. I never even notice to the reference to dark matter being dubious. (Perhaps that was in the first 15 min? If not, it means I wasn't paying attention.)


I enjoyed the Lisa Randall chat quite a lot, and will admit to being pleased that my question was taken. I participated primarily because I'm reading Warped Passages right now and was curious about what kinds of questions would be asked. I suspect that the moderator filtered out sophisticated physics questions in favor of material more appropriate for the typical Discovery channel viewer (i.e. people like me).

I didn't see the chat, but I'd certainly say the magazine Discover is pretty broken. :-(

By David Harmon (not verified) on 10 Nov 2006 #permalink

David, I'll have to agree. Discover has unfortunately slipped from my monthly reading routine due to the last several months of suckiness.

Michael -- were you the one who asked about whether she really can visualize higher dimensions, or whether it's all just math?


Hi Chad, thanks for the link...

I did not notice the remark on dark matter myself... But I agree, the chat could have been done way better. It was like sending an e-mail to a celebrity, hoping for an answer.