Links for 2010-02-07

  • "Just as expert physicists vary in their personal stances on interpretation in quantum mechanics, instructors vary on whether and how to teach interpretations of quantum phenomena in introductory modern physics courses. In this paper, we document variations in instructional approaches with respect to interpretation in two similar modern physics courses recently taught at the University of Colorado, and examine associated impacts on student perspectives regarding quantum physics. We find students are more likely to prefer realist interpretations of quantum-mechanical systems when instructors are less explicit in addressing student ontologies. We also observe contextual variations in student beliefs about quantum systems, indicating that instructors who choose to address questions of ontology in quantum mechanics should do so explicitly across a range of topics."
  • This ought to be supported by the Bertrand Russell Foundation, which funds all foundations that don't fund themselves (h/t Michael Nielsen).
  • "Searching for signatures of cosmic-scale archaeological artifacts such as Dyson spheres or Kardashev civilizations is an interesting alternative to conventional SETI. Uncovering such an artifact does not require the intentional transmission of a signal on the part of the original civilization. This type of search is called interstellar archaeology or sometimes cosmic archaeology. The detection of intelligence elsewhere in the Universe with interstellar archaeology or SETI would have broad implications for science. For example, the constraints of the anthropic principle would have to be loosened if a different type of intelligence was discovered elsewhere. A variety of interstellar archaeology signatures are discussed including non-natural planetary atmospheric constituents, stellar doping with isotopes of nuclear wastes, Dyson spheres, as well as signatures of stellar and galactic-scale engineering."
  • "Eureka is an affectionate paean to the small town, with a twist: it's population is made up of brilliant scientists (and their families), all of whom work at a vast, sooper sekrit lab called Global Dynamics that gets a large part of its funding from the Department of Defense, yet is dedicated to curiosity-driven research -- at least in principle. The show is a dramedy that combines elements of Northern Exposure and The X-Files, according to Jaime -- and I'd throw in a dash of Scrubs and Gilmore Girls to boot. In fact, it reminds me a little of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel without the mystical trappings, both of which combined drama with humor and featured terrific characters and smart, sassy dialogue. (Needless to say, I'm a Eureka fan.) "It's small town trappings with endless possibility," he says, and admits the show's premise is at least partially inspired by places like Los Alamos, Berkeley Lab, Livermore, Bell Labs, even Area 51."
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