Friday, September 11, 2015

Dreaming of other vocations

A discussion of the complaints and motivations of those leaving academia in Slate. Not terribly convincing...when getting grant funding becomes too difficult, I dream of doing many other things, such as starting a hedge fund, finding a use for a swarm of tiny bots, studying energy storage methods (batteries, flywheels, etc), picking up a unicycle again and proficient enough to juggle on it, maybe trying to charge for photographic services on a very limited basis, and many other things that are not coming to me as of yet.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Thursday, May 07, 2015


A neat movie of zooming into a fractal. I must have zoned-out for a good five minutes while watching it.

I tend to make a game of minimizing fees with currency conversions, and so I tend to have lots of cash leftover in various world currencies. I feel a bit like a spy when preparing for another foreign trip going to my secret stash of money. Too bad that I only have a single passport and, horrors upon horrors, it's in my real name! In any case, the amounts are not significant (to me at least) but it does expose me a bit to valuation risk. Right I've lost quite a bit on my Euros (not counting my conversion-fee savings).

I've always been fascinated by music. I have a strong affinity for listening (with little ability in performing), but why? I've read some that evolution explains it, but never convincingly so. And why do I like some songs right away (e.g. ``Rude'') and others only upon many listenings or never at all. And the one-hit wonders...why don't they ever have another hit? What's the relationship of hits to songs I like? I mean that I generally like the hits, but I like some music that many have never heard of.

More than you ever wanted to know about the gunk that builds up in your eyes when you sleep.

I'm almost to the point of giving up on Japanese and Thai restaurants in North America. It seems that folks think "hey, why open yet another Chinese restaurant when I can open a Thai or Japanese restaurant and charge twice as much."

I saw a strap hanging from the back of a box truck while driving down the highway. It was frayed on the end. And so, as a scientist/physicist, I was curious about how it might have gotten that way. In particular, I figured it got frayed from being dragged along the road surface. However, the strap was clearly too short to reach the ground (by at least a couple feet). Do I, guided by "naturalness", invoke something along the lines of the Anthropic Principle and say the strap just happens to be the length it is...long enough for me to see it swinging, but not long enough for me to understand why its length is what it is?

Visualizing thunder...there's a movie but somewhere I had seen a pretty picture as well. Apparently, the thunder originates from the part of the lightning near the ground.

Pretty neat story of a device arising from NASA research saving lives in Nepal.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Physics with Global Implications

An interesting article in the NYT about two MIT-trained physicists central to the negotiations between the US and Iran.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


  • Despite the assertions of this piece in the Atlantic, it's not that hard to setup and run a mail server. I used to do so before my campus IT was finally successful in getting me not to. And I'm not much of an outlier.
  • Interesting study of icicles in the NYT:

    They do not yet understand the physics of the ripple formations. But they have uncovered some strange facts. The spacing of the ripples doesn't seem to vary with different levels of impurities. "The ripples have a universal wavelength of exactly one centimeter, no matter what you do," Dr. Morris said. "That's the real mystery"

  • I'm truly pissed with my colleagues on some committee related to dreaded outcomes assessment. Their ability to waste so much time on such trivial matters is not so surprising, but their lack of appreciation for science (even among some ostensible scientists) is astonishing and disappointing. And I suppose much of my anger is that I let myself invest a little time and allowed them to ensure it would be in vain.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

On a roll

If you pay US taxes, you might be interested in this piece from Salon about getting rid of their military academies (West Point, Naval, Air Force, and Coast Guard Academies). I had sort of drunk the Kool-Aid that these were worthwhile and produce good officers, and so it was, at the least, a very different perspective. And it's written by a full professor at one of these academies.

My last post mentioned Scott Aaronson's feelings on sexism and feminism, and now I find myself trying to find women to invite to a workshop I'm organizing. Partly it's sad how hard it is to come up with anyone, and partly I worry because sometimes I find myself thinking about whether some given candidate is attractive. Am I sexist for thinking about such a thing or am I a feminist because I admit to having such thoughts but try not to let them affect any decisions?

Thursday, January 01, 2015


I've been absent quite a long time. I'd apologize if I felt like I owed you all anything :).

In case you've missed it, you might spend some time reading what Scott Aaronson has been saying about women and feminism. It's gotten a lot of attention. I'd start with his comment and then follow it with his follow-up post. Whatever you think of all that, if you have the stomach for a nice helping of bile, you might read this afterward (a comment points out the link and Scott has seen it).

I don't think I was as socially handicapped as Scott (at least when it came to finding mates), but his experiences certainly ring true. At first I wasn't sure how brave he was being, but then I recalled once asking a financial question in an online forum. I was very surprised both at the nastiness of the responses and at how much the nastiness affected me. I don't think I have terribly thin skin, but it took some time to just let the comments go.