Malcolm Gladwell Is Deepak Chopra

I’m sure I’ve done more than enough wibbling about TED for this week, but the only major physics story at the moment involved the Higgs boson, and I’m thoroughly sick of that. So let’s talk about Malcolm Gladwell and journosplaining. Gladwell has a new book out, David and Goliath that from all reports is pretty […]

Genre Fiction and the Real Problem With Philosophy of Science

There’s been a bunch of discussion recently about philosophy of science and whether it adds anything to science. Most of this was prompted by Lawrence Krauss’s decision to become the Nth case study for “Why authors should never respond directly to bad reviews,” with some snide comments in an interview in response to a negative […]

The Writing Process

9:30am Thursday, Starbucks Work steadily on the work-in-progress, researching a few points here and there, adding a bunch of words, making various line edits. 11:15am Thursday, Starbucks Realize that the stuff I added would work better if split off into a new subsection. 11:30am Thursday, Union College Meeting with the Dean. No writing. Sigh. 1:30pm […]

Assyrian Books and Quote Chasing

While reading bits of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles yesterday, I ran across this quote, attributed to “an Assyrian clay tablet from 2800 BC”: Our Earth is degenerate in these later days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; […]

Always Write the Introduction Last

Here are some excerpts from the introductory sections of the very first drafts of some book chapters: [BLAH, BLAH, BLAHBITTY BLAH] and [Introductory blather goes here] and Blah, blah, stuff, blather. There’s a good reason for this, based on the basics of scientific writing, namely that the Introduction should give the reader a rough guide […]

An Experiment in Teaching Writing: A Look Inside the Sausage Factory

As I’ve said a bazillion times already this term, I’m teaching a class that is about research and writing, with a big final paper due at the end of the term. Because iterative feedback is key to learning to write, they also have to turn in a complete rough draft, which I will mark up […]

Language and Statistics Poll: Define “Vast”

Prompted by a number of people using the phrase “vast majority” recently, I wonder where the line between “majority” and “vast majority” is. Thus, a poll: What is the minimum level of support that constitutes a “vast majority” Assume for the sake of argument that the issue in question is a simple yes-or-no question, with […]