Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation: Reaching Gender Equality in Physics Faculty

In yesterday’s post about the lack of money in academia, I mentioned in passing that lack of funding is part of the reason for the slow pace of progress on improving faculty diversity. That is, we could make more rapid progress if we suddenly found shitloads of money and could go on a massive hiring […]

Back-of-the-Envelope Gravitational Which-Way

There’s a new Science Express paper on interfering clocks today, which is written up in Physics World, with comments from yours truly. The quote is from a much longer message I sent– with no expectation that it would end up as anything other than a pull quote, I might add, but I thought the background […]

Fermi Pipeline Problems

There was some Twitter chatter the other night about a new arxiv paper called The Gender Breakdown of the Applicant Pool for Tenure-Track Faculty Positions at a Sample of North American Research Astronomy Programs: The demographics of the field of Astronomy, and the gender balance in particular, is an important active area of investigation. A […]

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 20: Dot Physics 1976

We’re going to depart from the chronological ordering again, because it’s the weekend and I have to do a bunch of stuff with the kids. Which means I’m in search of a story I can outsource… In this case, I’m outsourcing to myself– this is a genuine out-take from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, specifically […]

Playground Physics: Angular Momentum, Video Homework

I’m teaching relativity in a course with an astronomy prefix, which means I’m obliged to talk about stars and stuff. Yesterday’s lecture was about neutron stars, and how their existence was confirmed by the discovery of pulsars (with the story of Jocelyn Bell Burnell included). This requires some discussion of angular momentum to explain how […]

The Physicists of Journalism

This Alberto Cairo piece on “data journalism” has been kicking around for a while, and it’s taken me a while to pin down what bugs me about it. I think my problem with it ultimately has to do with the first two section headers in which he identifies problems with FiveThirtyEight and Vox: 1. Data […]

Son of Interstellar Laser Communications

I didn’t plan to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the optics of sending messages with lasers, but then I starting idly thinking about detection, prompted in part by a bunch of conversations with my summer students about single-photon detectors. which led to scribbling on the back of an envelope, which led to Googling, […]

Interstellar Laser Communications

In the comments to yesterday’s grumpy post about the Fermi paradox, makeinu raises the idea that advanced aliens would be using more targeted communications than we do: On the point about electromagnetic communications: even we are now using lasers to target communications with space, because it’s simply more efficient and reliable. It’s also basically impossible […]

Fermi Fallacies

I’ve seen a bunch of people linking approvingly to this piece about the “Fermi paradox,” (the question of why we haven’t seen any evidence of other advanced civilizations) and I can’t quite understand why. The author expends a good deal of snark taking astronomers and physicists to task for constructing elaborate solutions to Fermi paradox […]