Archive for: May, 2009

Two days until The Giant's Shoulders #11!

May 13 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

Here’s one last reminder that the deadline for The Giant’s Shoulders #11, to be held at Curving Normality, will be here in 2 days!  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

3 responses so far

Optics in the Haunted Mansion!

May 12 2009 Published by under Entertainment, Optics

During our visit to Walt Disney World, the new wife and I made sure to hit all the classic rides in the Magic Kingdom: Pirates of the Carribean, The Tiki Room, The Haunted Mansion, even It's a Small World (though, alas, not Space Mountain, which is under renovations until November).  The Haunted Mansion is one of my favorites, with its classic Gothic ghost story atmosphere and dark sense of humor.  As a child, I was terrified of the essentially harmless attraction.  This trip, as a professor of optics, I was delighted to not only see the clever special effects, but deconstruct them -- to "peek behind the curtains", so to speak.

I suppose some would think that this peek would "ruin the magic" or "unweave the rainbow".  For me, though, I find it a joy to see how people's ingenuity can lead to wonderfully fun, even beautiful, attractions.  The Haunted Mansion is filled with clever applications of very simple optics, and I can't resist explaining one of them.


Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

Thanks to all!

May 10 2009 Published by under Personal

Well, I'm back from the honeymoon!  Thanks to all who gave well-wishes and congratulations in my previous post.  I should get back to detailed blogging this week, but in the meantime, here's a picture from Epcot at night:


Yeah, we went to Disney World for our honeymoon!

2 responses so far

Just Married!

May 02 2009 Published by under Personal

If all went well, I got married to the fiancée within the past hour!  (Obviously, this is a post I scheduled in advance.)

For obvious reasons, I won't be blogging much, if at all, over the next week.  After that, I'll be back in the swing of things!

15 responses so far

Destroying the planet... with science!

May 02 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, History of science, Physics

When the Large Hadron Collider was fired up for the first time back in September, it caused much wailing and rending of clothes by people who were convinced that the device would create miniature black holes which would destroy the Earth, even though the initial test wouldn't come close to the energies hypothetically required for such an unlikely event.  After the test, others were irrationally convinced that the LHC had spawned earthquakes around the globe; I did a rather thorough criticism of that idea here.

It's interesting to note that such fears have been cropping up since the dawn of atomic physics, sometimes seriously and sometimes as a joke.  A physics professor I had as an undergraduate shared the story of his research on neutrinos in the 1960s, which took place in a shack outside the grounds of a nuclear reactor.  He said that he and his classmates were tempted to leak a story to the press that they were working on a "neutrino bomb", which was so effective because it could pass through anything.  They realized, though, that the public wouldn't realize that, if neutrinos pass through everything without any significant effect, that they couldn't hurt you!

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

13 days until The Giant's Shoulders #11!

May 02 2009 Published by under General science, Science news

This is your regularly scheduled reminder that the deadline for The Giant's Shoulders #11, to be held at Curving Normality, will be here in 13 days!  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

No responses yet

h-index of 14!

May 01 2009 Published by under Personal

In one of my periodic blog moments of patting myself on the back, I should note that my h-index went up to 14 this past week!

As I've described previously, when my h-index went to 13, the h-index (or Hirsch index) is a rough estimate of the productivity of a scientist and the impact of their work.  An h-index of N means that you have no more than N papers which each have more than N citations each.  It is a very crude measurement of productivity, as is any quantitative measurement, but one that's relevant for decisions such as tenure.

Considering the Wikipedia article cites an h-index of 10-12 as a guideline for tenure decisions, and 15-20 a fellowship in the American Physical Society, I'm feeling pretty good about my chances.

Unfortunately, I'll need quite a few citations to bump myself to an h-index of 15.  Unless I get really lucky, I won't have another celebration like this for a while...

2 responses so far

« Newer posts