Category Archives: education

The Tyranny of Pi day

March 14th is -day in the US (and perhaps day in Europe). The idea of a day devoted to celebrating an important irrational number is wonderful — I’d love to see schools celebrate e-day as well, but February 71st isn’t on … Continue reading

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The Up-Goer Five Research Challenge

I thought this was silly at first, but after struggling to do it for my own research, I now think it can be a profound exercise that scientists should attempt before writing their NSF broader impact statements. Here’s the challenge: … Continue reading

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Heat Capacity of Water

It is no secret to my students, family and friends that I’m now completely obsessed by the odd properties of water, including the anomalously high heat capacity. Here’s a neat parlor trick involving this water anomaly that is masterfully explained … Continue reading

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A physics teacher begs for his subject back

I used to think that math and physics education in US secondary schools was worse than in any other industrialized country. Expectations and standards seem to have fallen so low that some of our best students are showing up at … Continue reading

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Scratch! Open source programming for kids

I spent about 2 hours last night playing around with a new programming language called Scratch, which was designed for kids. You snap together programs from logical building blocks that you can drag over from a programming palette. There’s also … Continue reading

Posted in education, Fun, Software | 10 Comments

Engineering Science Blog

Our friends Geoff Davis and Peter Fiske over at have started a new blog called Engineering Science. The first few posts have been very good, including these excellent posts on writing effective grant proposals and the stereotype threat. Go … Continue reading

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Scientific Expert or Not. Does it matter?

Slate Magazine is running an article about a Sociologist who posed as a physicist. Harry Collins (the sociologist) studies “expertise” in his day job, but has a strong interest in experiments for detecting gravitational waves. He and his colleagues collected … Continue reading

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Software Carpentry Course

Greg Wilson pointed me to a new version of the Sofware Carpentry course at (; it’s all open source, and they’re actively looking for corrections and contributions. Reading through the online course materials, I can say that it is a … Continue reading

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Where’s the Fun in Home Experments?

Wired magazine has an article called “Don’t Try This at Home” which starts by describing a recent CPSC raid on the house of the family that runs United Nuclear. We’ve mentioned UnitedNuclear before. They’re one of the few companies still … Continue reading

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Words of Wisdom from a Senior Colleague

I’m done with my general chemistry course for the semester. It has been both a frustrating and rewarding semester. A student’s success in freshman chemistry has more to do with what attitude they bring to the table than it has … Continue reading

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