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Should Papers Have Unit Tests?

Perhaps the greatest shock I’ve had in moving from the hallowed halls of academia to the workman depths of everyday software development is the amount of testing that is done when writing code. Likely I’ve written more test code than … Continue reading ?

Accelerator-powered carbon dating

An accelerator-driven form of carbon dating advances everything from archaeology to personalized medicine. Step into the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on any given day, and you may...Show More Summary

Science Story: Night Owls

(When I launched the Advent Calendar of Science Stories series back in December, I had a few things in mind, but wasn’t sure I’d get through 24 days. In the end, I had more than enough material, and in fact didn’t end up using a few of my original ideas. So I’ll do a few…

PNAS: Brandon Bartell, Business Analyst

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. The twelfth…

Quantum Optics: The Game

Over on Facebook, my colleague Chris Chabris was talking up a smartphone game from a company he’s associated with. Which of course got me thinking “Wait, why don’t I have a smartphone game company?” (The Renaissance Weekend is also partly to blame, as I was one of about six people there who didn’t have a…

Eureka on the Roundtable Today

“Hey,” you say, “It’s been, like, a week and a half since you did a post flogging Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist. What gives?” Well, I’ve been kind of busy, and also the media world sort of goes into suspended animation over the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s. However, there’s publicity stuff in the…

Time to Plan…

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Asymptotia

Happy New Year! So, it is the second of January. You've spent all of the day yesterday recovering from the euphoria (and perhaps revelry) of New Year's Eve, and so today it is time for the traditional next thing on the new calendar:Show More Summary

French Toast in the Renaissance

As mentioned briefly here and on Twitter, I spent the past week at the Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, SC. This is a biggish smart-people festival, running for 30-odd years now, bringing together a wide array of people from politics, finance, science, and the arts. Bill Phillips has been going to it for years (though he…


Formatting errors in TEX can be so much fun when there is a typo in a formula.Filed under: Physics

Happy 3.1415926535… day

Just to have fun, here is one of my favorite formulas involving pi:  Filed under: Uncategorized

If some of my students were writing problems

It would be nice if there was some text written to explain the mathematical formula above. That is one of my main complaint to students whose homework solutions are a bunch of math without text or explanation (other than the self-explanatory algebra and the presumed conventions for symbols).Filed under: Academia, humor, Physics, relativity

2014 Was Just This Year, You Know?

So, it’s January 1, which means a ton of social-media traffic commenting on the year just concluded, most of it very negative– “Good riddance, 2014, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, etc.” I’m a little more ambivalent about the whole 2014 thing, and of course, being a good squishy liberal, I…

2014 Mad Hat award

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Resonaances

New Year is traditionally the time of recaps and best-ofs. This blog is focused on particle physics beyond the standard model where compiling such lists is challenging, given the dearth of discoveries or even plausible signals pointing to new physics. Show More Summary

A Contract With…

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Asymptotia

Good News Everyone! The other day I put my signature on a contract to publish The Book!! Some of you might know about my somewhat unusual book project. It is a graphic book, written and drawn by me, all about science. Please tell your friends about it, especially the ones who think that the standard popular science book is not for them. Show More Summary

What I believe

Two weeks ago, prompted by a commenter named Amy, I wrote by far the most personal thing I’ve ever made public—what’s now being referred to in some places as just “comment 171.”  My thinking was: I’m giving up a privacy that I won’t regain for as long as I live, opening myself to ridicule, doing the blog equivalent of a queen-and-two-rook sacrifice. […]

All Time Top Ten

A little while back, somebody on the Hold Steady fan message board put out a request for people’s all-time Top Ten songs. This is a really hard question, but a fun one, so of course I couldn’t resist. And since the overlap between there and here is pretty minimal, I’ll recycle the message I sent…

Ernest, the Purple Aardvark

Ernest, the purple aardvark Had a long and hairy nose And if you ever saw it, You would really say “Boy I bet you could eat some ants with that thing…” All of the ants in Tasmania Use to run away when they saw him Because if they ran to slowly, [Loud slurping noise] Ernest…

Holiday Thermal Physics

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a Seek Thermal camera, so I can continue my transformation into Rhett Allain. What’s this for? Why, physics, of course. Such as this video of the operation of the Christmas pyramid my parents picked up in Germany, and had set up at the start of Christmas dinner:…

Quantum Complexity Theory Student Project Showcase 3

Merry Christmas (belatedly)!  This year Quanta Claus has brought us eight fascinating final project reports from students in my 6.845 Quantum Complexity Theory class, covering everything from interactive proofs to query and communication complexity to quantum algorithms to quantum gates (and one project even includes a web-based demo you can try!). Show More Summary

Holiday Card

Once again, it’s Christmas for those who celebrate it, and a really boring Thursday on the Internet for those who don’t. In keeping with tradition, we’ve taken the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Scenic Whitney Point, NY for a few days. This will coincide with a big drop-off in social media use on…

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