Category Archives: About this Blag

Off for the Weekend

Today and tomorrow, I’m going to be busy in a part of the world with spotty Internet access, and on Monday, I’m going to be traveling. Expect any responses I make to be slow in coming.

I have some substantial stuff in the drafts pile, though, which I hope to get out on the Network early next week.

Downright Freaky!

What did I ever do to deserve being in the first page of Google hits for the phrase, “In Soviet Russia“?

OK, I might as well tell my favorite “Russian reversal” joke, one which is deliciously anachronistic.

America, what a country! Everywhere I go, I see Firefox web browser. In your country, you keep open tabs in browser. In my country, web browsers keep tabs on you!

Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Fair Warning

I’m juggling several metaphorical chainsaws at the moment. Each task currently demanding my time carries overtones of extreme “peril, subversion and ideological danger.” Therefore, sadly, my blag posts will for a while be either light and inconsequential or abstrusely technical, since I lack the time to aim for that magical pop-science median. Most of what I have in the drafts pile is recycled and revamped older stuff, and the new material I plan to hack together will actually be pieces of larger works.

In the meantime, check out our prototype MathSciJournalWiki, a site with a good heart and an ungainly name! Among the topics we will definitely have to cover are web spamming by academic publishers and plagiarism in the open-access age. The latter is, in particular, a serious topic (though not without its humorous aspects) about which I should write in greater depth, Real Soon Now.

Outages Redux

Yeah, yeah, it happened again. This is what you get for hosting your corner of the Matrix on MITnet: everything is going just peachy keen, and then some joker in the next building tries to make heavy neutrinos in his bathtub, clogging up the tubes. . . .

Rest assured, I’m looking into ways to stop it from happening again. Heck, I’d even try to get hired by the hive mind if they had decent equation support.

Reader Favorites

Other projects have been hanging heavy on me, so it looks like I won’t be blagging over the weekend. I have a healthy stack of draft posts, including the next installment in my series building towards supersymmetry, along with some feel-good bites on innumeracy, Conservapaedia and so forth (which are partly material reposted from elsewhere). With luck, I’ll get a couple of those up early next week.

To fill the gap and help convince myself anybody will miss the melodious sound of my textual voice, I added a “Reader Favorites” list to the sidebar. The entries which qualified as “favorites” score highly on a confidential, nonlinear function of visits, links and comments.

Carnivalia and Blagrolling

Can you believe we’ve made it through sixty-three editions of the Skeptic’s Circle without being struck by lightning, blighted with locusts or dobbsed with leprosy? Rejoice therefore!

One of the many notable entries in this fortnight’s Circle is Steven Novella’s piece on the purported autism-mercury link (hint, hint: there isn’t one, Robert F. Kennedy and Tom Tancredo not withstanding). Dr. Novella also has two good posts on Michael Egnor‘s recent torrid affair with dualism, so if you’d rather get your materialism fix from a Yale University neurologist instead of a physics buff who never learns to lay off the sriracha sauce, there you go.

I’d like to take this moment to give special thanks to all the people who have added Science After Sunclipse to their regular web-surfing experience. In particular, I’ve noticed this little site appearing on some blagrolls in very august company, which makes me happy indeed.

Comment Policy

I walked away to give my lecture on quantum mechanics, and I came back to find a brief, affronted note from a creationist.

You have to understand how upsetting I found such a transition. I love lecturing. I’ve got thespian blood — my grandmother performed with Orson Welles’ players — and every trip to the blackboard is a chance to shine. What’s more, I was speaking to people who had a strong math background, so I could employ matrices, commutators and other linear algebra trickery without fear. My lecture, part of our effort to get the math people up to relativistic speed with the physics we want to study, started with the canonical commutation relations between position and momentum, derived the form of the momentum operator in coordinate space, and solved for the position representation of momentum eigenstates. I then covered the particle-in-a-box and the simple harmonic oscillator, after which I did a little kaon physics to lead up to Bell’s Inequality, which we will discuss next time.

And after all that fun, I had to come back to my laptop and read indignant creationist snark. I considered my response during the walk home, and after due contemplation, I decided to embrace Scott Aaronson’s comment policy:
Continue reading Comment Policy

Group Theory Homework

One reason I call this site a “blag” and not a “blog” is that I’m always late.

For example, I’m finally typing up the group-theory homework assignment which Ben gave last Monday (and which will be due next Monday). During our seminar over in BU territory, we discussed the relations among the Lie groups SU(2) and SO(3) and the manifolds S3 and RP3. Problems will be given below the fold.

Also, Eric will be discussing statistical physics this afternoon at NECSI.
Continue reading Group Theory Homework


Hi, Mom.

(She asked if I was alive and well, OK?)

Those of you who have read as far as the tagline of this site have probably noticed our fondness for neologisms and malapropisms and just downright silliness. Since anyone who visits Science After Sunclipse has certainly wasted at least one afternoon reading through the xkcd archive, you must already know the ultimate origin of our favorite malaprops:
Continue reading Neo-malaprops

Welcome to Web 3.11 for Workgroups

Welcome to Science After Sunclipse, a blag devoted (more or less) to discussing mathematics and physics. Your hosts, including a soft-spoken and ever-humble Order of the Molly recipient (me), currently run a seminar series grandly entitled the “Do It Yourself University”. Typically hosted at the New England Complex Systems Institute, our sessions cover topics in statistical physics, information theory, topology and. . . well. . . whatever else strikes our collective fancy.
Continue reading Welcome to Web 3.11 for Workgroups