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We Need a Journal of Null Results in every Field!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I’ve been thinking more about some practical problems we’ve been developing in science.  Now, they aren’t as bad in my field of astronomy, since we’re relatively small, don’t involve huge sums of money, and rarely have results that are politically problematic.  But we still have the same problem:  null results don’t get published very often. […]

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Astronomy Misconceptions in Literature

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Recently I highlighted an astronomical blunder by literary giant Ernest Hemingway in The Old Man and the Sea. He is far from unique. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, James Thurber, Edgar Allen Poe, and others of similar literary greatness, have all similarly blundered.  A lot of the mistakes involve the moon: “Till clomb above the […]

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Science in Fiction: The Old Man and the Sea

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

There’s a fun, literary homework problem in the textbook I’m using this semester (Foundations of Astrophysics by Ryden and Peterson).  It’s a pretty good textbook overall, although it’s a bit calculus heavy for when some of our students take my course and it’s short on example problems.  One thing I do like is that the […]

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The Importance of, and How to Choose, a Mentor

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Academia and writing are two systems where mentors are still common, something like the old system of Apprentice/Journeyman/Master. I think in nearly every field of individual excellence that requires serious expertise, you’ll find mentors.  Tiger Wood’s had his dad teaching him golf.  The Polgar sisters had rigorous chess coaching.  Every scientist these days has or […]

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How to Become a Scientist

Friday, August 5th, 2011

One of my more popular posts is Five Qualities Required to be a Scientist.  In response, I get a lot of comments and email from kids / teenagers who want advice about how to become a scientist. Now, as a practical matter, being a scientist is like being a writer.  No one makes you into […]

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On Science and its place on the Spectrum of Thinking

Monday, July 25th, 2011

As I look over my list of topics I want to write about soon, it’s clear that I’m thinking a lot about science at the moment.  I’m a scientist and do science on a daily basis, or struggle to anyway, but I’ve had a lot of triggers to write about several aspects of science.  I’ve […]

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Argentus Celebrates Neptune

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Launch Pad is sucking up all my time, but I wanted to point out an article I wrote that’s just been released.  Check it out: Neptune has just completed its first full orbit since being discovered in 1846. Steve H Silver marks the anniversary in his latest issue — Argentus: Neptune [PDF file] — with articles […]

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Improving Peer Review (AKA “Refereeing”)

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

In astronomy, and most academic fields, research is published in so-called “peer reviewed” journals.  These are the publications that count.  At least one other scientist, and sometimes several depending on the field, has reviewed all the papers.  That review process means an expert in the field has decided that the research is worth publishing and […]

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The Scientific Method

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Over on his blog, Jay Lake posted a link to this flowchart showing the scientific process. LOVE IT! It’s funny because it’s true… Every astronomer I’ve shared it with has loved it (one I overheard laughing out loud two offices away). And I just finished working on a NASA proposal to study the hot dust […]

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The Importance of Grad Students

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

While I guess I always feel busy and sometimes overwhelmed, I’m usually getting more done than I think and it’s often worthwhile.  I spent a lot of time running on Sunday (18 miles), and much of my time Friday and Saturday was spent with prospective graduate students. Most PhD programs make acceptances of graduate students […]

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Should the Big Bang Theory have a Mission? Should Science Fiction?

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A friend sent me a link to an article at Physics Today about The Big Bang Theory.  The premise of the article was to ask if the comedy could do more than make people laugh, and to propose it could educate them at the same time.  Here is the lead: Could scientists help the cause […]

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Ten Terrific Resources for Writing Space-Based Hard Science Fiction

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I wrote this entry as a guest post for the SFWA blog, and it is now available there.  I’ll include it here as well below.   For long-time and regular readers, you’ll see elements of previous posts.  I’ve culled together ten things that I think are helpful resources (a few of these “things” actually include multiple […]

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