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Blog Moving

I'm on the road for four days, so I may not manage to complete this in time. However, my blog is moving. I don't know exactly where it will land, but I will certainly link to it from www.rknop.net. Hopefully I will still have access to this blog here in order to be able to post a link to the new site, but that's not assured. There is some nasty politics...

Thermonuclear Supernova in M82

I discovered (via random folks posting to my twitter feed) this morning that we (as in "humanity") discovered a new supernova in the galaxy M82 in the last day or so. This is very cool for a lot of reasons. The Galaxy So what is M82? M82 is a nearby galaxy, as galaxies go. It's not quite a spiral or an elliptical; it's usually categorized as an irregular...

Grumpy Cat Plays Scrabble

When Andrew Hacker asks "Is Algebra Necessary?", why doesn't he just ask "Is High School Necessary?"

Yes, I admit, the editorial at the New York Time entitled "Is Algebra Necessary?" pushes my buttons. Hacker makes some valid and relevant points, and I'll get back to that. However, the core of his argument is the ultimate in anti-intellectualism. What's worse, it's the kind of anti-intellectualism that you get from intellectuals, the sort of thing...

A muddled article on Relativity in the Oberlin alumni magazine

My wife graduated from from Oberlin college in 1992, and as such she gets the Oberlin alumni magazine. The summer 2012 issue includes a one-page article entitled "The Entirety of Relativity", which I find to be a very unfortunate presentation of Relativity. (As a pedantic point, it's only talking about Special Relativity (SR), and doesn't address...

Explaining the Higgs Mechanism

Motivation There's a fair amount of bruhaha in the popular press what with the announcement of the discovery of what is probably the Higgs Boson at CERN last summer. In describing why the Higgs Boson is so important, you will read that the Higgs Boson "gives other particles mass". This is the so-called Higgs Mechanism, and is an esoteric thing arising...

Does your vote count?

This being election day, you're seeing a lot of people telling you to get out and vote, saying that if you think your vote doesn't count you're abdicating democracy, reminding you how many people who died so that you could vote, etc. I have to admit I find these exhortations both facile and manipulative. If we're talking about the presidential election,...

Image of a Thermomnuclear Supernova Progentior

Holy cow, it's been a long time since I blogged. The class I'm teaching right now is 3d Computer Modelling and Animation. Perhaps the hardest thing about it is figuring out if the word Modelling has one or two l's in it... it depends on whether you're in the USA or Canada, I think. For this class, I'm making all of the students do a major project....

Dark Matter found? Don't break out the champagne just yet.

You may have seen announcements that Dark Matter has been "found". I don't believe there's a publicly available scientific paper on this yet, so the original source for this is two press releases from CERN: One from four days ago and one from today. First, I want to say what is meant by dark matter being "found" here. It's not evidence that previously-uncertain...

The Higgs Boson: a talk in Second Life tomorrow morning (April 6)

It's been a year since I've given a public outreach physics and astronomy talk in Second Life. I used to do these things fairly regularly as a part of MICA (the Meta-Institute of Computational Astronomy). However, the MICA project has completed, its island in Second Life has gone online, its Second Life groups have been disbanded, and MICA no longer...

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