Monday, February 12, 2007


Hmmm... How to give back to the community, get community service hours, inspire young minds, and just feel darned good about yourself. Sound good? Well, try going to a local science show or fair and doing a demonstration. Another way to do it is to see if a local school wants you to come by with a demo. Just make sure that you know your stuff beforehand.
One example: Super Science Saturday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Yes, you should know your computers, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
Get to know your fellow students in your major, and become friends with them. These are the people who you will be pulling your all-nighters with, who you'll be studying for the GREs with, the people who you'll almost inevitably be talking to across the years to help you tie up loose ends by referring you to various resources.
Overall, the more friends in your field you have, the easier it is to get things done. And, the sooner you start making friends, the more chance you have to get more of them.

Monday, January 29, 2007

An Interlude

Okay, class... today's lesson:

Do NOT trust snow closing announcements!

Yes, the college may be closed, but if you don't get an e-mail from the professor, try to get in touch with them. If you can't get an e-mail through, but you live on campus and can get to the classroom, go there.
Seriously. If nothing else, you might help a forgetful professor realize that they have a day off. And that, my friends, will get you in their good graces like nothing else.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Library (Part 1)

Have you ever navigated on a boat, or in the woods, using dead reckoning? You know... the practice of taking a reading by compass (if you ever have that) and then just following the track of the bearing as close to straight as you can without a map to judge landmarks?

The library is the space; the catalog is the map. Use them.

Now I'm the first to say that it's unreasonable to make a paper out of quotes and references alone. This is because it is unreasonable to say that everything that's worth thinking of has been thought of. Therefore, it is of primary importance that you write what you think in a paper, and, only later, go back and reference the places where you got your correlating and confirming information.
For this, however, you need sources, and chances are, if you need sources, you need a library.
Many many students don't appreciate their campus libraries. Libraries offer a good place to study and do homework, a font of information and inspiration among their shelves, and computer labs to do work and (most importantly) print things.
But all of that is secondary. Most of all, the library is an information space. Within a 3-dimensional space with a dimension (or half-dimension, since it's uni-directional) of time, we have a building. Within that building, in some sort of 3D spatial matrix, are books, which also have a time variable, and are dynamic by that. However, this is the part where we start entering the information spaces. As books are organized, they also construct a pseudo-dimension, based on the placement scheme: Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress (which most college and university libraries use here in the US), etc. (see more here). This linear index then refers you to a particular volume which has, inside it, an index, creating a further pseudo-dimension of linear coordinates. Follow those to the conceptual illustration you want, and you're there... After having navigated a whole six dimensions.
Similarly, on computers, you immerse yourself in an information space with its own quantified theoretically infinite dimensions. But the real key is navigating.
First of all, after reading this, I want you to immediately march yourself down to your school's library and wander around. See where the fiction is. See where the physical science and math books are. If you're lucky enough to have a physical sciences library, go over there and bring the staff cookies or cappuccinos in a library-approved container, as they rule.
Now, the other thing that you need to do is familiarize yourself with online databases. Make certain that your school has current subscriptions to the ones you need, or else you might have to circulate a petition among the students. Read papers from these, and you'll be kept up to date.
(Incidentally, if you want to see articles about what's on the cutting edge of physics, some not even refereed or reviewed yet, go to that link up and to the right, "". Yep, the one with the Jolly Roger smiley. That's it.)
More on this tomorrow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Classes are Beginning...

And so I just barely have time to write this:

If you have the time to do so, get involved in any projects around.

By having your fingers in as many pies as you can, you improve your own chances of good research collaboration. Also, you get to a point where people start owing you favors. Last, but not least, additional projects always look good on resumes, CVs, and applications. So do yourself a favor, and get involved.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Due to some unfortunate delays, today's special has been postponed.

Which leads us to today's lesson:

Always overestimate the amount of time it takes to do something.

Also known as Scotty's Rule from Star Trek.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The lesson for today:

Get on Facebook!

Why? Well, first you have the fact that it helps you communicate with people be letting you find them, and letting them find you. Groups also help you organize people, and events allow you to get them together for something or another.
In closing, Facebook is nearly essential to getting a life outside of classes, and helps a lot with cooperative work within them.
(They really ought to pay me for this one.)