2012 in review

January 2, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 25,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

What do you look for (part two)?

January 2, 2013

Having expounded in my previous post what kind of person I look for, when serving on the search committee for a tenure-track hire, now it is time to list the criteria that I adopt to try and spot my ideal candidate, as I go through application packages (APs).

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What do you look for (part one) ?

December 30, 2012

I am a faculty member in a university physics department, who finds himself periodically involved in faculty searches and hires. How do I evaluate the curriculum vitae of an applicant for a tenure-track position?
What do I look for, and what are the red flags? Does it really boil down to counting (first-authored) articles, impact factor of journals where they were published, citations, invited talks, or maybe places where and individuals by whom the applicant has been mentored, as a student and postdoctoral associate?
Do I even look at the research plan? If so, how do I judge it?
What about teaching potential and/or experience?

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Binomial distributions and multiple choice tests

October 24, 2012

Readers of my blog know that I generally regard multiple choice tests (MCTs) as an adequate tool to assess student knowledge of, and proficiency with, a given set of topics. I have written about this subject here and here.

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Google Docs: one-year review

October 12, 2012

About a year ago, my institution made the campus-wide transition to Google electronic mail. Concurrently, Google’s suite of office applications known as Google Docs also became available, as it comes essentially integrated with electronic mail. It includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, among other things. I started using the word processor and spreadsheet right away; in recent times I have experimented with the presentation software as well. A fundamental component thereof is the remote hard drive (Google Drive), which allows for permanent file storage.
So, what’s the verdict ? Is this thing any good ? Would I recommend its use ?

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Who’s really obsessed with Impact Factor ?

September 19, 2012

What brings more prestige to a scientist, an article which receives hundreds of citations, even if published on a relatively minor, or even obscure journal, or one that is published on a high profile, glamorous publication with a high Impact Factor (IF), but whose citation record is modest ? Most scientists, I believe, would answer such a question by expressing their preference for a publication that is highly cited.

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In praise of failure

September 10, 2012

“In 2004, Kim and Chan (KC) carried out torsional oscillator (TO) measurements of solid helium confined in porous Vycor glass and found an abrupt drop in the resonant period below 200 mK. The period drop was interpreted as probable experimental evidence of nonclassical rotational inertia (NCRI). This experiment sparked considerable activities in the studies of superfluidity in solid helium”.

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Mountain Lion and stuff

August 19, 2012

Between work and home I own eight Apple computers — four iMacs, two MacBook Air, two Mac Pro. So, like any respectable user, I promptly upgraded the operating system to the new version, OS 10.8 (aka Mountain Lion), which has now been available for a few weeks. Around this time last year, its predecessor Lion had come out. On that occasion, after installing it on all my machines, I expressed in a blog post my lukewarm feelings about it.

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On confirmation bias

August 12, 2012

Doug Natelson has done an outstanding job at debunking a ridiculous charge of confirmation bias allegedly affecting a recent study of climate change. Such a charge is put forth in an article published in the popular press (on a very prominent venue). While ostensibly aimed at educating the general public about some aspects of how science works, the article sneakily rehashes one of the most common and dangerous misconceptions that exist out there about science, namely that in the end it is not as “objective” as its practitioners claim.

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Online notes

August 5, 2012

Why do students who take courses with me (but colleagues tell me of similar experiences) routinely insist that I scan and post online my very own notes, the hard-to-read, disorganized and sketchy gibberish that I use for lecturing, whereas if I post a neatly put together summary of the basic concepts and formulae — typically after painstakingly making slides, drawings and animations — I am invariably told that “that stuff is useless” ?

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