Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Absence of evidence and evidence of absence

November 22, 2014

It has been a while since my last blog post (yes, I love euphemisms). I have not been writing for the simple reason that I ran out of things to say, a fate that I am told few, very few amateur bloggers escape. So, what am I doing here now?


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).


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?


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.


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.


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”.


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.


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” ?


Impact factor trends (2012 edition)

July 22, 2012

It is that time of the year when  Impact Factor (IF) data are updated. As I finished retrieving the 2011 values (from ISI Web of Knowledge), I started looking at notable changes (upward and downward). Being a condensed matter physicist, I am focusing on those journals that are most relevant to me, but I am wondering whether similar observations to those expounded below are made in other subfields.


Instructional technology and college education

June 30, 2012

In this op-ed on the New York Times, Jeff Solingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a few concrete, urgent actions that universities and colleges across North America should take, in order to weather the financial crisis affecting institutions of higher education.



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