I recently finished reading Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, a thorough biography of the twentieth century philosopher. (Some entertaining comics about Wittgenstein’s philosophy are here, here, and here.) It’s an excellent book, diving into the life of a remarkable, strange, and intense person. Among other things, Wittgenstein refused any part of his … Continue reading Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alternative Careers, and Active Learning
What do I add to a first-year university physics class on simple harmonic motion? Anything? What’s the point of a class on simple harmonic motion? Why do first-year physics classes exist? I was thinking about these questions exactly six months ago, pre-pandemic, when I started writing a blog post that seems especially relevant now. I … Continue reading What’s the point of a first-year physics class?
On July 4, I finished a draft of the fourth and final part of Building Life, my popular-science book on biophysics. There’s still a lot to revise, based in part on comments from my editor and others on Parts 1-3 and, I’m sure, comments to come on Part 4, but nonetheless I’m delighted to say … Continue reading Book draft done!
Given that all university classes are currently being run on-line due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our science teaching journal club topics for the term are mostly focused on remote instruction. Last week’s article  was a 2019 study comparing different methods for preparing video-based short lectures. It was especially interesting for reasons that can be … Continue reading Two graphs about on-line learning
Update May 12, 2020: I intend to start the course during the week of May 18, 2020. If you’re interested in taking it, please do the following by May 15, 2020: (i) Get the up-to-date syllabus here; (ii) Write your name and email address on this sheet if you haven’t already contacted me; (iii) Note … Continue reading An informal image analysis course
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the proliferation of models of the spread of the virus rivals the spread of the virus itself. Looking at these models is dizzying, and their accuracy so far, especially with respect to heterogeneity across regions, is unimpressive. Of course, modeling an ongoing pandemic is hard, but recently a more fundamental … Continue reading Known and unknown pandemic models
About a new paper from my lab  on why gut bacteria swim, and whether their host cares. Many bacteria swim. It’s a great way to explore one’s surroundings, run away from toxins, or move toward regions with more food. Over the past several years, as we’ve used 3D microscopy to peer inside zebrafish to … Continue reading Putting the brakes on gut bacteria
Amid the deluge of data, speculations, and commiserations about the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, here’s a modeling exercise mixing epidemiology and economics that I haven’t seen done, and that I think is important. Stated in four parts: 1. Closing schools and businesses saves lives by slowing the spread of disease, facilitating the treatment of infected … Continue reading A pandemic model I’d like to see
I’ve been working on a popular science book about biophysics, writing as well as illustrating it. I’m about three-quarters done, hopefully on track for my contractually obligated completion date later this year. The book isn’t a secret, but I haven’t broadly announced it, nor have I posted a summary. So here it is: an announcement and … Continue reading Book Announcement: Building Life!
This evening, the American Physical Society suddenly cancelled its largest annual conference, the March Meeting, the day before it was to start. I’m one of the 10,000 physicists who will now not be spending the coming week in Denver. The cancellation is due to fears of the coronavirus. Some would say the caution is warranted; … Continue reading A Coronavirus-Cancelled Conference