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Use the Internets to Learn Stuff

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollJuly 10, 2007 11:44 PM


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Links people have been passing to me: The Foundational Questions Institute Community Site now has a handy RSS feed:


If, like me, you read your blogs in a newsreader (like Bloglines or Google Reader) rather than the old-fashioned way of actually visiting every damn blog, this is a godsend. Anthony Aguirre has an interesting post, inspired in part by the Alternative-Science Respectability Checklist, on How Do We Fund Einstein Without Funding Crackpots? (To a large extent I think the present system does a pretty good job at that, actually. I would love to see much more flexibility in how researchers with a good track record get to use their funding, and much less onerous reporting requirements, but I haven't seen any non-anecdotal evidence that the next generation of Einsteins is being denied their fair share of grants. I'd be interested in hearing otherwise.) I'm on a new American Physical Society Committee on Informing the Public, and one of the things (the only thing, really) I was able to help them with was some suggestions on improving their website. The APS runs a public-outreach site, Physics Central, that occupies some prime internet real estate -- it's a top-ten result when you do a Google search on physics. One of the things I suggested to keep the page current and lively was a regular update on interesting articles to appear on physics blogs -- and lo and behold, they now have a regular Physics Blogosphere feature. From there, for example, you might be directed to Cocktail Party Physics, to learn about speeding Priuses, cloud chambers, the Iron Science Teacher competition, Cute Child Syndrome, the Exploratorium, and some insight into Rush Limbaugh's manifold shortcomings. (That's just in one post, of course; there are others.) It's sort of like Seed's Daily Zeitgeist, but just for physics. Now if we could only get them an RSS feed... Finally, Terri Yu points to a series of podcasts by MIT physicist Peter Fisher on Life as an Academic. A good example is this episode on imposter syndrome -- the nagging feeling that you don't belong here among all of these actually-smart people. For the most part, they don't either, so don't worry about it.

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