Anecdotal Evidence versus Statistics

One of the running jokes in physics/astronomy departments is that astronomers consider 4 instances of anything as statistically significant. In fact, the story goes, two points is enough to define a trend, and 1 is enough to form a theory. Take for instance our solar system. Up until 1995 it was the only one with a normal sun we knew of (there were some pulsar planets found earlier). Based on it, and it alone, we built an entire detailed nebular theory of solar system formation that we think is mostly true. This isn’t the only place in research where instances of “observation” lead to “understanding.” With observational astronomy we at least have the option to go out and search for new data. And sometimes we even find it. Sometimes....

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My Summer Vacation off the Grid

My Summer Vacation off the Grid

For the past 5 days I’ve been in the middle of New Hampshire staying with some old friends. About 5 years ago they bought a bunch of acres on top of a small mountain in New Hampshire. It was empty land with nothing more than a logging road and a clearing. At the time of the purchase, they were city slickers making a living off the biotech boom in Boston. Desiring to simplify and reduce their impact on the Earth, they built a home for themselves entirely off the grid, grew a garden, and started their own company, Northeast Renewables, LLC (Image: Solar panels and wind turbine. Mt Cardigan is on extreme left of image) There is a myth in America that off the grid means outside of society. Through mainstream media we’ve been exposed to stories of strange...

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The things I didn’t believe in graduate school

I would like to start this blog post by saying graduate school sucks. Any romantic longing for the better days of my youth that you decide to try and read into this post are very false. If you get from your bachelors degree to your PhD without crying, without wanting at least one of your committee members to get stranded without phone or Internet somewhere very far away, and without generally deciding you must have been crazy to decide to go to graduate school, well… then you are either very lucky or very oblivious. I personally cried a lot, wished spontaneous teleportation to an alternate universe on more than one person, and decided I was utterly crazy and opted to (admittedly temporarily) leave academia altogether when I was done. Graduate school is a...

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Of Audio Books and Guilty Pleasures…

It is spring (or at least pretending to be spring in the middle of the country. Temperatures are in the 70s F (low 20s C), flowers are in bloom, and the birds are LOUD. For me spring means 2 things: no more classes and lots of weeding. It also means that I have time to explore new books. I say explore because I’m actually more likely to listen to audio books then to read physical books now a days. There, I said it, I listen to books. Please don’t hate me for it. This isn’t to say I don’t like reading paper books. Back when I had a subway commute (which I actually miss for many reasons), I’d chew through a couple books a month. Now, I don’t have those random minutes for paper books except when I fly (or ride the subway in...

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Random and Off Topic

First the Random: Today I did an interview with the undead. Specifically with Chuck and Kreg of Technorama, which, despite the rumors, is not actually dead. I’m not sure when the show will air, but I’ll let you know! May 31 I’ll be at AstroZone in St Louis, and I am planning to take live questions in person and over the internet via uStream There will be a New Media meet during the AAS/ASP conference June 1-5. If you are a podcaster and will be there, let me know so I can get you on the “Who you can meet?” announcement. If you are interested in coming, keep an ear out for more information! June 6, I will sleep a-l-l day. And now onto the off topic. When I started keeping this blog, my personal and for friends blog died. I only have...

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