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Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
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Ahhh... now it comes out. The SciBlogs thing wasn't about ethics. It was a blatant Pepsi/Coke thing... Seriously, there is an interesting story about Mr. Lavoisier: After Lavoisier was executed during the French revolution, she gathered together all of his notes and publications (which had been confiscated) and published his memoirs. She had been an important assistant in his work and made some contributions to the field of chemistry. She married Count Rumford (another scientist), but they had a horrible four-year marriage before divorcing, with Rumford making some comment to the effect of, "having lived with Mrs. Lavoisier, perhaps Mr. Lavoisier was the one with a more fortunate ending", suggesting that beheading was preferable to living with Marie Anne. Nothing like some good physics gossip to get the day going. I have a craving for a soda now.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2010 on father of fizz at Cocktail Party Physics
Hi Danna: Education research is so hard! The kids learn more by doing rather than listening to and it's unclear to us whether the kids learned more because they had scientists working with them or because there were more people in the room and thus each set of kids had more help. I mean, one person trying to do anything hands on with thirty fourth graders is insane. The place we've seen an impact from the scientists is in middle and high school classes, where the scientists are real-life models of the scientific method when something doesn't work the way it is supposed to. Scientists are inherently comfortable with things not working because (let's face it)that's the way our real lives work most of the time, right? The scientists start troubleshooting and that is where the kids really learn something about discovery and attacking a problem that you don't already know the answer to. Our graduate students had similar qualms about calling themselves scientists. They felt (especially the women) that they were somehow being presumptuous using that title before they had their degrees. I think it's really important that we make sure grad students understand that an important part of their education is becoming part of the community. That's a process, not a step function that happens when you defend your thesis. You become part of the community when you start your study and you strengthen those bonds every time you read a journal article,give a paper at a conference or have a scientific talk with someone in a hallway. We are all, even twenty years after getting the Ph.D., in the process of becoming scientists. You ARE a scientist and I encourage you to make that point when you are doing outreach. Sorry - bit of a rant here, but after nine years of running a project that places graduate students in the schools (, I have so many results I haven't written up yet that really need to get out there!
Chad Orzel has a nice post about Broader Impacts at: where he touches on a lot of good points I didn't get to in this article.
OK, Jen - you've shamed me into finishing the Vinturi Blog. I will post it Saturday to give people time to read your excellent (as always) entry. Kick me if I don't get it up by noon your time! DLP
John: You are exactly right. And an internal combustion engine is scientifically designed to be maximally efficient at only one speed!
Totally apart from my vote for Michael, I object to the overt age bias here! There are some (admittedly, not at lot, but some) men post 50's (and few post-60's) who can hold their own with the young 'uns in terms of 'upping' and 'coming'. Shame on y'all for limiting your horizons!
Toggle Commented Oct 22, 2009 on help make michael a hottie at Cocktail Party Physics
I've had a very different experience than Jennifer and Brandon. I've not only been able to review entire stories when I asked, but ~80% of the time when I've worked with major press outlets, they've asked me to look at the story prior to publishing. There's always a disclaimer that they don't guarantee they'll make changes and that they want your comments on factual accuracy only and not the writing. Some institutions do have a formal policy not to show the piece to the interviewees and in some cases, writers at these outlets have told me "please don't tell anyone I let you look at it" (which is why I'm not naming names). But even if they only let you review your quotes, it's still better than nothing. If they don't offer, there's no harm in asking, as long as you don't do it with an "I'm pretty sure you're going to get this wrong" attitude. I use the "I've been badly misquoted in the past and that caused me some problems with my Dean. If you'd be willing to just let me check my quotes for accuracy, I'd feel much better." Then there's the student newspaper at a university that shall remain unnamed (and is NOT UTDallas). I would talk with them only on condition that I could look at the story pre-printing because they were so careless and made so many mistakes and misquotes. When I interview people, I usually offer them the opportunity to read what I wrote with the same caveat that I want to make sure that a) they are comfortable with anything I attribute to them in quotes and b) there isn't anything factually wrong. I've done that even when I was writing things that weren't necessarily positive about the people. It seemed to me the appropriate thing to do and I have at least a couple places where an alert interviewee saved me from looking really dumb. But then again, I'm writing science popularization, not science news.
@cap: You're making an assumption that the person who threw the soda was thinking the way you or I would think. The driver of the car got very wet and there are soda stains all over the inside of the car, so there was a significant amount of soda left. This wasn't an "I'm done with my soda, I think I'll throw the cup outside the window" thing. The unknowns are what give us the very large error bars on getting actual numerical values. Thanks for your comment!
Toggle Commented Jul 1, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
@Frank: There is a difference between calories and Calories. In their infinite wisdom, the unit gods decreed that we would use the same word to mean two different things and the only way we would distinguish between them is capitalization. Capital-C "Calories" are the unit we use to measure the energy in food. One Calorie is actual a kilocalorie, or one thousand small-c calories. That is where the apparent discrepancy of 1000 comes in.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
@Chaos Motor: But you're assuming there's gravity! If there's no friction, perhaps there's no gravity, either! Seriously, it would bounce a bit, but if you dropped it precisely straight (i.e. all four wheels hit perpindicular to the ground), it should be parked.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
I'm sorry Mikael for mis-awarding the credit! @misterfrictive: Uh, yeah, I was just slightly off - like by a factor of 2+. I've inserted the math in the blog, which I should have done from the start. I blame it on a faulty envelope.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
@misterfricative: You are right that pressure is definitely important, so the area of contact is indeed relevant. I like your analysis of the deformation of the windshield. The problem is that at some point you introduce such a range of variables that you come up with an error bar that borders on absurd. The points you raise would be too much for the media, but that is exactly what I sat around talking to friends about over a beer on Saturday. Plus, I only had 1.5 hour lead time to get this ready and I had to deal with the really important stuff, i.e. my hair.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
The folks over at boingboing turned me on to a great website:, which allows you to input a length, area, etc. and will give you somethign that your value is roughtly comparable to. Way cool site.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
Hey Philip - great idea for a future post. The short answer is that is is a valid comparison and you can actually show that the units are the same! I will do that in an upcoming post. Thanks for the idea! DLP
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
@Jennifer - I'm glad that you think equations are a good thing...Was it Sagan that said every equation decreases book sales by 50%? I hope the same thing doesn't apply for the web!
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2009 on dial-a-scientist at Cocktail Party Physics
Lee - Magnetism! The Chinese have a long tradition of research in magnetism, not to mention the fact that the vast majority of the rare earth materials are in China. Why is that important? Rare-earth permanent magnets are needed for motors. Motors are necessary for electric vehicles...
Toggle Commented Jun 5, 2009 on China on my mind at Cocktail Party Physics