Some advice from Dr. Bob

June 29, 2008

Check it out.


NIMBY Vela Supernova

June 29, 2008

Oh sure, it’s all fun and games until the bloody sun blows up.

This image shows the devastation wrought when a star explodes. The Vela Supernova Remnant formed when a massive star 800 light years away blew up 11,000 years ago. Expanding at a ferocious velocity, it is now 8 degrees across in the sky — 16 times the apparent width of the Moon, and about the size of your outstretched fist! David’s mosaic shows a stunning amount of detail, tracing the variety of shapes and patterns the expanding gas makes as it slams into the interstellar junk floating around it.

From the always excellent Bad Astronomy Blog.

GtDA poll:What would you do if you had 10 million dollars?

June 28, 2008

When I was a grad student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the state of Arizona came up with the $1 dollar lottery ticket, promising the chance at the big money.

I admit to buying a few of those tickets (I recall our annual stipend was a whopping $8K, and that was in Reagan dollars). I would fantasize about what I would do when I won–start an ecological institute, and hire the coolest post docs to do cool stuff, and meet once a week to talk about the cool stuff they were doing.

Funny thing, my answer would be pretty much the same today. I think. (I would like to perform the experiment). Of course, I would throw in lots of travel to experience unique things near and dear to my heart. I would love, for example, to hear great orchestras play the Beethoven Symphonies.

It’s not a bad question, really. Since you can’t have more time, what would you do with more money? If you’re in grad school, and your answer has little to do with “finding things out”, or “teaching”, then…fer cryin’ out loud, get yerself on a path that get’s you closer to what you want to be.

Regardless, what would you with your life if you suddenly to didn’t have to worry about the next paycheck?

R.I.P. George Carlin

June 23, 2008

We’ve lost a good one folks. Academics talk a lot about teaching critical thinking.

I only wish every campus would celebrate, randomly, once a year, George Carlin Day. A day which the lecturer would leave the stage, the assigned PowerPoint presentation would be deferred until–oh, I don’t know, never–and the class would be allowed to listen to an hour of George Carlin. With a Carl Sagan chaser.

Maybe the world would edge a wee bit closer to this side of sanity.

Toward that end, one of Carlin’s better’uns, from When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?

The Secret News
Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the secret news.
Here’s the secret news:
All people are afraid.
No one knows what they’re doing.
Everything is getting worse.
Some people deserve to die.
Your money is worthless.
No one is properly dressed.
At least one of your children will disappoint you.
The system is rigged.
Your house will never be completely clean.
All teachers are incompetent.
There are people who really dislike you.
Nothing is as good as it seems.
Things don’t last.
No one is paying attention.
The country is dying.
God doesn’t care.

Welcome to the food web

June 18, 2008

‘spect most of the folks that read this blog are out obsessively writing and collecting data and have little time to spend cruisin’ the blogs. It is field season, after all.

That said, as an entomologist in a department of vertebrate biologists, this video does the heart good.

Three brain rules to improve your presentations.

June 2, 2008

Garr Reynolds, of the ever-insightful Presentation Zen, has put together a great slideshow on John Medina’s Brain Links: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

Every presentation by Garr Reynolds is a great example on how to communicate. See how he takes three of Medina’s rules to introduce three valuable lessons from neurobiology toward making you a better teacher and lecturer:

1) Exercise-Making your body a lean, clean, aerobic machine, besides giving you time to think, ensures that your brain gets the oxygen it needs. It also gives you some empathy for the poor schlubs that must sit through your lecture, inert brains encased in a desk. Make their time worth it.

2) The 10 minute rule–Your audience fades after 10 minutes. If you have to lecture for 50 minutes, conscientiously change-up every 10 minutes or so. Turn on the lights, show a blank screen and tell a story, have your audience stand up and stretch, anything to reset the 10-minute boredom clock.

3) Pictures beat text–We remember a good image far longer than a string of text. During your talks, show images, speak words. If you need blocks of text for your talk, use handouts.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

June 1, 2008

They invented the music video.

They invented the disassembling of the music video.

But, gawd, it looked like they were having fun.

And what a hook-a-licious song.