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Chad Orzel
Works at Union College
Attended University of Maryland, College Park
Lived in Schenectady, NY
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Chad Orzel

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Real Math is more about the finding and testing of patterns than the simple arithmetic facts SteelyKid has to practice for school. Here's an attempt to introduce the former using the latter.
SteelyKid’s school does a “March Math Madness” thing, and this year all the kids in her class are being asked to practice “Math Facts” for ten minutes a night. This appears to be motivated by some requirement that students be able to rattle off basic addition problems at high speed. So there are flash cards…
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We've got a similar requirement in my kid's third-grade class.

I hate flash cards, always have. So I decided to fulfill it by just drilling her on the multiplication table when we were waiting for the school bus in the morning. The multiplication table is one of those annoying things you really do have to memorize to make your life easier, and I had no discipline to do that in the third grade myself, so it actually was valuable.

But we definitely got bored with it eventually, once she had it all down and could recite it as multiplication or division up to 9x9. So we go on to other mathematical topics sometimes. She's studying fractions in school, and that led to discussions of rational and irrational numbers, and even Cantor's diagonal proof.

She's fascinated by the idea that there are unsolved mysteries in mathematics. She keeps asking me about them. She knows what a prime number is. I told her about the Goldbach conjecture, and the twin-primes problem and the exciting recent work based on Zhang's bounded prime gap theorem. A mathematics that has actual unsolved mysteries in it is so far from the "turn the crank and get the right answer" stuff that you get force-fed in elementary school.
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Chad Orzel

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Yesterday was Founder Day at Union, and the headline lecture was on "The Enduring Value of The Humanities." I had a few problems with the speech, so I blogged about them...
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To me, the value in the humanities is that they teach a different critical thinking than, say, physics or history. With physics and history the critical thinking is applied to methods, data, and sources. With literature or art studies the critical thinking is more likely to be applied to one's own assumptions.
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Chad Orzel

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Some thoughts about how to allocate efforts toward communicating science to a broader audience.
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Most arguments against the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics are incoherent in the same way that electrodynamics was before relativity. 
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In support of teaching social justice in physics classes, which has folks at Fox News all upset. 
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Another batch of data about the different rates at which men and women complete STEM degrees. As usual, it's kind of confusing.
Via Curt Rice (or, more precisely, somebody on Twitter who posted a link to that, but I didn’t note who) there’s a new study in Frontiers in Psychology of the STEM “pipeline”, looking at the history of gender disparities in STEM degrees. You can spin this one of two ways, the optimistic one being “Women…
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I keep kicking around that lecture about "the humanities" I didn't like last week, and promise I'll stop soon. Today, though, I'm thinking out loud about how SteelyKid's nascent interest in pop music is maybe a better starting point for defending "the humanities" than what we usually get.
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Big news: We'll be running a three-day workshop this summer at the Joint Quantum Institute in College Park, MD, offering a "crash course" in quantum physics for writers of science fiction. This is modeled on Mike Brotherton's Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop; the goal is to inform and inspire new stories featuring quantum ideas and technologies, and through those reach a broader audience than we could bring to JQI in person.

I'm pretty psyched about this. If you know anyone who writes SF stories-- in print, for tv or movies, for video games-- please point them our way. The workshop will be July 30-August 1, 2015, and involves three days of lectures and lab visits, with housing and food included.
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The wavefunction of the universe is constantly expanding to include new branches, and there's always at least one where I'm writing about the Many-Worlds Interpretation.
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Good discussing this.
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In which Emmy thinks that laser cooling is responsible for all this cold weather we're having, and I explain that it's not.
I’m rooting around in my bag for a pen, and pull out a laser pointer by mistake. Since I’d really prefer not to be grading, I flip it on and shine it on the floor next to the spot where Emmy is half-dozing. She immediately leaps up (she’s pretty spry for a dog of 12…),…
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She looks skeptical at your explanation.
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Twitter is, first and foremost, a platform for socialization. Which means it's very useful for some people and purposes, but pretty much worthless for others.
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I get quite a bit from Twitter. I read a lot more world news that has been retweeted by people I follow from around the country/world.

Most of the content I contribute is retweeting or the occasional pithy but usually inscrutable comment on something happening in my life.

I probably use it as some people used Reader. I was never one to follow a bunch of RSS feeds, but my twitter feed offers a curated stream of commentary and news.
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I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that taking the dog for a walk on an exceedingly cold morning makes me think about physics. Specifically, what happens to my glasses when I come in and go back out.
We’re having a brutal cold snap at the moment, and while today’s early-morning dog walk was considerably warmer than yesterday’s, it was still 0F/-18C out, which is way colder than I like. When I came back in the house after the walk, my glasses instantly fogged up. But I had to take some stuff outside…
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+Christina L Brainard I've always had: breathe out: fog. Breathe in: fog some more. Breathe out: fog a lot more. Etc.
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Work
Occupation
Associate Professor, Union college Department of Physics and Astronomy
Employment
  • Union College
    Associate Professor of Physics, 2001 - present
  • Yale University
    Postdoctoral Associate, 1999 - 2001
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Schenectady, NY - New Haven, CT - Rockville, MD - Komae, Japan - Williamstown, MA - Whitney Point, NY
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Introduction
Chad Orzel is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College in Schenectady, NY. He is also the author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (Scribner, 2009), a popular-audience book explaining quantum mechanics through imaginary conversations with his dog, Emmy.
Education
  • University of Maryland, College Park
    Chemical Physics, 1993 - 1999
  • Williams College
    Physics, 1989 - 1993
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Gender
Male