Archive for February, 2007

On Jello.

28Feb07

Americans refer to gelatin—the edible, flavoured kind–as jello, after the brand Jell-o that was popularised in the early 90s by its television ads featuring Bill Cosby. In the UK, gelatin is referred to as jelly. Americans use this word to refer to a spreadable fruit preserve which the English call jam. This word is also […]

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Scientists (especially physicists) who speak to a general audience about their field usually have a back of handy analogies to help explain otherwise difficult concepts*. On a more basic level, the ability to make connections between a poorly understood idea and a well-understood idea is a key skill for those working in theoretical sciences. Anyway, […]


I can’t resist sharing a common joke among mathematics students (‘mathmos’) in Cambridge: What’s the difference between an extroverted mathmo and an introverted mathmo? The extroverted mathmo will look at your shoes when s/he is talking to you. In this vein, most people wouldn’t think of mathematicians as being particularly suited for Valentine’s day. Ironically, […]


Professor Trodden at Cosmic Variance has asked the blogosphere how academia can best incorporate blogs as part of the educational and research community. This is a topic of particular interest to me (at to a few of you) and I reproduce the comment that I left below. I’ve recently been thinking about how current and […]


It’s a bit late for a white Christmas, but I’ve been whistling Christmas carols anyway. Yesterday’s snow begat some ephemeral new friends around Cambridge. (What’s in the bag? Weinberg I and II, protected from the snow.) I made friends with this particularly well shaped snowperson. It was the only one that had the sense to […]


“I grow increasingly convinced that the major reason faculty seem so damn smart is because when they were graduate students there was no Internet.” -Navin Sivanandam, “Procrastination Vacation,” The Stanford Daily, 4 August 2005 The arXiv (and alert service and eprintweb) You’re not a proper grad student (“postgrad” in the UK) if you don’t check […]


Overheard today in my department regarding American (poorly paraphrased by me) research interests: Everyone in America is suddenly doing phenomenology. Every ten years American physicists follow a new trend. Here in Europe, we just kind of continue plodding along. This was especially amusing because also recently overheard from an American in Trinity: What? You can […]