Archive for May 26th, 2007


May 26, 2007

Julie Rehmeyer reports on some recent progress in polygon research of the following problem:

What is the polygon with the largest area that has n sides and fixed diameter?

The progress is for the case of even sided polygons of side 10 or more–numerical optimization software have apparently been used in the research. Take a look!

HowTo: successfully achieve tenure

May 26, 2007

Lesboprof at Inside Higher Ed has some pointers; take a look!

Ethics–too important to be left to philosophers?

May 26, 2007

Janet Stemwedel and Adventures in Ethics and Science tackles the question:

It is possible that learning ethics (even ethics-for-scientists) from a class in a philosophy department will have less of an impact on science students than learning ethics from their science professors would have.

I have seen other versions of the same question too, in its various forms, asked: where do we want our students learn their mathematics? their communication skills? their writing skills? their reading skills?

The answer, in my opinion, is that a 101 level course should be learnt from the specialists–namely, in the departments of philosophy, mathematics, communication, language etc; it should be  followed up by a course in the mother department. Works wonderfully; in addition, it also gives the students a perspective of what aspects of the same problem are  emphasised by the different disciplines. For example, a student who does a course on partial differential equations in a mathematics department, in a physics department and in an engineering department has a better chance of learning about three different approaches to the same problem–at least, it did to me, when I did a mathematical methods course in the chemical engineering, physics and mathematics departments.

Friday late night link fest

May 26, 2007

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:”


  1. A philandering string theorist is caught by his wife with another woman. “But darling,” he pleads, “I can explain everything!” — Sean while writing about String theory, and how it is not dead yet!
  2. An interview with Walter Isaacson, the author of the most recent biography of Einstein;
  3. I just can’t skip “coffee can prevent …” type research results;
  4. Tonal intervals in music and the underlying physics of the vocal anatomy;
  5. Sexual orientation and the performance of mental tasks;
  6. A must-read review of the book Cognitive foundations of muscial pitch;
  7. Chet on why primary texts in science are not the best way to learn it–I would tend to agree after my attempts at reading Gibbs — most of the time, I guess the difficulty relates to the change in notations, terminology and the way the field itself has developed — in that sense, like all books, scientific classics are also products of their time;
  8. Chad at Uncertain Principle discusses whether you should plunge right away into data aquisition, or, automate the process; and, Janne, in the first comment to the post, discusses the analogy (which popped into my head when I read the post) of doing by hand or writing a script of computer programmers; like Chad, I too take the script route only when it becomes too much of a pain doing things by hand;
  9. Bora’s Linnaeus birthday post and a real celebratory post!
  10. Dawkins on the many aspects of time (via, who else?)


  1. Kalevala–The Finnish National Epic (via);
  2. News of a new Sister Pelagia novel (with a link to a 30 page excerpt);
  3. Favourite fonts of some writers; via;


  1. A B-squared podcast of an interview (mp3) with the author of More sex is safer sex: The unconventional wisdom of economics, Steven E Landsburg;
  2. YouNotSneaky calculates the jerk factor needed for opposing immigration; via;
  3. What are the goods whose price should not be forbiddingly high, asks Thoma, and gives a list too in answer.


  1. Here is a video of (a rather youngish) Govinda and Kimi Katkar as superman and spidergirl respectively (via B-squared). I loved the vyuung…vyuung sound effects! Makes me long for Hindi movies at IISc gym!