Friday, December 20, 2019

This and That

Most of my blog posts are about a single topic related to Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, but today’s post consists of a dozen brief notes. Read to the end for your Christmas gift.
  1. Previously in this blog, I’ve mentioned the website That site no longer exists, but was replaced by a page dedicated to medical physics on the Physics World website. Former medicalphysicsweb editor Tami Freeman is still in charge, and the new site is useful for instructors and students using IPMB. I get updates by email.
  2. I taught my Biological Physics class (PHY 3250) this fall at Oakland University, and videos of the class meetings are posted on Youtube. The quality is poor; often the blackboard is difficult to read. But if you want to see how I teach the first half of IPMB, take a look.
  3. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my class played Trivial Pursuit IPMB. The students had fun and earned extra credit. Earlier this year my wife and I bought two Trivial Pursuit games—complete with game boards and pieces—at a garage sale for a couple dollars, so I was able to accommodate twelve students. You can download the questions at the IPMB homepage
  4. In 2012 I wrote about the website iBioMagazine. I no longer can find it, but I believe the website iBiology is related to it. I recommend iBiology for physics students trying to improve their knowledge of biology.
  5. Today The Rise of Skywalker opens. It’s the final episode in the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies. I remember watching the first Star Wars movie as a teenager in 1977; I can’t wait to see the latest.
  6. From the Oakland University campus you can see the Headquarters and Tech Center of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. This fall the folks at Chrysler introduced a new advertising blitz called the Dodge Horsepower Challenge. Each week they presented a new physics problem about cars, and those who answered correctly were entered in a drawing for a 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. They needed a physicist to review their problems and solutions, and somehow I got the job. You can find the problems on Youtube, presented by a colorful wrestler named Goldberg.
  7. Lately I’ve been republishing these blog posts on Oddly, among my most popular stories on Medium is the one about the Fourier series of the cotangent. It has over 160 reads while others that I think are better have just a handful.
  8. The Blogger software keeps its own statistics, and claims that my most popular post is about Frank Netter, with over 6000 page views. I think its popularity has to do with Search Engine Optimization.
  9. The IPMB Facebook page now has over 200 members. Thanks everyone, and let’s try to finish 2020 with 220.
  10. Regular readers know that my two favorite authors are Isaac Asimov and Charles Dickens. Recently I’ve discovered another: P. G. Wodehouse. His books about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves are hilarious, and a joy to read.
  11. If you want to know what books I’m reading, you can follow my Goodreads account. Often books in the category Read More Science become subjects of blog posts.
  12. Finally, here’s your Christmas present. Last year Oakland University Professor Andrea Eis organized an event—called Encountering the Rare Book—to highlight the OU Kresge Library’s special collections. I was one of the faculty members Andrea asked to select a book from the collection and write a brief essay about it. I chose A Christmas Carol and my essay is below. A Merry Christmas to you all.
I read A Christmas Carol every December, so I was delighted to find a first edition of Charles Dickens’ classic novella in the Rare Book Collection of Kresge Library. I never tire of Dickens’ “ghostly little book.” I love his language, humor, and wonderfully drawn characters.

I enjoy the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present best; the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come frightens me. One of my favorite scenes is when Scrooge’s nephew Fred and the Ghost of Christmas Present collude with Topper to catch Fred’s sister-in-law (the plump one with the lace tucker) during a game of blind man’s bluff. I’m a cheapskate focused on my work, so I have a certain sympathy for Ebenezer. I read the book each year as a reminder to not become a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone.”

All of us in higher education ought to recall the words of the Ghost of Christmas Present at the end of Stave 3, as he revealed two wretched children hidden in his robes: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both…but most of all beware this boy.”

I sometimes wonder if I should have been born a Victorian. I love their physics—Faraday, Maxwell, and Kelvin are my heroes—as well as their literature. A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, the same year that James Joule measured the mechanical equivalent of heat, George Stokes analyzed incompressible fluids, and Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program. Holding a first edition in your hands connects you to that time; as if Dickens, like Marley’s Ghost, “sat invisible beside you.” The library’s copy has lovely illustrations, which at that time had to be painstakingly hand-colored.

I intend to continue reading A Christmas Carol each year, with the hope that I, like Scrooge, can “become as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”
Ecountering the Rare Book, an exhibition celebrating the Special Collections in Kresge Library at Oakland University, organized by Andrea Eis, superimposed on Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.
Encountering the Rare Book, an exhibition celebrating
the Special Collections in Kresge Library at
Oakland University, organized by Andrea Eis.

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