What do you imagine when you think of someone giving a talk about their research as part of a job interview.

I think of someone at the front of the room, pointing to slides, explaining the new things that they have uncovered.

I'm on a committee to hire a new art history faculty member, and apparently they do things very differently.

For example, the talk was in a tiny little room. I sort of feel that the room should be chosen to reflect the importance of the talk. If you're hiring a new faculty member, it should be in a significant room, not a windowless interior classroom. The speaker just sat at a table in the midst of the audience and spoke from there. Again, I don't really know that the front of the room is about giving someone authority, but I do think it's something of a position of honor. It's the college saying "We're interested in you, please show us what you can do." Apparently, that's not how art history does it.

It was particularly interesting because the artist being discussed always put a separation in his paintings between the subject and the viewer. And then to have there be no separation between the presenter and the audience, it seemed that there really should have been an analogy.

And for anyone reading this blog, if you do ever become a faculty member, don't be too quick to agree to be on a search committee. It'll eat your left, even if for only a few weeks.


I'm dying!

AHHHH! I can't keep my eyes open after reading 50 students subtly misexplain how retrograde motion is explained in the heliocentric and geocentric system. Or completely bomb questions about why reflecting telescopes don't have issues with chromatic aberration. (I really didn't think people were going to have so much trouble with that one.)

I'm rewarding myself for finishing a page by blogging.

It's lead me to some interesting realizations. Namely that the problem with the exams is that I'm teaching the class as a breadth of a knowledge class rather than a depth of knowledge one. The advanced astrophysics class that I'm giving a final to right now will be much easier to grade since they're showing me the interconnectedness of different details in how stars work. I can't ask the same sorts of questions of my intro students though since we cover everything from astronomical history to planets to evolution of the Universe.

I think the answer is going to be to just suck it up and power through.

Ok eyes, stay open!



I really like teaching, but I need to do something about finals. Forty-six students this semester. Seven pages of final. Nearly 350 pages of grading to do in the next week.

The dean wasn't too thrilled yesterday when I mentioned that I should cut the class down to 25-30. To get classes for all the folks I cull, they'd have to hire an entire new humanities professor.

On the plus side, in my annual review I always bring up Whitman's policy at founding... professors got the tuition money for the classes they were teaching. So, roughly $45K for 32 credits a year. We'll figure that there's significant financial aid and only $1000/credit is real. Roughly 100 students a year, four credits each, $1000/credit. I should be making $400,000 a year! Higher tax bracket, here I come!

Unfortunately, my logic hasn't worked on the people in payroll yet.


Biggest Black Holes

This is more about big numbers than it is about science, but a team from Berkeley just found two supermassive black holes around 11 billion solar masses in the core of some nearby elliptical galaxies. The cool thing is that these might be the sorts of objects that powered quasars in the early universe. It makes sense because the quasars would have eventually gone out as their host galaxies ran out of gas, since ellipticals are basically gas-free we don't have quasars anymore.

Here's the thing though... 11 billion solar masses. Ten to the ten solar masses. The Schwartzchild radius for a black hole is around 3 km per solar mass. So these new monsters have even horizons three times ten to the thirteenth meters across.

That's about two percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Not very impressive? Actually very impressive. If we popped it in where the sun is, it would be twice as big on the sky, a little bit over a full degree of pure blackness. With all of the sky behind it lensed around.

Never mind the fact that it would make time run funny. I've kind of decided that the only way I can live out my life's ambitions is to jump into a black hole b-t-dubs.