To become a good teacher, ignore everything you’re told and learn from the masters (part 2 of 4)

In the previous post in this series, I described some teaching skills that I subconsciously absorbed by reading works by Feynman. I also described some frustrations I had with what we were told to do in TA training. What I learned from Preskill Luckily for me, and hopefully for my students, the instructor for the [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:37-08:00January 15th, 2015|Reflections|6 Comments

To become a good teacher, ignore everything you’re told and learn from the masters (part 1 of 4)

Editor's Note: Kevin Kuns, a physics concentrator in the Caltech Class of 2012, received the D. S. Kothari Prize in Physics for undergraduate research conducted at Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information.  Now a graduate student at University of California at Santa Barbara, Kevin won an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award there. Bursting with pride upon hearing [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:37-08:00January 11th, 2015|Reflections|5 Comments

Actions do change the world.

I heard it in a college lecture about Haskell. Haskell is a programming language akin to Latin: Learning either language expands your vocabulary and technical skills. But programmers use Haskell as often as slam poets compose dactylic hexameter.* My professor could have understudied for the archetypal wise man: He had snowy hair, a beard, and [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:37-08:00December 28th, 2014|Reflections|8 Comments

Bell’s inequality 50 years later

This is a jubilee year.* In November 1964, John Bell submitted a paper to the obscure (and now defunct) journal Physics. That paper, entitled "On the Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox," changed how we think about quantum physics. The paper was about quantum entanglement, the characteristic correlations among parts of a quantum system that are profoundly [...]

I spy with my little eye…something algebraic.

Look at this picture. Does any part of it surprise you? Look more closely. Now? Try crossing your eyes. Do you see a boy’s name? I spell “Peter” with two e’s, but “Piotr” and “Pyotr” appear as authors’ names in papers’ headers. Finding “Petr” in a paper shouldn’t have startled me. But how often does [...]

Generally speaking

My high-school calculus teacher had a mustache like a walrus’s and shoulders like a rower’s. At 8:05 AM, he would demand my class’s questions about our homework. Students would yawn, and someone’s hand would drift into the air. “I have a general question,” the hand’s owner would begin. “Only private questions from you,” my teacher [...]

Making sci-fi teleportation sound less crazy

Laser beam bending due to a change in the speed of light in water. If you ever wanted to see a sci-fi plot that expertly applied advanced physical concepts so that with a bit of imagination teleporting a human was not as unbelievable as most of the teleportation scenarios we see [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:39-08:00October 9th, 2014|Reflections|Comments Off on Making sci-fi teleportation sound less crazy

Where are you, Dr. Frank Baxter?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of my first publication. In 1964, when we were eleven-year-old fifth graders, my best friend Mace Rosenstein and I launched The Pres-stein Gazette, a not-for-profit monthly. Though the first issue sold well, the second issue never appeared. Front page of the inaugural issue of the Pres-stein Gazette. Faded [...]

2017-01-13T10:05:39-08:00September 8th, 2014|Reflections|14 Comments