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Melissa Terras’ Blog: Male, Mad and Muddleheaded: Academics in Children’s Picture Books

Labcoats, suits (but not if you are female!) or safari suits (but not if you are female!) are the academic uniform du jour. The names given to the academics are telling, with the majority being less than complimentary: Professor Dinglebat, Professor P. Brain, Professor Blabbermouth, Professor Bumblebrain, Professor Muddlehead, Professor Hogwash, Professor Bumble, Professor Dumkopf, Professor Nutter, and two different Professor Potts. There is the odd professor with a name…

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Alice in Quantumland: A Charming Illustrated Allegory of Quantum Mechanics by a CERN Physicist

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics is absolutely fantastic in its entirety, certain to engage the simultaneous states of entertainment and education with unequaled grace. Complement it with scientists’ answers to little kids’ questions about how the world works, then bend your mind by considering what it’s like to live in a universe of ten dimensions. For a look at how physicists’ understanding of the field has evolved…

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No Black Holes Exist, Says Stephen Hawking—At Least Not Like We Think

Black holes do not exist—at least, not as we know them, says renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, potentially provoking a rethink of one of space’s most mysterious objects. A new study from Hawking also says that black holes may not possess “firewalls,” destructive belts of radiation that some researchers have proposed would incinerate anything that passes through them but others scientists deem an impossibility. The conventional view of black holes posits…

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Code is not literature

A literate programmer describes his attempts to get fellow programmers to “read” code the way writers read literature. (He concludes that the deep study of code requires a different analogy.) Preparing for the talk I’m going to give to the Girls who Code cohort, I started thinking about what to tell them about code reading and code they should read. And once again it struck me that for all the…

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STEM Needs a New Letter

Creativity alone does not foster innovation, nor do abstract scientific or mathematical concepts. Innovators also need to know how to render those creative ideas into working products that can be put into use. In order to bridge the chasm between abstract idea and utility, some educators are advocating for an expansion of the popular STEM acronym—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, the list of skills many experts believe more students need.…

Computer scientists quantify elements of writing style that differentiate successful fiction

“Predicting the success of literary works poses a massive dilemma for publishers and aspiring writers alike,” Choi said. “We examined the quantitative connection between writing style and successful literature. Based on novels across different genres, we investigated the predictive power of statistical stylometry in discriminating successful literary works, and identified the stylistic elements that are more prominent in successful writings.” –Computer scientists quantify elements of writing style that differentiate successful…

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Supergiant and Hypergiant Stars Compared to our Solar System

To begin with, the terms “hypergiant” and “supergiant” are both a bit general. For the most part, these terms are loosely used to refer to the largest and most luminous (brightest and thus most energetic) stars in the universe. The exact term that one should use depends on the specific star that one is discussing (its size and luminosity). There are yellow hypergiants, red supergiants, blue supergiants etc.). You don’t…