Physics On A Cube

One of my favourite mathematical pieces of writing is Flatland, by Edwin Abbott Abbott (the book is in the public domain, so you can download it from Wikipedia). Published over a century ago, it’s a story1 involving residents (Flatlanders) who live in a two-dimensional world. Without giving too much of the story away (because you should seriously read it!), the inhabitants find themselves shocked when a strange shape dips into their world. That other “shape”…

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A Game of Loops

When I hear the word “quantum”, I think of all the misconceptions and crazy ideas people associate with it in a lot of popular media. Physicists are great (and terrible) at coming up with names, and the word “quantum” is such an example of a word with a lot of baggage attached. Pair it with the word “computer”, however, and the misconceptions skyrocket, sometimes turning into full-blown hype. The reality (at the time of this…

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PSIon

In my final year of undergrad, I had a plan: go to the university near my house, begin my master’s degree, and eventually do a PhD. It was nice, simple, and straightforward. Not having a ton of people around me applying for graduate school, I wasn’t aware of how big a deal the choice of institution was, nor the fact that some people apply to ten or more schools (often for those looking to go…

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Talking, typing, and the social model of disability

I wrote this article for Redefining Stammering, an excellent blog run by Sam Simpson (a speech therapist) and Patrick Campbell (a doctor and person who stammers). If you have an interest in stammering or disability theory, I encourage you to check out their work, and particularly their recent book Stammering Pride and Prejudice. When I was in primary school, I had a teacher who was over-enthusiastic about the virtues of touch-typing. Over the years, he…

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Speak For Yourself

If I’m having an argument, I tend to use phrases that include the word “you” or “they”. What I’m doing is projecting what I think a person is feeling into my own words. In essence, I’m taking what I think is important in their disagreement and only addressing that. The problem is that I’m not letting the person describe their own experience. Instead, I’m asserting what I think they are saying, and basing my response…

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Premature Wielding of Mathematical Tools

As a physicist, mathematics is the language I speak. It’s what I use to discuss physics, and I’m familiar with many of the tools that mathematicians learn. The tools range from the fields of calculus, probability, statistics, linear algebra, differential equations, graph theory, and many others. In particular, solving differential equations is like the bread and butter of physics, so I’m versed in this area. Knowing how to untangle the Schrödinger equation or the field…

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Stating My Ignorance

Let me share a scenario that I’ve been in a lot, and I want you to think about if you’ve had a similar experience. I’m listening to an explanation of someone who is “above” me in their academic career. This tends to be a professor, researcher, or maybe even my supervisor. They are explaining some technical detail of an idea. Every so often, they look my way and end their sentence in a way that…

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Give The Easy Examples

You’re giving a presentation. Mindful that you should ease people into your topic, you start gentle. Things are going great, and then you go to your first example. When planning your talk, you had an easy example, but then you figured that people would think it was too easy. So you added a more complex one, closer to something you were studying in your work. The result? Blank faces from everyone. (more…)

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What Have You Built?

This, I think, is the next big thing in marketing ourselves. I’m a scientist. My current status is as a PhD student in theoretical physics, studying quantum computation. Most of my output consists of code and papers talking about my scientific work. And while that’s good, I would argue it’s not enough. Sure, it shows that you did some good things, but if I was hiring someone, I would ask two questions. What have you…

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What Makes Your Work Important?

As a graduate student, I’m no stranger to reading lots of papers. Okay, that’s not quite true. I’m used to reading parts of papers. We don’t tend to go through the whole thing like you might a book. Instead, I’m looking for bits that might be useful for me. Despite this, I’m not just scouring the papers for information. I’m not a computer, so digging through raw information isn’t pleasant. In fact, studying a paper…

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