Avi Solomon: Were the seeds of your future career planted in your childhood?
David Kelley: I don't know, I feel I was just a lucky kid. So many kids are not allowed to flourish their creativity. But I was the kind of kid that would take apart the family piano. I can remember I had a perfectly good bicycle I got for Christmas and a few days later I had sandblasted it and painted it a different color. Not that my parents understood why I was always ripping things apart and redesigning them but I was certainly tolerated. So I think it did contribute in a lot of ways. I wish for a lot of other kids that they could tinker like I did. Read the rest
Read the rest
It's hard to explain the experience of expertise. That's why one of the first things they teach you in journalism school is to avoid questions like, "What's it like to be a mathematician?" It's hard for your interview subject to know how to respond and you seldom get a useful answer.
But not never.
On Quora, someone* asks, "What is it like to have an understanding of very advanced mathematics?" And the responses are surprisingly interesting. Especially the first, wherein an anonymous mathematician lays out a detailed account of how advanced mathematics have altered his/her view of the world and of being a mathematician.
• You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it (this happens especially often in geometry). The main reason is that you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space. It's not so much that you can imagine the situation perfectly, but you can quickly imagine many other things that are logically connected to it.
• You are comfortable with feeling like you have no deep understanding of the problem you are studying. Indeed, when you do have a deep understanding, you have solved the problem and it is time to do something else. This makes the total time you spend in life reveling in your mastery of something quite brief. One of the main skills of research scientists of any type is knowing how to work comfortably and productively in a state of confusion.
These are only two bullets on a multi-bullet post. You really should read the whole thing.
Great find, noggin!
*I couldn't tell who had asked the question. Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with Quora. If you can see a name for the thread's original author, let me know.
On Friday morning, I'll get 10 minutes to talk to astronaut Rex Walheim about the astronaut recruiting process—how candidates are chosen, who should apply, what happens to you at different levels of the process ... all that good stuff.
Ten minutes ain't much. I'm normally tearing through an interview if I can get it done in 20 minutes. I'll probably have time to get through two questions with Walheim before he's on to the next reporter. So I wanted to do something fun. I'm going to ask him your questions. What do you want to know about how astronauts are recruited and chosen? Now's your chance to find out.
Here's how this will work: You've got until Thursday at 2:00 Central to submit your questions in the comment section of this post. Thursday night, I'll pick the two best questions—via wholly subjective methods. Those will be the ones I take to Walheim, and I'll post his answers here on BoingBoing.
Chances are, there will be lots of good questions and I'll have a hard time choosing. Luckily, I've got a stockpile of awesome BoingBoing stickers and Jackhammer Jill pins. So the two winners, and four runners-up, will all receive a sticker and a pin.
Your tax dollars build bridges. They pay the salaries of teachers and firefighters. Tax dollars help put people through college, provide a safety net for the elderly and the disabled, and pay for fighter jets and nuclear bombs.Read the rest
In 2002, The Economist writer/editor Emily Bobrow gifted me a copy of Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai and my life changed forever. It’s one of those novels that you can go back to every couple years anew, discovering and rediscovering with each re-read. Not to be confused with the Tom Cruise movie of the same name, DeWitt’s story centers on a single mother in London raising her child-prodigy son.
The genius in her latest novel, Lightning Rods, is DeWitt herself, who cooks up one of the funniest stories I’ve read in recent memory. It’s a highbrow version of the movie Office Space with a Jonathan Ames-esque plot. Read my exclusive, in-depth interview below with DeWitt about the new novel, as well as her writing habits and her tips to would-be novelists. Read the rest
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I had a great conversation with Christina Agapakis, a science blogger at Scientific American and a scientist studying synthetic biology. In this episode of Bloggingheads.tv's Science Saturday, you'll find out what Christina learned when she traced her allergies on a phylogenetic tree, why she's currently obsessed with symbiotic bacteria, why I think adults need more opportunities for informal science education after they've left school, and how scientists and educators are trying to address clashes between science and culture.
In the video, I talked about my experience at the 6th Science Center World Congress. For a little more on that, check out the story I wrote about why adults need science museums to pay more attention to them.
The majority of people reading this sentence will, at some point in their lives, undergo a medical treatment that requires general anesthesia.Read the rest
I was on Bloggingheads.tv Science Saturday this week, talking with Jessa Gamble, a science journalist and the author of Siesta and the Midnight Sun, a book about how culture and biology effect the way we experience time.
Jessa was in Japan in 1999, when an accident at a nuclear fuel processing facility in the prefecture just south of Fukushima killed two workers. We started off our conversation talking about the industry lapses that led to that accident, and how government and the media responded to it.