### Guestblogging on AstroBites

Some of the graduate students at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics recently started a blog called AstroBites. Authors on the blog, usually grad students, provide easily digestible reviews of recent astronomy papers appearing on the pre-print archive (aka astro-ph). The blog provides a nice intermediate between higher-level reviews of papers (and the papers themselves), and intro astronomy text books, providing a thoroughly modern view of a wide range of astronomy topics.

In addition to the review articles, there are regular features on career development and general insights into modern astronomy research, from a grad student perspective. For example, this post on what it's like to observe for the first time on a major telescope, or this post on data mining.

After a recent visit to the CfA one of the blog's founders, Nathan, contacted me and invited me to write a guest post on a topic of my choosing. The post Zen and the Art of Astronomy Research appeared today. Go check it out, and browse the AstroBites archive while you're there.

Next up: my long-promised guest post on AstroBetter (sorry for the delay, Kelle!)

blissful_e said…
Great article - I think anyone in a challenging degree programme would benefit from that advice.

The part that made me laugh out loud was when you talked about ending sentences with prepositions. :) Ah, the horror of writing like we talk.
mama mia said…
Did I ever tell you John, that I love my son-in-law? You rock! I read that article and I could hear your voice as if you were speaking to students face to face...
JohnJohn said…
Awwww, thanks Nonna! :)

E: I wish I could that the ending-prepositions-with thing was original. But I agree, pretty dang funny!

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…