FTB is back up

FTB was down for most of yesterday, and Matthew Herron explains why.  Short version: technical difficulties.

Anyway, for people who follow me using RSS, you should know that the RSS feed might behave a bit strangely.  On my RSS reader, the post I had scheduled yesterday about origami spirals doesn’t show up.  Some of the recent Pharyngula posts don’t show up either.  Maybe it will sort itself out later, but in the mean time I wanted to give a heads up.

OrbitCon schedule

The OrbitCon schedule is now online.  You might say, “Yeah yeah, another conference I can’t attend.”  But you can attend this one!  It’s held online!  This weekend!

I’ll be in a panel called “Ace/Aro Atheists“, held at 2:30 CDT Saturday, with Sennkestra and Emily Karp.  Come join us!

“Aro” is short for aromantic, and “ace” is short for asexual (usually denoting the asexual spectrum).  Yeah, last time I did one of these panels, somehow all the panelists were in romantic relationships.  But this time all the panelists are aromantic-spectrum.  That includes me–I’m both aro-spec and also in a relationship, funny that.

Any ace panelists?

A few years ago, I organized a panel called Asexual Spectrum Atheists for FTBCon, an online conference. It was great success, and we were praised as “the nightmarish collision of FTB and tumblr!” OrbitCon is the spiritual successor of FtBCon, held on April 13-15. If I organized a similar panel, would anyone be interested in either watching, or being a panelist?

Ideally, the panel would have a variety of viewpoints, including ace/aro atheists/freethinkers who have never been involved in atheist communities, people who used to be involved but left, and people who are involved currently. Probably most of the time spent won’t be about atheism at all.  OrbitCon will provide tools and information if you wish to conceal your identity.

I’m ambivalent about organizing this, because I’ve been doing this for so long and it would be nice to have fresher faces.  Depending on the level of interest we can figure something out.

You may also e-mail me at skepticsplay at gmail dot com.

One last conference

This week I will be at the APS March Meeting, the largest physics conference in the world (?).  Although I am no longer working as a physicist, I have a presentation about the work I did just before leaving.

Will I blog about it?  Eh, I didn’t always blog about it in previous years.  But my experience may be a little different this time because I can focus on talks that interest me, instead of the ones that are relevant to my work.  Anyone want to suggest something from among the 800+ sessions?

I am graduating

I have been hinting for months that I am close to graduating.  Well, the time has come.  I am graduating with a Ph.D. in physics.

In the immediate future, I will be unemployed.  I am taking my time looking for a job in data science.  That means I’ll find some tech company and analyze data for them.  And before you comment on that career choice, let me just say that I know more physics students moving into data science than staying in physics.  When I do find a job I probably won’t make any announcement about it.


Given that most of my time blogging has been while I was at grad school, the impact on my blogging is unknown.  I may have more free time while unemployed, but I won’t necessarily spend that time blogging.  (Note that I often take a blogging break near Christmas, and that has nothing to do with graduating.)

Ah, one thing that might make an impact on blogging, is that I will lose journal access.  I can still get physics papers on ArXiV, but most of what I’d want to blog about would be in social sciences or humanities.  So, that’s a bit tougher.

After this post, I intended to write at least a couple more blog posts about why grad school can be such a bad experience.  It’s not too late, I’ll get around to it eventually.


If you are unwise enough to wonder what my dissertation is about, I’ll tell you.

I worked on photoemission spectroscopy of cuprate superconductors.  Photoemission spectroscopy is the technique of shining light on a material, and measuring the electrons that come out.  The technique tells us about how the electrons were behaving in the material.  A superconductor is material in a special state where electricity is conducted with zero resistance.  Cuprates are a particular class of superconductors.  Cuprates are famous for being in a superconducting state up to relatively high temperatures (but “high temperature” still means minus ~170 degrees Celsius).  Cuprates are not fully understood, and have been a longstanding mystery since they were discovered in the 80s.

Photoemission spectroscopy of cuprates sounds very specific, but it’s a well-established and competitive field of research.

10 years of blogging

As of today, I’ve been blogging for 10 years!  Yay!  Time for a retrospective.

I first started reading blogs around 2006, when I started college.  I was a fan of the Bad Astronomy website which had funny material debunking the claim that the moon landing was a hoax, and other skepticism-related stuff.  At some point I found that there was an associated blog called Bad Astronomy Blog.  From there I branched off to other blogs, including The Friendly Atheist, Memoirs of a Skepchick, Pharyngula, and the ScienceBlogs network.1 After reading these for a while, I decided to start my own skeptical/atheist blog.  I called my blog Skeptic’s Play because I was bad at coming up with names.

I came bursting out of the gate, writing original content once per day.  Obviously that wasn’t sustainable, but I think it goes to show that I always had a strong motivation to write, which is probably the most important determinant of long-term success in blogging.

However, it was immediately clear that I wasn’t cut out for skeptical blogging.  To be a good skeptical content creator, you either have to know stuff, research stuff, or else you have to not give a shit and just be entertaining.  I gave a shit, but didn’t give quite enough shit to spend significant amounts of time researching every bullshit claim.  I ended up writing about a lot of low-hanging fruit, like logical fallacies and elementary philosophizing.  I also wrote about physics, math puzzles, and atheism.

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