The end is nigh!

I can see it. It’s coming. It will happen. The semester is almost over, winter is over, the spiders are stirring.

I’ve got 3 weeks to go, and they’re all mapped out. Next week the eco devo course will culminate in my last big effort, to summarize evo devo. Then the two weeks beyond that will be all about student presentations of specific topics. I get to just sit back and enjoy the communication of interesting science by a group of informed students, so it’s a bit of slack for me.

My two science writing courses are a bit less slacky — I’ve got 8 term papers dropping into my lap in the next few weeks. I warned them. I told them at the start that they’re probably worried about having to write ten pages, but I assured them that by the end of the term their concern will be about trimming the 20-30 page behemoth they’ve written down to a tight 15 pages. It’s all coming my way shortly. I’ve got three red pens waiting to be burned through.

Then summer arrives. I have big plans.

Next fall, I’m teaching a shiny new interdisciplinary course for non-majors titled “The History of Evolutionary Thought.” It’s also in the category of “writing-enriched,” which means about half the course hours are dedicated to student writing and training in writing. The genre we’re going to be pursuing is creative non-fiction — we’ll see if the students can handle that odd subset of essay writing. We’ll see if I can handle it too, so I’m going to have to be doing a lot of prep this summer.

Oh also…spiders. I’m going to stake out a couple of one meter square patches of my weedy yard and do weekly intensive species counts, and then similarly sample a few other locations and get a better feel for diversity. I’m going to be on my knees with a hand lens counting everything with 8 legs. I’m also going to be preparing a few sheltered locations, under rocks and logs, that I can survey with an endoscopic camera, get some background data, and then return to look them over in winter. I’m hoping we have a real winter next year, not the dry warm boring winter we had this year.

Before all that, though, grading. Lots of grading.

Also, on Monday, a performance with the Theatre discipline, sort of. I’m not acting, I’m discussing, on a stage. I’m not qualified to discuss the physics, but I think this is more about ethics.

Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen: A Play Reading and Discussion
Monday April 15th, 7:00pm in the George C. Fosgate Blackbox Theatre in the HFA

Join us for a reading of Act One of Copenhagen by Professor Ray Schultz, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, Lana Sugarman, and UMM Theatre alum Brennan Bassett followed by a moderated discussion with Dan Demetriou, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Peter Dolan, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Statistics, and Paul Myers, Associate Professor of Biology. This collaboration was inspired by Laura Chajet, Assistant Professor of Physics.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn is a Tony-award winning play that examines a meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 Copenhagen.Though they revolutionized atomic science in the 1920s, they now find themselves on opposite sides of a world war.

It’s free and open to the public if any of you are hanging out in Western Minnesota.


  1. robro says

    Perhaps it’s a sign that the end is indeed nigh: OJ Simpson has died. Gosh, he was 76…my age. I guess that means I’m old enough to die.

  2. Rich Woods says

    Copenhagen is pretty good. I saw a televisation of it about 20 years ago, though the only time I’ve seen the play advertised locally was for an am-dram performance that I didn’t have any difficulty talking myself out of seeing.

  3. tacitus says

    he was 76…my age. I guess that means I’m old enough to die.

    He died of prostate cancer which is eminently survivable if caught early enough, and he spent almost a decade in prison which doesn’t exactly help with longevity.

    Mind you, I’m already older than the age two of my favorite authors — Douglas Adams (49) and Iain Banks (59) — reached, having died from medical conditions that had gone undetected until it was too late…

  4. chrislawson says

    @2– According to Wikipedia, the TV movie drastically reduced the number of characters and abandoned much of Frayn’s non-linear structure. The play might be quite a different experience!

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The end is nigh?

    “Seismologists suspect earthquake on San Andreas Fault is imminent despite odd attenuation parameters”
    Also, the Carrington event of 1859 appears to have been significantly stronger than previously assumed, judging by a re-assessment of records from the time. *
    This is bad news because events strong enough to fry the power grid (and other electric infrastructure ) are more likely in the future.

    And then we have the climate chrisis and the sum of varoius other threats William Gibson’s SF protagonists call “The Jackpot” (of disaster capitalism) when looking backwards from the end of the 21st century in the ‘Peripheral’ trilogy.
    *I cannot find the link to the article, I will post it if I find it.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    Tacitus @ 4
    Terry Pratchett was 66 years when he died.

    I am very soon 63 (no other comparisons, I have none of his creativity) and I have been thinking about that dude who SPEAKS WITH CAPITAL LETTERS almost every day since my dad died 1983.

    Papa Nihil explains the situation…

  7. Ridana says

    There’s a reason the doomsayer staked out that location for his warning. People will come around that corner, trip over the fire hydrant inexplicably placed in the middle of the sidewalk, and stumble into the street to be dispatched to another world by Truck-kun.

  8. ethicsgradient says

    birgerjohansson @7 :

    Adams, Banks and Pratchett were 3 of my favourite authors. Death can be a cruel guy, even when speaking in capitals.

    If anyone wants to watch the TV version of Copenhagen, with Stephen Rea and Daniel Craig (just before he started doing James Bond), I recommend it – available on Amazon Prime, apparently.

  9. Jazzlet says

    As someone of the same sort of age as you may I suggest knee pads may be helpful for your metre square counts? The kind with velcro straps are brilliant if you need to spend a while doing anything on your knees.

  10. chalcid says

    Back in the day our physics department sponsored a performance. It was good, and there were quite a few funny bits. The actors knew those bits were supposed to be funny, but mostly had no clue why. They were thrilled to have a whole physics department eager to explain it all to them, probably at much greater length than they really wanted.

    The BBC radio adaptation is available at

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