Sunday, September 10, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold: Flat Earth Theory

Part of a series of posts of ideological turing tests.

I had originally intended this post to be first in the series, as an illustration.  Then suddenly the existence of alien life was in the news, so I went with that one.  But I already had this written, so figured I'd post it.

Ideological Turing Test

It is plainly obvious from immediate observation that the world is flat.  This is the position we all start with, and have to be brainwashed out of.  But I need to be clear about exactly what a "flat Earth" means.

Firstly, "flat" doesn't mean smooth like glass -- there are mountains, hills, valleys, etc.  That's quite apparent.  Flat here is more describing the earth's topology, that the Earth does not wrap back around itself.  A flat sheet of paper, and one that has been crinkled or crumpled up, are topologically identical.

Many people think that by a flat Earth we mean that the world is shaped like the Mercator projection map your school teacher used to put up.  Then it's easy to make the argument, flight times from Main to France are much much shorter than flight times from Panama to Senegal.  Whether you measure it in time, in distance, or in fuel expended, it's always more from Panama to Senegal, than Maine to France.  

Obviously this wouldn't make sense if the Earth were shaped like the Mercator projection.  But that doesn't mean the Earth isn't flat.  It just means the Earth isn't shaped like the Mercator projection.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The necessity of teaching better programming practice to physics PhDs

I am a numerical physicist.  I graduated a little over a year ago, and have since gone through the process of applying and interviewing for jobs.  This topic -- what can I do after I graduate -- has been a concern for me for well over a decade, and I've put a lot of thought into how to make sure I get the most out of my time as a graduate student.

I was fortunate, in that my advisor also had a lot of this in mind and had me use many standard best practices, such as git and building from makefiles, testing code output, and allowed me to work in C++ instead of Fortran.  But not all grad students are this fortunate.

I decided to write out some of my thoughts.  As written, this is directed at advisors, but is obviously applicable to grad students in planning how to do their research.  If you are a student, consider the advice here, and bring it up with your advisor.

Why we must change focus

To put it bluntly, Professor of Physics is no longer a job.