Saturday, April 23, 2016

On the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's Passing

                    Here's a modification of one of his better known sonnets;  documenting the current plight of one's favorite soccer team:

Ode to Norwich City

Shall I relegate thee on a Summer's day?
Thou art so pointless and so desperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Premier time hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of City fans,
And oft now is their bright complexion dimmed,
As every loss from win sometime declines,
By chance, with City's downward plunge untrimmed:
But thy eternal yo-yo shall not fade,
Nor gain possession of that ball thou ow'st,
Nor Ipswich brag thou wander'st in their shade,
Tho’ thy eternal shots shall hit the post,
 So long as fans can breathe, or fans can see,

 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Palermo's Rapid Fire Prez!

Palermo FC are in Serie A, the top Italian league. Their president, Maurizio Zamparini, is a calm and patient role model. He likes to give a coach time to develop his squad, instill his playing style in the team and slowly gel together.

Their coach at the beginning of this season was Beppe Iachini, but, unfortunately,  Zamp felt he had to quickly fire him, and replaced him by Davide Ballardini, but he also had to be  axed, then Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who was sadly laid off, then Fabio Viviani, who was, er,  sacked quicker than you can say Bettino Craxi, then Giovanni Bosi again, who got his pink slip post haste, too, then Giovanni Tedesco, who had to be, regrettably, also relieved of his duties, then Beppe Iachini, who also had to be, er, released, then Walter Novellino, who was thrown out of the pram a couple of days ago.

Nine coaching changes in the season, one every 4 games.

Davide Ballardini is now back for the Juventus game tomorrow.

According to Novellino "Juve don't give anything to anyone. The team is lacking organization. They're a little bit afraid".

You don't say!

At least they don't have to face the perplexed Sicilian tifosi.
Novellino says "Maybe they can find some calm by playing away from home."

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Am I missing something?

Am I missing something?

Several recent articles have been decrying the pay gap between the US Men's and Women's Soccer Teams, noting that in 2015 the women were paid less than the men even though they won  the World Cup.

Now, soccer players are paid pure and simply according to how much revenue they bring in. The fact is that, averaged over the year, far more people watch the men's game.  Therefore, the male professional game in the USA is alive and well, whereas nobody wants to watch the women outside of the World Cup. As for the World Cup itself, the 2014 men's winners (Germany) took 6.6% o the revenue whereas the 2015 women's winners (the USA) took home 11%. Hopefully the situation for women professionals will change, and the women's game will improve, attracting more spectators. But, until then....

Where's the discrimination? Am I missing something?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Johan Cruyff

The Dutch Master - coaching.

So Johan Cruyff passed on today.  He wasn't the greatest soccer player ever. Only maybe the fourth or fifth greatest (!). But if you combine his playing prowess with his coaching career (he made Barcelona great)  he's definitely Number One Of All Time.  He was always My Number One anyway. Simply because of one quote, that Jerome Baudry reminded me of today:

"Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate"

You see, I can pass the ball pretty well, always could. But for the life of me I can't juggle the cursed thing. So I really appreciate Cruyff's vision. Lets me off, you see. Flashy young teenage jugglin' show-offs be damned!......

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Creepy-Crawly Biophysics

Mojave Shovel-Nosed Snake: shovels through the sand

We do molecular biophysics. But although biological molecules are incredibly interesting and useful to understand, physicists can also look at larger things - cells, organs, and how whole organisms move.

So check this out. It's Dan Goldman's  "CRAB" lab (Complex Rheology And Biomechanics) at Georgia Tech. They study lizards (cute), crabs (ouch), cockroaches (yuck) and snakes (lovely) and ask how they move on tricky stuff like sand, bark, leaves and grass.

Now I thought that the basic principles of snake locomotion had been worked out a long time ago, by, among others, the great Nicolas Rashevsky, but, apparently there's more to learn, especially when one takes into accounts physics of the terrestrial substrates as well. Recently Goldman's lab figured out how sidewinders manage to get up steep sand slopes.

Cute stuff - creepy-crawly biophysics.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


The last couple of weeks I have given lectures at local universities, both about 100 miles away:   Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These colleges do perform research, but the weight of their activities lies closer to teaching. Both want to increase their research weight, though, so the question is how to do that best.

Tennessee Tech

TTU and UTC should use their two best assets  - their young enthusiastic faculty and their curious and bright students. These, and laptops, are all you need these days to perform first-class research. OK, some experimental equipment is useful too, but they have that of course.

I've always been of the opinion that research success is built from the grass roots upwards (this is why ORNL and UTK REALLY need to work together better to greatly increase the student participation in research at ORNL).  This means that the faculty need to integrate research into undergraduate curricula earlier than at present, and need to encourage materially faculty who are doing productive research. With a solid foundation of lively undergrads performing research under faculty supervision, TTU and UTC will quickly increase their research profiles, and everyone will benefit from it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

No space for today's young Einsteins?

In a recent opinion piece in the Guardian the excellent science writer Philip Ball wonders whether a young Einstein could survive today, given the need for young scientists to get grants and publish work of immediate high impact.   In fact, I  think it might  be easier  for him to flourish. However, maybe he would be less likely to think about physics in the first place.

I'm no expert in the history of science, but from what I read Einstein's first paper, on capillarity, was published as an undergraduate in 1900 (when he was 21) in the then prestigious journal Annalen der Physik. Now, this would be entirely possible today, and getting the work published as a sole author in a prestigious journal would certainly make admissions tutors for graduate school sit up and notice. As a result, Einstein probably would probably be admitted into graduate school in theoretical physics. Instead, for some reason back then he did not go to 'graduate school'. Perhaps this is because they didn't exist, as such? The idea of paying people after a degree without them having to teach perhaps hadn't started up?  So, instead, he had to do it the hard way, while working in a patent office, doing his PhD on the side. He was awarded it in 1905, the year he published  four groundbreaking papers. Now, lets snap back to 2016. Any young theorist with five single author papers in a reputable journal would certainly be offered a postdoctoral position in a leading institute, if not already a professorship. By 1908 the significance of his work was beginning to be appreciated, as it would have been today as well, and he was made a Lecturer.

So I think it was tougher for the young Einstein 110 years ago to do his physics than it would have been for him today. However, another valid question  is whether Western culture today  is as generally conducive to free-flowing creative scientific thought as was the culture in Germany and Switzerland in the 1900s. Einstein  wondered what free-fall really was, and what riding on  beam of light would be like. Has there been a general dumbing down of today's youth  and family life, and if so, does this mean that such questions might never even cross the minds of today's potential young Einsteins?