Archive for December, 2005

Getting into Graduate School in Physics

Posted in physics on December 21, 2005 by Mike Procario

It has been over 25 years since I applied to graduate school, and it has been over 5 years since I have read graduate school applications, so I was happy to see that Sean Carroll has posted a nice entry over at Cosmic Variance on how to get into graduate school in physics and/or astronomy. He starts off with the obvious.

So, here goes: have great grades, perfect GRE scores, significant research experience, and off-scale letters of recommendation. Any questions?

But he then does give some very sensible advice on somethings can help you get into the best school for you. I feel that his discussion on getting to know your professors well enough that they can write good letters of recommendation for you is probably the most useful advice.

Also check out the comments. That are a lot of knowledgable people contibuting to the discussion.


An Outloook Annoyance Fixed

Posted in Technology and Software on December 20, 2005 by Mike Procario

I made the mistake of sending an email from my personal email account to my boss. Now Outlook keeps suggesting that email address to her when she sends me email. She has caught it most of the time, but sometimes in a rush she forgets.

I have had the same problem myself, but I never bothered to find the solution. Now I feel obligated to fix it, so I googled Outlook remember address and I found this site. The answer turns out be fairly simple.

By the way, deleting an address from the nickname list is also very easy: when you see it being suggested, use the up or down arrow keys to highlight it, and then press delete.

Reading the Sunday Paper

Posted in Science on December 19, 2005 by Mike Procario

They were two articles on the opinion page yesterday that caught my attention. The first was by David Broder on a congressional proposal to improve the country’s performance in math and science. Recent reports have shown a disturbing decline in scientific research and the training of scientists and engineers.

They all recite similar warning signs that America’s current economic health conceals significant long-term threats to our prosperity. There has been a steady erosion in investment in the kind of brainpower that keeps a nation competitive — and a consequent decline in American inventiveness.

As a scientist, I have been aware of these trends for years. Many smart people are naturally interested in science and will pursue that career if they believe that they can achieve a comfortable middle class lifestyle. If there are no job prospects then they will go into professional schools. People smart enough to do scientific research are also quite smart enough to become doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. When the internet was booming many of the potential scientists went into computing.

The second article by Leonard Glantz of the Boston University School of Public Health describes a plan by the World Health Organization to stop hiring smokers. I am a non-smoker who appreciates much of the regulation that has kept smoking away from me in public places, but this initiative is going to far. If employers can regulate employees behavior away from work in this instance, where will it end?

One can only imagine WHO’s reaction to a tobacco company that requires all its employees to smoke or a gun company that requires them all to keep a gun and ammunition in their homes. The position that WHO has adopted would neatly support such ludicrous employment requirements.

I am happy that I can go into smoke free restaurants, airplanes, hotel rooms, and workplaces. That doesn’t mean that smokers have to be penalized on the job front, if they continue to smoke at home.

Enough War on the War on Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2005 by Mike Procario

I can’t seem to get away from Bill O’Reilly’s war on the people who he thinks are fighting a war on Christmas. Of course, I never watch O’Reilly so I was not aware of this until all media decided to tell me about it. Apparently, retailers say “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas, and O’Reilly thinks this is important. A piece in the Sunday NY Times was the first that I became aware of this.

The Christmas that Mr. O’Reilly and his allies are promoting – one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers – fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

It does not, however, appear to be catching on with the public. That may be because most Americans do not recognize this commercialized, mean-spirited Christmas as their own. Of course, it’s not even clear the campaign’s leaders really believe in it. Just a few days ago, Fox News’s online store was promoting its “Holiday Collection” for shoppers. Among the items offered to put under a “holiday tree” was “The O’Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament.” After bloggers pointed this out, Fox changed the “holidays” to “Christmases.”

Lastnight on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart decided to defend himself from an attack from O’Reilly that showed a year old clip that made fun of Christmas. Jon did a good job, but he forgot to mention that George W. Bush sent out Christmas cards that did not include any mention of Christmas.

I then found it on one of my favorite blogs, Dispatches from the Culture Warts. Ed Brayton has been so turned off by O’Reilly, et al’ s whining that it is running his own appreciation of Christmas.

And now I’m against what I’d be for normally because they’re a fucking nitwit.” That’s how I feel about this “War on Christmas” crap that we are being bombarded with from every corner of the right wing media.

I feel sorry for Mr. O’Reilly if thinks either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” contains any sincerity when expressed by a large corporation, he probably also thinks that Fox News actually is “Fair and Balanced”.

It’s Intelligent Design Day

Posted in biology, Science on December 3, 2005 by Mike Procario

Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean writes about an interesting biology course taught at Central Washington University. Instead of just talking about facts that scientists have learned. The class tries to address what science is and how it is conducted. As part of this strategy, intelligent design and the problems with treating inteligent design as science are discussed.

I also read about this class at, but Sean had an interesting additional point. John Wells from the Discovery Institute was invited to make a presentation to the class. He arrived with a PR person who distributed DVDs. This is relevant to my last post that discusses how Intellignet Design is more PR than science.

NY Times on Intelligent Design

Posted in biology, Science on December 3, 2005 by Mike Procario

OK. I did find something to read on the NY Times website. This article discusses the intelligent design (ID) movement and concludes that it is running into trouble. While ID’s supporters claim that the science will determine their ultimate success or failure.

“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” Mr. West said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.”

But it appears that they are not actually trying to do the science. The article says:

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

The lawsuit in Dover, PA is also mentioned. A decision in the case is expected in four to five weeks.