Wednesday, November 16, 2016

short items

A handful of brief items:

  • A biologist former colleague has some good advice on writing successful NSF proposals that translates well to other disciplines and agencies.
  • An astronomy colleague has a nice page on the actual science behind the much-hyped supermoon business.
  • Lately I've found myself recalling a book that I read as part of an undergraduate philosophy of science course twenty-five years ago, The Dilemmas of an Upright Man.  It's the story of Max Planck and the compromises and choices he made while trying to preserve German science through two world wars.  As the Nazis rose to power and began their pressuring of government scientific institutions such as the Berlin Academy and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, Planck decided to remain in leadership roles and generally not speak out publicly, in part because he felt like if he abrogated his position there would only be awful people left behind like ardent Nazi Johannes Stark.   These decisions may have preserved German science, but they broke his relationship with Einstein, who never spoke to Planck again from 1937 until Planck's death in 1947.  It's a good book and very much worth reading.

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