Sunday, June 21, 2009

Return of the Blog

I haven't posted here in more than a year and a half. I had taken on a couple of huge projects, and something else had to give -- in my case, blogging. The projects were:
  • I did a course of 24 DVD lectures on quantum mechanics for the Teaching Company. Devising and recording these was a fascinating business; I'll probably do a blog post on it later on. The course is selling pretty well -- the folks at TTC seem happy -- and it has generated some interesting email correspondence with my new "students".
  • My friend Mike and I finished the manuscript of our quantum mechanics textbook, which is now in the clutches of the copy editor. The book will probably be out just after the first of the year.
I'm pretty happy with the way both projects have turned out. Each one, I think, has something new to offer. The two projects -- one for a lay audience, one for advanced undergraduates -- interacted with each other in an interesting way. There are things in each that I wish we'd had room for in the other.

Right now I'm putting together another Teaching Company course, this one on "The Physics of Impossible Things." We'll do the taping in August and October, and the course itself should be out next spring. This is going to be more fun and wide-ranging than the quantum mechanics course. Less math, too. You can get something of a preview by watching the public lecture I did at the Perimeter Institute in December.

I have been giving lectures on "The Physics of Impossible Things" since the mid-1990s, and I've always wondered whether there was a book or something in the subject. Then Michio Kaku's book Physics of the Impossible came out last year, and I figured that I must have been right. Having looked at Kaku's book, though, I think my own take will be quite different -- sufficiently so that I don't have to worry about encroaching on his territory in my TTC course. (His book will certainly be high on my "Recommended Readings" list.)

Besides quantum physics, here are updates on some other interests:

Politics. Those who know me or have read a bit in this blog will not find my opinions of political developments terribly surprising. In the last election, my guy did not get elected. (Actually, I'm not even sure "my guy" -- whoever that might be -- was nominated.) I'm not very happy with many of the policies of the new administration and definitely count myself as part of the Opposition. More about this, no doubt, later on.

Theology. This fall I'm giving another lecture at the seminary where my brother teaches, as part of a larger symposium on science and theology. Now all I need is something to say.

Writing. I continue to work on other writing projects, though the two big quantum projects ate up a lot of my writing time. Last Lent the rector of our church asked me to write a short (10 min) play for an event called "The Good Friday Project". When in doubt, turn to the classics -- in my case, the book of Job. The result, called "Comforters", can be watched here.

Books. My favorite book of the last year and a half, by far, has been Neal Stephenson's Anathem. Also, I love my Kindle (though mine, unlike the one at the link, is a 1st gen machine).

Movies: Movies released in the last year and a half that I saw and liked: Be Kind Rewind, Vantage Point, The Forbidden Kingdom, Iron Man, Prince Caspian, WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Coraline, Knowing, Star Trek, and Up. I also saw and really loved the HBO miniseries on John Adams, plus some rather cool indie science fiction movies (about which I hope to blog in the near future).

That'll have to do for now. More bloggery later. I promise.