Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Here's the new ad for Connectify: I wish I had this capability on my Mac. Disclosure: My brother is associated with the company.

The invention of brown dwarfs

While going though my e-mails, I came across one from Dr. Shiv Kumar, pointing me to his website on the discovery of brown dwarfs. He was the first to realize -- or calculate -- that electron degeneracy would impose a minimum mass to stellar fusion. Very-low-mass objects, now called brown dwarfs, would become very cool and dim. (If you look at the papers, you'll see the term "brown dwarf" is absent since the phrase was coined many years later.) The papers are quite good, I was reading them again a few weeks ago as I have been building up my library of PDFs.

Years ago I also got an e-mail promoting the early contributions of a Japanese astronomer, but that will be another post.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Physics Major to Electrician

I've been meaning to keep track of the stories of physics graduates. Here's one physics major who became an electrician:

"It woke me up," [the professor] said. "There is a strong anti-manual-work bias in this country. I fell prey to it, too."

Brian Jones, 30, sometimes feels it. Originally from southern Virginia, he studied physics on an academic scholarship to McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., hoping to get a job as an engineer with NASA or an aviation company after he graduated in 2002. He watched friends with lower grades land jobs through family contacts, but he couldn't find one. Then a friend suggested that he could make as much money as an electrician. He just finished his third year as an apprentice.

"It's not the same as a job with, say, Lockheed, with a lot of office politics," he said. "In the electrical trade, your knowledge and actions speak for themselves. The only downside is the prestige. If you say you work for a multinational, half-trillion-dollar company, versus, 'I'm an electrician,' it doesn't have the same ring."

If the pay is good and the work is satisfying, I say don't worry about "prestige." I think Jones has done well. The Post says:

Licensed journeymen can expect to be paid $65,000 to $85,000 a year, depending on overtime...

These will not be the people you call to fix a clogged toilet or plaster a hole in the drywall. Most gravitate to commercial construction, where digital equipment has made the ability to decipher technical manuals and complicated building codes crucial. Many aspire to be foremen or own their own business.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010