Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 5, 2013

Cats Published in Physics Journals, and Other Assorted Links of Interest

1. The domestic cat as co-author: “In 1975, Professor Jack H. Hetherington (Michigan State University) wrote a theoretical paper on his own and was about to send it to Physical Review Letters. But a colleague warned that the manuscript would be returned because of an editor’s rule that words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ should not be used in a publication with only one author. Dr. Hetherington did not relish revising and retyping the whole text, so, instead, he simply added a co-author: his Siamese cat Chester (sired by Willard). And for legitimacy, he tacked on two more initials, FD (from Felix domesticus) to create ‘FDC Willard.’ The Hetherington-Willard article was duly published and Mrs. Hetherington went on sleeping with both authors. Eventually the cat had to be let out of the bag when a visitor came to campus to see Professor Hetherington, found him unavailable, and then asked to speak to Willard.” (H/T: Chris Blattman.)

2. Game of Thrones and economics (“just like the fictional long winter, everyone knows that the economic depression is coming—but no one knows when”). (H/T: Marginal Revolution.)

3. Robert Kelly at Duck of Minerva on recent developments in North Korea–specifically, the effective closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Also, Dan Drezner has some thoughts on his recent trip to South Korea.

4. “Letter to a Young Social Entrepreneur: the poor are not the raw material for your salvation.” Indeed. (H/T: Chris Blattman.)

5. Thoreau (a physics professor) has some thoughts on what types of mathematics we should be teaching (non-STEM) students in high school and the early years of college. An excerpt: “I’d argue that most well-educated people would derive greater utility from a class that might be roughly called “Statistics for educated citizens who follow the news.” In that class, a certain amount of use of simple formulas would be needed, but I don’t know that they need to know how to manipulate polynomials or whatever. What they really need is to understand what a standard deviation means, how to interpret a histogram, how to interpret data and graphs. Using some simple formulas for, say, coin tosses might build intuition, but using Venn diagrams to understand the ideas of conditional probability might be more valuable. Understanding the formulas for least-squares fits would be less important than understanding that if somebody has a sample size of 20 and fits a 5-parameter curve, that is less impressive than fitting a 4-parameter curve to a data set with 10,000 points. Understanding the formula for a bell curve is less important than interpreting the graphs. And so forth.”

The good professor may be on to something here.


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