Monthly Archives: September 2010

We’re number 6 through 15!

The new NRC rankings have now been released.  It’ll be fun to dig through these — I don’t yet see a giant spreadsheet available online, but you can use the search tool at to see how the rankings look for math departments.  As the title suggests, the rankings have big error bars around them:  the top of the list looks like

  • 1-4 Princeton
  • 1-3 Berkeley
  • 2-5 Harvard
  • 2-6 NYU
  • 4-9 Stanford
  • 4-12 Michigan
  • 4-11 Yale
  • 5-11 MIT
  • 5-16 Penn State
  • 6-15 Wisconsin
  • 8-28 UCLA
  • 9-25 Columbia
  • 10-28 UCSD
  • 9-32 Cal Tech
  • 9-30 Texas
  • 10-37 Brown

Some departments are already complaining about the quality of data used in the rankings — with some justice, sounds like.

Update: Nathan Dunfield was kind enough to post a spreadsheet with the data on math departments to Google Docs.

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My review of Charles Seife’s Proofiness, a field guide to mathematical trickery in the grand tradition of How to Lie with Statistics, is in today’s Boston Globe.  Very pleased to have the chance to lead with my favorite Eugene Mirman bit.

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Wisconsin 49, Austin Peay 3 — at the half!

Just watched a bit of this with CJ and AB.  A question for people with a more in-depth knowledge of college football than I have.  How does this help the Badgers?  Are they really in any sense “tuning up” for Michigan State or OSU by playing a team who were unable to record a first down in the 11 minutes we watched, and against whom Wisconsin can score at will?

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Son, I’m glad we had this talk

Big parenting milestone today.  Hope I handled it all right.  CJ asked me for the first time:  “Daddy, what’s a hipster?”

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Tips for giving talks

Ravi suggested that I should give a stable bloghome to this short .pdf of tips for giving math talks, which I wrote a few years ago for our graduate student conference in number theory.  It’s aimed at people giving their very first seminar talks.  Readers, please add in comments the advice I forgot to put on the tip sheet!

Update: A reader helpfully points out that I basically already wrote this post, less than a year ago, and linked to the same tip sheet.  Sorry!  I have a little baby!  I’m sleepy and I forget things!  Anyway, the link in the old post was dead so at least the repost serves the purpose of making the tipsheet stably available.

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I wonder what would happen if Democratic candidates ran ads saying

“I will make every effort to roll back income taxes to Reagan-era levels.  My opponent thinks your tax burden is just fine the way it is.”


Sara Marcus and Danica McKellar

My friend Sara Marcus — whose definitive history of riot grrrl is now available for purchase! —  interviews Wonder Years-star-turned-math-popularizer Danica McKellar in Salon.  Good stuff.  Basic question:  if you sell math to junior-high-school girls by emphasizing the compatibility of math and shopping, are you mostly tearing down the stereotype that girls don’t like math, or are you mostly reinforcing the stereotype that girls like shopping?

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Reader survey: how many non-drivers in Madison?

Without looking it up:  what percent of households in Madison don’t own a car?  What percent of commuters don’t drive to work?  What percent bike?

My guesses were pretty far off.

The answers, along with similar data for other cities (drawn from the 2000 census) are here.

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Cheesesteak eggrolls

I have a big backlog of Madison food stuff to blog about but I’m putting it all aside just to say Big Red’s Steaks is selling cheesesteak eggrolls.

Cheesesteak eggrolls.

But surely you ask what do you dip it in.

You dip it in a little tub of Cheez Whiz.

Thought they must have invented this but no.

One probably must not say cheesesteak eggrolls were invented.  Rather discovered.

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A Supposedly Shining Thing

My friend Sean Kelly has a really interesting new book coming out:  All Things Shining:  Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (with Hubert Dreyfus.) Lest that sound retrograde, note that the circle of “Western Classics” is drawn broadly enough to include David Foster Wallace.

The book has a blog, as books do.  Today’s entry is actually a short conversation between me and Sean, about my favorite paragraph in Wallace’s essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” and what it has to do with Sean’s argument about Wallace, Nietszche, Melville, and the ocean.  Sean was kind enough to let me read the chapter on Wallace in advance, and it’s great; I hope other DFW enthusiasts will read it, and the rest of the book too.

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