Michael Trigilio honored as a Distinguished Teacher

Our own PP PI Michael Trigilio will be receiving a UCSD Distinguished Teaching Award because, well, he is just that awesome.



Genetic Cage Scores

As we are preparing possible project ideas for our class next Spring, I had a chance to explore a simple Cage score (after John Cage) using as a driver not chance but genetic code.  Gene sequencing has exploded in the past few decades thanks to advancements in technologies and techniques, creating an entire industry (with occasionally dubious aims).  The pace of this advancement is remarkable:  the Human Genome Project took 13 years to construct a full sequence of the human genetic code from 1990-2003, at a cost of $3 billion; the same sequencing can now be done in 1 day for $1000.

[Read more…]

Astronomy readings for TDDE 131

In preparation for our Spring 2013 course, here are some of my recommended Astronomy/Physics readings/viewings:

Shhh. Listen to the Data (Toni Feder, in Physics Today, 65, 20, 2012; published by the American Institute of Physics): describes how massive astronomical datasets are being transformed into sound to listen for distinctive patterns.

The Fingerprints of Stars (YouTube, on PhD TV, created by Jorge Cham): a complete overview in animated comic style on how we know what we know about stars, based on interviews with John Johnson and his group at Caltech.

Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps (Kees Boeke, 1957, published by The John Day Company): The inspiration for Ray & Charles Eames more famous Powers of 10 movie (they also have an extensive website), this book provides both a numerical context and hand drawings of various size scales in the Universe.  Note that some of the ideas presented in this book no longer hold true (e.g., that galaxies are uniformly distributed through the Universe). An interactive version of this idea has also been created recently by Cary Huang at this website.

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Leonard Mlodinow, 2008, published by Pantheon Books): This is a wonderful book about randomness, numbers and probability, and really you could read the whole thing in a day and learn tons. For this class I recommend focusing in particular Chapter 7: Measurement and the Law of Errors (pp. 124-145) and Chapter 9: Illusions of Patterns and Patterns of Illusions (pp. 169-191).

Creating Hubble’s Technicolor Universe (Ray Villard and Zoltan Levay, in Sky & Telescope, September 2002, pp. 28-34): This article describes some of the tricks of the trade for how Hubble Space Telescope is used to create stunning views of the Universe.  The Hubble website provides some more detailed primers on astronomical image processing, a tool called FITS Liberator and step-by-step guide for reading in and manipulating standard astronomical FITS (Flexible Information Transport System) files, and some sample datasets.  These tools can be used as part of a “contest” by Hubble to help citizen scientists find Hidden Treasures in the Hubble Archive.

Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 10.45.51 PM

TDDE 131: Special Topics in Design: Project Planetaria

The course is on! We just got our Spring 2013 course listed online; now time to grab willing and eager students (and finish up the syllabus).  Check back to the website where we’ll be posting class materials!

Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 9.44.22 PM

%d bloggers like this: