Northbound

A toppled tractor trailer truck lying in the median ditch of I-35, a victim of the forces of nature parading through the central United States this week.
A toppled tractor trailer truck lying in the median ditch of I-35, a victim of the forces of nature parading through the central United States this week.

Tornadoes, thunderstorms and heavy rains, floods, and a blizzard. And we’re not even there yet. Some observations on our northbound new year’s travel to see family in Wisconsin, with some photos. This has been a tour of the damage wrought by arctic air combining with the force of the El Nino in the Pacific and the general saturation of air due to global climate change (warm air holds more moisture, a simple fact learned in high school). In two days and five states, we’ve experienced a little menagerie of the wild weather conditions that are made possible by periodic phenomena like El Nino and the long-term lever arm of human-induced climate change.

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Anti-Steve: the end of the semester

The moon on the night of December 23, 2015. This was shot using my Nexus 6 aimed into the eyepiece of my telescope.
The moon on the night of December 23, 2015. This was shot using my Nexus 6 aimed into the eyepiece of my telescope.

In many ways, this was a remarkable semester. I thought it would be nice to reflect on the last few weeks of it before I settle in for a long winter’s nap… or, at least, a long Christmas nap. The end of this semester saw the wrap of the Honors Physics Section, which I have just finished teaching for the first time, as well as the end of my introductory course on electricity and magnetism. For the second time, I used “grand challenge problems” to try to engage students in open-ended, inquiry driven exercises that force the students to apply new information in novel ways. In addition, the end of this semester saw the very curious ATLAS and CMS “end-of-year events,” which I’ll comment further on below. Finally, the close of the term means also a brief period of relaxation and reflection, and especially time with family.

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