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I must admit I was unaware of this controversy, but it makes some sense to stop using the constant pi, and to use a new term, tau, instead. Tau is defined as 2 times pi, which would be 6.283.  This is explained in a fun article in a recent Scientific American story:   Tau relates the properties of a circle to the circle's diameter, whereas pi is related to the radius (r). So the equation 2*pi*r, which gives the circumference of the circle based on a measure of the radius, is replaced with the simpler version, tau*diameter, where the diameter is simply twice the radius. I always wondered, when bored in class, why mathematicians used the radius in calculations instead of the diameter. The article cites some of the history of pi, and why that constant was chosen. Mathematically, it makes no difference. The argument for changing everything to tau is based on... read more

"America's Science Problem" is the title of an article in the November 2012 issue of Scientific American. It is a surprisingly provocative look at the American political parties and their attitude towards making decisions based on facts. It is at once alarming and funny. Funny, because it is true. The abstract and lead paragraph are copied below. The entire article can be purchased at but the magazine is full of great articles this month. Read it and think. Abstract: A large number of major party contenders for political office this year took antiscience positions against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more. Such positions are surprising because the economy is such a big factor in this election, and half the economic growth since World War II can be traced to innovations in science and technology... read more

The rapid race of technology development today is exceptional. It makes teaching both exciting and challenging. It also raises the question of responsibility: should the larger community place some guidelines on what is produced from science? As a scientist, my initial reaction is "no." Historically, political and religious pressures thwarted the adoption of many key ideas for hundreds of years, resulting in jail or death for some. The need for independence from these pressures led to the formation of the world's foremost scientific societies which were founded to provide open communication among curious thinkers who valued facts and could share them in secret meetings and decide which to fund and explore. Technology evolved from these organizations and as the world gradually realized the value of science, the "scientific method" was established which provides guidelines for science research. As a citizen, I must qualify my "no" to the above... read more

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