Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In the Hot Seat Rob the Dirty Liberal

Our next guest is also a grad student at UCI . He posses a razor sharp wit and seems almost too comedic to be a scientist. One of the questions in the Disgruntled Chemist
interview was if Rob was as cool in real life as he appears on the web. Rob is also from Texas and openly rooted for Texas against USC which probably made him unpopular around campus for a week.

Now sit back for what promises to be a great mix of comedy and education as we interview Rob the Dirty Liberal.

1 You have an excellent sense of humor are you sure you are a scientist and a liberal . Both groups are not exactly known for their sense of humor. The Chemist swears he is funny in real life . Is your friend Agi still mad at me for the joke about him mistaking the soap cakes in the urinals for mints ? Is the stereotype of humorless science types a myth.
2 The Chemist had an interesting mishap while demonstrating an experiment at a local school. What happens when one of your Physics experiments runs amok ?
3 Do you get a laugh at the physics gargon placed in shows like Star Trek and Dr Who.
I think Dr Who's catch phrase to every problem was reverse the polarity of the nuetron flow. Star Trek dables in talk of antimatter explosions. Does this make the shows even more corny and campy.

Physics and Everyday life
4 Would Physics draw more interest from the general public if we could relate the study to every day life. Few of us think about it except for energy.
5 What are your views on nuclear energy ?
6 What types of energy should we be trying to develop for a sound energy policy ?
7 Would you be interested in teaching a class called the Physics of everyday life.
Topics could include the Physics of car crashes and couch potatoes and energy consumption. One could demonstrate some basic concepts of physics in an entertaining
comedic attmosphere and get the audience to remember.

8 You went to France a while back did you encounter any hostility as an American from Texas despite being anti war and anti Bush ? The local French in VT do not like the Qubecois and their European kin. I live in a largely French enclave in Northern VT.
9 Have you attended a real toga party ?
10 Does UCI have a real football team ? Do you go to any of the games?
11 I remember reading a post a while back about some Scientific advance in India. India is an ally and has a great educational system that produces world class engineers and scientists. However you seemed somewhat concerned about India. Should the American people be concerned that India and China are making scientific advances ? India is the worlds largest democracy and an ally .
12 One of my themes is that the United states has gotten away from investing in Human capital. Countries like India and China readily invest in human capital (education)but they invest in engineers and doctors. How many Science classes is a Poli Sci major required to take at the undergrad level at UCI ? Should there be a greater emphasis on developing our own engineers.

Nerds Rob is too cool to be a Nerd.
13 Did you see the Revenge of the Nerds Films ? Are there Nerd types in UCI that could come off the set of a Revenge of the Nerds Film ?
14 What college Movie is the most realistic based on your experiences ?
15 Are Nerds just fashion challenged misunderstood types

16 Is light Beer an insult ?
17 Name your favorite brands of beer ?


18 Should Scientific in the Universities research be geared to commercial applications ?
19 Is the private sector better equiped to do reasearch then your average university.
20 Does corporate sponsorship taint research ?


21 Do the foriegn exchange students understand your sense of humor ?
22 What is your view on the use of animals in labratory research. Have you seen fellow students talking with lab animals. Is there alcohol or drug use before the conversations.
23 Were you a participant in the Chemist's mayhem involving Mentos and Diet Coke ?
Were you surprised at the geyser ? What was the reaction of people who passed by.
24 Did you read comic books or watch cartoons as a kid ? What were your favorites.
25 Do you talk with your peers about your experiments ? Is some of their advice usefull even if it is from another discipline.


Rob the Dirty Liberal said...

1. Many of my collegues in science, in particular the Chemist, have a great sense of humor. I do think that humor runs a little more on the dry snarky side compared to most of the non-scientists I know.

2. Physics run amok usually isn't that bad. In fact, the problem with alot of physics demonstrations is that they don't work when you want them to. As my high school Calculus teacher put it: If it stinks, it's biology. If it blows up, it's chemistry. And if it doesn't work, it's physics.

3. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. But I often need a beer afterwards. I wouldn't call Star Trek campy, but it does essentially make up a lot of physics so it can have stories where you go to other planets, meet aliens, and such. On the other hand, if you talk to any physicist, chances are they were inspired as a child to study science by watching Star Trek and/or wanting be NASA astronauts. If you want to see some truly horrible physics check out either The Core or What the Bleep do we know? I could actually feel my brain cells dying from the radiated stupidity coming from the television.

4. Everything around you in the real world is physics in action. I think scientists (physicists in particular) need to do a better job of public outreach. In general, I think the American public likes science when it makes their life easier, but doesn't care about the details of how it works.

5. Nuclear energy is a mixed bag. Nuclear fission produces alot of dangerous waste along with all that energy, and it's not a solution for the world's energy problems, because there isn't enough nuclear fuel to supply the whole world forever. Nuclear fusion is much better in both respects, you get far more energy and produce little waste. However, at the moment the technology is still under development (it'll probably be another 50 years before it does) and once again we will run out of nuclear fuel eventually.

6. This is a complex issue, but one thing is for certain: Fossil fuels will run out. I'll do my best to summarize it.
In the short term we have to decrease fossil fuel consumption. The best ways to do this are with a gas tax, bigger incentives for more fuel efficient cars and dramatic increases in public transportation.
In the long term, both nuclear and fossil fuels will eventually run out. The only permanent source of energy is the sun. Now there are several ways to access energy from the sun. One way is through solar panels, however this technology needs to become cheaper to be viable. Another way is to grow plants (who use photosynthesis to turn sunlight into energy) and then use those plants to make fuel such as ethanol or methanol. This technology has already been implemented in Brazil with great success using sugar plants. Another method obtain hydrogen gas by using specialized solar cells that can break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, this technology (along with the storage of hydrogen gas)is still under development and probably several decades away from practical use. In the end, there is no magic bullet. It will likely be a combination of these 3 technologies and maybe something that doesn't even exist yet.

7. I've actually talked about teaching a class on the Physics of cooking. It's a subject that I find extremely interesting and would give me an excuse to cook some Texas style barbeque at school.

8. I had no problems in France. I found the people to be kind and extremely helpful.

9. Unfortunately I have not. I went to a slip-N-slide party once. I woke up the next day hung over, with scratches and bruises all over my body. I then drove myself and 3 friends 40 miles into the country to eat some delicious Texas bbq in a small town in Central Texas. Good times.

10. UCI does NOT have a football team, which is very depressing. I've gone to some basketball games, which are pretty fun. If they did have a football team, I would definitely go, because college football is my favorite sport to watch. Hook 'em Horns!

11. The American people should be concerned that the U.S. science is in decline compared to India, China, and Europe. Under George W. Bush, the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health have dramatically cut funding in basic science and engineering while China and India are heavily investing in technology. The big issue is that our economy is becoming less based on industrial output (manufactured goods) and more on technological inovation. We come up with great ideas and outsource the manufacturing to someone else. What happens in 30 years when the China and India have more engineers and scientists than the U.S.?

12. I have no idea how many science classes a Poly Sci major takes at UCI. probably not many. I think a big problem with the U.S. is grade school children are not encouraged to be engineers or scientists. Our culture in the U.S. (far more than most countries) has an almost adversarial relationship with science. We have to get kids excited about science, and overcome the general public anxiety about science and engineering.

13. I saw Revenge of the Nerds and I know several nerd types at UCI that would fit in perfect on that movie. Actually, I know one guy who is probably nerdier than most of the characters in that movie when sober, and then transforms into "Ogre" when drunk.

14. Hmmmmmm... Real Genius maybe? I do use a powerful laser in my experiments but I've never used it to fill my advisors house with popcorn. Maybe one day.

15. I think Nerds are people who are really interested in how stuff works. And some of them happen lack basic social graces, like showering and talking to women.

16. Light beer is crap. I prefer beer so dark it can block out the sun.

17. Wow. Great question and so difficult to answer. Anything dark and Belgian is a sure thing. I like everything from the Stone Brewery in California. I love Shiner Bock made in Shiner, Texas. And you can't go wrong with Fat Tire.

18. No. Some research at Universities are already geared towards commericial applications but if you focus all science research on commerical applications, you sacrifice future innovation for short term commerical gains.

19. They can be. But their focus is more narrow than the typical University. However, many of the small tech companies are started by professors at Universities.

20. It certainly can. I think if you have to be careful when mixing large corporations and pure science research.

21. Most of the time, they do. I usually have to explain pop culture references or slang terms (explaining the Donkey Punch to the foriegn members of my lab was memorable). Other than that, most foreign students I've encountered are pretty sharp.

22. It's absolutely neccesary to use animals for some science research. No one takes pleasure in it, but it is necessary.

23. ha! I was an observer to the Mentos madness. I was very impressed by how high the geyser went. The few people that passed by seemed both confused and amused.

24. I did read comics as a kid. My favorites were X-Men and Spiderman. I've loved the movies that have come out for both of those comics. I can hardly wait to see X-Men 3.

25. I talk to my peers about my research from time to time and it is often very useful. My research involves both physics and biochemistry so talking to my friends in chemistry helps alot.

beakerkin said...

This was an excellent and hysterical interview. I was tempted to ask a series of questions about the pysics of car crashes.

nanc said...

i have nerds in the house who happen to bathe regularly. but there was that one time my son asked a girl he was hot for, "was your daddy a baker? because those are some nice buns you've got there!" that wasn't the nerdy part - he immediately came home and told me. i explained the harrassment aspect to him and he wrote a formal letter of apology to the girl and she accepted his apology - apparently she's a nerd too.

Brooke said...


MissingLink said...

alot of dangerous waste along with all that energy

What is your opinion on the Integral Fast Reactor?

the merry widow said...

Good interview. Good questions and thoughtful answers!


Eric McErlain said...

Running out of uranium? A colleague of mine disagrees.

Anonymous said...

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