Recreation and interests

Basketball

My favorite sport, both to play and to watch. I've been involved since I was six, and I still play a couple of times per week. At Maryland the game is a lot of fun, because most of the players have other things going on in their lives and therefore don't need to prove their self-worth on the court (a problem on many playgrounds). My favorite pro team is the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons, and my favorite college is, naturally, the University of Michigan. I like other sports too, and for detailed updates on many sports I highly recommend the ESPNET SportsZone home page.

Brainteasers

For people who like challenges, here's a doozy: separate the integers from 1 to 16 inclusive into two groups of eight each, such that the sum of the numbers in group 1 equals the sum of the numbers in group 2, the sum of the squares of the numbers in group 1 equals the sum of the squares of the numbers in group 2, and the sum of the cubes of the numbers in group 1 equals the sum of the cubes of the numbers in group 2.

Chess

Another great lifetime activity. I learned the game at the age of six, and eventually got into tournament play for a few years, until I got into college and decided that enough was enough. Now I play speed chess a fair amount, which I find relaxing.

Cryptology

Rndb, wklv lv d vlpsoh Fdhvdu flskhu zkhuh hdfk ohwwhu lv uhsodfhg eb rqh wkuhh sodfhv ixuwkhu lq wkh doskdehw. Wkhuh duh pruh frpsolfdwhg prqrdoskdehwlf vbvwhpv, exw wr kdyh d fkdqfh dw zlwkvwdqglqj dqdobvlv brx qhhg wr jr wr srobdoskdehwlf vbvwhpv, srobjudsklf vbvwhpv, wudqvsrvlwlrq flskhuv, ru hyhq pruh lqyroyhg phwkrgv olnh sxeolf-nhb frghv. Prvw lpsruwdqwob, grq'w bdpphu rq olnh wklv; nhhs lw vkruw dqg brx'oo kdyh ohvv fkdqfh ri ehlqj euhdfkhg. Lw dovr khosv wr zulwh brxu frgh lq ilyh-ohwwhu eorfnv wr dyrlg lqirupdwlrq rq zrug ohqjwkv, dqg sxqfwxdwlrq vkrxog eh holplqdwhg.

Education

I think it is important for scientists to reach out to the public and try to both impart information and convey enthusiasm about their subjects. I'd love to make a dent in the general perception of scientists as either unethical lunatics or high priests, so further participation is indicated. I have given several talks on general relativity and black hole theory at Adler Planetarium in Chicago to groups of pretty sharp high school students, and a variety of public lectures in other venues. It's a lot of fun, particularly when I juggle, set things on fire, or perform magic tricks!

Hiking

I went to grad school at Caltech, just south of the San Gabriel mountains, and spending a day hiking above the smog layer was always great. In 1993 I was in Switzerland for a week and a half, and hung around the Jungfrau region. VERY impressive, actually overwhelming in its beauty. Of course, in Illinois the topography was a little less interesting, but now that I'm near mountains again I can vary my altitude by more than a few meters.

Philosophy

Reading the pontifications of philosophers is always interesting, but frequently they try to produce an all-encompassing explanation of everything and look foolish as a result. Still, there are some I like: Roger Bacon (the first to formulate the scientific method), David Hume (a sharp skeptic and believer in natural causes), and Bertrand Russell (a libertarian iconoclast) are a few of my favorites.

Religion

I don't believe that deities exist, although I recognize the impossibility of proving their nonexistence. Nonetheless, the study of religion is interesting in its own right, and I have been consistently amazed at the richness of human imagination. Still, I wish more people could have a humanistic basis for ethical behavior. In general I can deal with a live and let live attitude, but unfortunately many of the more fundamentalist sects of most religions consider it a duty to intrude on other people and convert them to the True Faith, resulting in all sorts of conflicts and misery.

Peeves

Pseudoscience and foggy thinking

My study of science has given me so much enjoyment that I am saddened when so many people choose to put their efforts into things such as astrology and creationism that have no basis in fact. What I'd like to convey is that it is tremendously exciting to be in contact with discoveries about how things really are, and that this gives a sense of satisfaction and connection with the universe. I also think that constructive skepticism (rather than an absolute denial of all claims!) is important for everyday life, to help us avoid being fooled. For this purpose, a useful guide is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof", as Carl Sagan used to emphasize. For example, if I told you I saw someone walking down the street you would just believe me, but if I told you I saw a 100 foot tall cyclops walking down the street, you'd be justified in demanding pretty airtight evidence that it really happened!

For those who would like to pursue selected topics a bit more thoroughly, here are some links:

Send me to:

Cole's home page

Maryland astro home page