# Recreation and interests

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 was the Spurs for many years (and the Pistons when they have been good), 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

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## 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 more than 50 popular talks on general relativity, black holes, exoplanets, neutron stars, and other subjects, to audiences ranging from kindergarteners to people in assisted living. 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.

## 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.

# 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:

• Evidence for macroevolution

• Science Magazine article on a remarkable set of bacterial evolution experiments by Richard Lenski and others, thousands of generations of E. coli.

• http://www.badastronomy.com/, a wonderful site that points out various scientific inaccuracies in movies and other forums.

• A guide to cold reading by Ray Hyman. Many times a performance by a "psychic" may seem impressive; how could they have possibly known the things they know? To understand this, it is helpful to know about "cold reading", by which a "psychic" can pick up cues, feed back information, and otherwise do apparently amazing things without actually contacting the spirits!

• Skeptical Inquirer. This website contains only a few things; the magazine is much more thorough. The magazine addresses all sorts of paranormal and supernatural claims. The writing is of varied quality, and sometimes they are more a priori dismissive that I'd like (it's best to address claims seriously, although it can be frustrating to see the same disproved assertions come back time and again). However, this is a good reference for a skeptical point of view on many subjects.

• Scientific American website, which has continually updated stories on exciting scientific developments.