Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Adjunct

This post was motivated by an "Ask My Readers" entry, First Time Teaching at a CC, in Dean Dad's blog today. I started to compose a comment and decided there were enough topics to blog it here instead.

The question came from a person in Psychology, so my comments are more general than if I was talking to someone teaching physics. However, many things (such as grading standards) are fairly universal.

200 level versus 300 level

I'll assume we are talking about Psych 200 (general psychology taken as a required course for nursing and education, as a general education course by anybody, and as a first course by psych majors) and a Psych 301 course (intro to psychology for social science majors). The former would definitely be consistent with the situations raised in the letter to Dean Dad and addressed below. Understanding where both courses fit into the curriculum (who requires it, and why) is also crucial when it comes to grading decisions. That is why I put this first. You need to read the catalog and talk to faculty and students at your university about this issue.

It is entirely plausible to me, in my ignorance, that both classes could cover essentially the same material. This would be especially true if the majors did not explicitly require Psych 200 as a prerequisite for Psych 301. The difference between the classes would be in your expectations, not in the material "covered". The grading standards in the 300 level class would be higher (since a D is unacceptable and even a C might be considered a problem if you need a 2.5 to stay in the program). You would start signaling that they should retain material from test to test and from class to class. Your exam questions would feature more critical thinking and integration of ideas from different parts of the course, but those main ideas would not change very much. You would start to go deeper in the course that has Psych 301 as a prerequisite.

There is also a possibility that the number system is totally artificial and Psych 300 is identical to Psych 200. The university might be saying that this class is mostly taken by juniors (or simply charging upper division fees for it) or flagging it as a required course in the major, while the CC is saying that it is taken by sophomores because they don't have any juniors. Reading the catalog and asking questions will clarify the situation in a few minutes.

These observations have nothing whatever to do with teaching physics, which generally puts a really big step between introductory and majors classes. I must say, to be fair, that physics separates completely the highly mathematical introductory course for engineers and physics majors from the non-mathematical introductory science course for psychology majors. Psychology does not do that. However, even in physics there is some truth in saying that we teach the same material in first semester mechanics, junior mechanics, and graduate mechanics. What changes is the expectations for performance on the same groups of problems (perfection at the higher level), a hope for deeper conceptual understanding, and the introduction of new methods and problems that require greater sophistication to solve them. Students don't usually notice this from "inside" the system if it is done in a seamless fashion so you may need to learn about it as a teacher.


There was a discussion about teaching summer session in Dean Dad's blog at the end of May. If your current class is in a compressed 6-week session in the second half of the summer, your class could be particularly diverse. Kids fresh out of high school, who might be taking their first college composition class at the same time, will be in there with 3 time losers who just need this class to graduate and excellent students who put off an easy required course until the very end. Talking to people at this particular CC about this particular semester is very important, given that you don't have experience there (or anywhere) to use as a reference point.

CC versus Large Uni versus Selective

Almost anyone can be in your class at a CC, as others noted in the discussion of the original article. However, there is also quite a spectrum at Enormous State University, where I went to school, even though its graduate program is in the top quartile in a number of areas. They are very selective at the grad level but not so selective at the freshman level. Still, you are more likely to find poor performance due to drunken partying every night at your large state university than simply poor reading and writing skills. You will have much more diversity in basic skills in your classroom at either of these kinds of schools than at a highly selective institution. A high cut for minimum SAT scores results also reduces the standard deviation, making the teacher's job a lot easier.

Dean Dad's questioner observed "it is difficult to teach a class when I have some college graduates who have come back to get prereqs for nursing school and some students who barely finished high school." My answer is "yes", and "that is why we get paid the small bucks to teach at a CC." It is also why I don't envy those, like the questioner, who teach a gen ed course that might be taken by a first-term freshman, whether at a CC or a large university. Even a well-prepared HS grad is still thinking they are in a HS classroom.

Back link:
See my comments about orientation for new students, some of which can be used on the first day of a freshman class (since that is where Prof. Zucker first used them at Johns Hopkins).

Your consolation is the realization that your student who "barely finished high school" was above average in motivation and academics in high school. Remember, only about half of HS grads go on to any kind of college, and lots of kids don't make it out of high school. Imagine what it is like teaching 10th grade!

The way high school teachers got that kid to pass their class was by offering, maybe even requiring, extra credit work. That is why you will regularly be asked about what can be done for extra credit in those classes. Be sure you have an answer, and be sure it is offered consistently as part of a fair grading system. (I know one HS teacher who only offers extra credit as a way of passing his required "government" class, but not as a way of raising a C to a B or a B to an A. He will not fail any student who will put in the effort, but has more academic standards for an A.)

Gen Ed versus Core Course

Any general education course poses serious challenges. If, as is usually the case for Psych 200, students think it is an easy class for the first semester because they had a "psychology" class in high school, the challenges get bigger. In a "core" course, your students have passed a year of composition and can write an actual paragraph or three that present a coherent idea. I have the distinct pleasure of teaching students who have not failed an entire series of math classes, including trig and sometimes calculus, but there are still serious challenges.

The biggest challenge freshmen face is the need to learn outside the classroom. They just don't believe you when you say they need to read the book before class and review it after class, because they never had to do this in high school. It was all spoon fed. Even many college classes have a "review sheet" that is really a list of all 50 questions that will be on the test, so all they need to do is cram that subset of information and then go to work (if at a CC) or out drinking (at the university). The only effective way to attack this has to start on day 1, so it is too late to do much about it now. However, you can experiment now and develop some ideas for the next time you teach the class.

Your 300 level core class will likely offer a different challenge: the poor retention of knowledge we all seem to see today. That may be why your mentor teaches the same subject matter as in the 200 class. They didn't remember any of it. And I do mean any of it. I have close ties to faculty at a neighboring university, so I know it is not a problem unique to CC students. [Indeed, one of my minor triumphs has been to convince many of my students that they need to still know some physics next year, with the result that they kick ass after they transfer. The person next to them had no idea physics was required because it would be used in their engineering classes, so they cleared their mind and sold their book as soon as they passed physics.] In my opinion, the cram and forget approach in high school, particularly for "high stakes" graduation tests, is a big contributor to this.


My first thought when I read "I have a student who sits up front, asks good questions, stayed for the optional review session, and seems to put effort into learning the material. But he is still barely passing." was quite simple. A student who is barely passing is passing, so earns a C. The harder question is "How do I award failing grades for students who look like they are really trying?" but it also has a simple answer. You award them what they earned. What the questioner might really be asking is, How do I know if my standards for a C are correct? That is a different, and very hard question that I will not try to answer here. I featured it in my comment on Dean Dad's blog, for others to talk about.

The zeroth thing you need to know is whether your school has a de facto policy that everyone passes this course if they attend every day and work hard. I don't think I would ever teach at such an institution, but I know they exist. (I know they exist because I have seen the product of such schools transfer into mine, and because we just got what looks like a really excellent "senior" hire who was quite clear that he was leaving his current position - at a 4-year school - because its administration is now pressuring faculty to pass a larger fraction of their students regardless of performance.)

Note added:
Grading criteria and passing regardless of learning was a major issue in a recent story about denial of tenure for a low passing rate. (See my comments posted in May 2008.) The question of whether comparable evaluation methods were used so the poor passing rate resulted from poor teaching remain unclear, as they were not addressed in the materials made public.

The first thing you need to know is what grade constitutes passing. Our system considers a "D" to be a passing grade in that you get college credit for it even as it lowers your GPA. You can, of course, repeat a class where you earned a "D", but you don't have to repeat it. However, although a "D" will count toward graduation if you are in building construction, it might not count if you are in education or psychology. On the other hand, a business or nursing major might consider a "C" to be the worst possible grade in your class and finagle a way to fail. If you need a 3.0 average (or higher) for your major, a "C" could be fatal. It lowers your GPA but cannot be repeated.

The second thing you need to know is what the consequences are if a student "barely" passes your class with a "C". They might be minimal for Psych 200 if it is not core prerequisite course for that major, and might even be minimal if it is required. (With grade inflation being what it is in the social sciences, a "C" might not be enough to get into that major.) In physics, we always ask ourselves if we would want to drive across a bridge designed by that "C" student, just as anatomy instructors ask themselves if they want to wake up in an emergency room with that "C" student standing over them. You might ask yourself if you want that student teaching your kids or taking the 300 level psychology class you are teaching next semester.

One bit of advice is that there is only a minor penalty if you start out with a first test that is a bit too hard and make the next one easier. Students will work harder after that first test (although some will quit), and then feel rewarded on the next test. This is all for the good if you give them positive feedback about the results of studying. They might even keep up those study habits if the third test is in the middle for difficulty. You might even find that this is an ideal approach in a freshman class. The other way, an easy first test followed by a harder test, is a terrible approach that will always backfire.

Finally, you should discuss grading policy with some other faculty at that school. You do have the authority to include subjective criteria to decide that 69.7 is good enough for a C, just as you have the authority to decide that it is not. The important thing is that you give the same consideration to every student who is similarly situated. Ideally, you have this information in the grading section of your syllabus (and if not this time, next time), but no document can cover every possible situation. If you find that the student says useful things in class and can discuss the subject in your office but does badly on tests, you have a sound basis for giving a passing grade (but also counseling them that they need to improve their test taking skills).

Side comment:
You did notice that I said you have the authority to decide grades? Yep, you are now an authority figure. It is a new experience the first time you teach. You really are in charge of your classroom. You have the authority to tell students where to sit during an exam, if you think some arrangements look a bit too cozy. You probably have the authority to tell a student to leave the classroom for answering their cell phone, and the authority to use your cell phone to call the campus police if the student will not leave. You certainly have the authority to deduct points for texting during class. It is quite interesting to be a teacher and a student at the same time if you have a tendency to do things as a student that you don't want to see in your own classroom. Psychoanalyze that!


The questioner has one mentor, giving reasonable advice, but needs more. Get a second opinion about the 300 level class from a regular faculty member at your university as well as your thesis adviser. Similarly, chat up someone who teaches your 200 level course at the CC for specific questions on grading policy, but you can also talk to the person who hired you (or even the random odd faculty member wandering the hallways) about the characteristics of students at your school.

The faculty at a CC are committed to teaching, not research, so you will find them much more approachable on this subject than at a university. Just introduce yourself and go from there.

Comments on comments

As Dean Dad and others put it, watering down courses at a CC by offering lots of extra credit options and having a soft grading scale compared to the situation at a likely transfer institution is setting those kids up to fail.

I also like using a journal as a learning and evaluation technique. You might learn that your weak student has a mangled view of what is going on, so it is not just a problem of "testing poorly". Many weak students have poor reading skills, or simply don't read the book at all. Many have spectacularly bad note taking skills. Others just have trouble with the foils on multiple choice tests and can give a reasonable answer on a short answer or essay test or in a journal. You can only find out by trying.

As someone noted, some have true learning disabilities that should be addressed by specialists at your school and accommodated (often by extended testing times) accordingly. It is too late to do much about that now, but it is something to be aware of. Talk to your dean about the college policy on referrals, etc, if you suspect this might be a problem.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Physics Jobs - Part 2 (Demand)

As in my first article, the main reference for this discussion is a set of statistical reports produced by the American Institute of Physics. I recommend you read them (use the links on the left side to get the summary and full reports) and form your own conclusions, but I hope my comments here will give you some idea of what to pay attention to.

The first lesson one must get from those studies is that, at present, only about one third of all PhD physicists are employed in academia. This may be hard for a student to believe, since you may never have met a physicist working outside of a university in your entire life, but it is one of the cold hard facts you need to appreciate if your goal is to get a job as a faculty member. Nonetheless, since recent blogs have emphasized tenured faculty positions and because my only experience is as an academic (post doc, a dozen or so years as research faculty, about a decade teaching), that is what I will write about.

A word about non-academic jobs:

Some quick remarks on the other two thirds of the jobs you might find. The one advantage that a US citizen with a physics PhD has in any job search is that there are quite a few jobs that require citizenship as one element in getting the relevant security clearance. This is not just for "weapons" work, because anything (particularly aircraft) that might have a military use requires national security in addition to the usual industrial security issues. You get paid more in industry, but might have to change companies if yours loses out on a contract. You might have to move to the company that won the contract, and at least one friend was forced down the entrepreneurial road and became a private contractor.

A key bit of advice is that there is little value in taking a post doc if you plan to go into industry. They usually could care less. The sooner you get out of the ivory tower the better. However, a post doc can be a key step if you want to work in a government research lab.

Academic jobs:

I think the most important lesson is that the majority of students will be employed at an institution below (in the sense of R1, PhD, MS only, BS only, CC) the one they got their degree at. This means the work environment and professional expectations will sometimes be (very) different from what you observe as a graduate student, assuming you were paying attention to what a faculty job entails at your institution. Those will be described in part three.

The graph I made of AIP data is important enough to repeat here. Its relevance to the demand side was driven home yesterday when I ran into a retired faculty member from Wannabe Flagship University. I knew he was from the right generation, so when he mentioned how many years he had been there, I got the crucial detail for this discussion: He got his PhD in 1964 (right on the leading edge of the big peak), went directly to Wannabe Flagship (no post doc), and retired 39 years later in 2003.

That's right: Many in that huge pulse of people who got a PhD between 1960 and 1970 and got hired into a faculty job did not retire until after 2000. That would be one of the explanations for Chad's comment that the job search situation was pretty good when he got out circa 2001. At that time, fully 17% of physics faculty were over the age of 65! [See paper by Czujko linked in Note 3 below.]

But it is not quite as bad as a snake eating an elephant, even if it seemed that way to my generation. There were people hired into faculty jobs from my generation, and some of the more recent openings have been filled with "senior" hires from industry or research labs (that is, from my generation). The hiring pulse circa 1965 has been damped out somewhat, but you can still see a pronounced minimum in demographic data for physics departments. (See the paper by Neuschatz and McFarling, linked from Note 2, for some examples.)

The main thing to take away from that graph is that the current supply of PhD physicists is about 1200 per year and (probably) slowly increasing. Other data indicate that about half of these are foreign students, which might be relevant for some jobs in academia but probably not for the ones at top research universities, which get a large fraction of their faculty from overseas. [Details are in part 3 of this series.] You should assume that everyone is your competition. If in doubt, look at the faculty at your school and where they got their PhD degrees.

Data on Faculty positions:

There are a lot more faculty positions than you might think if your view is limited to the 146 or so institutions classified as Doctoral Research by the National Academy of Sciences. Those are the "PhD" category in the table below, which make up a bit more than half of the tenure-track faculty. If, as is most likely, you attend one of the universities that are classified as "very high" research (what used to be R1) in the Carnegie scheme, you might be ignoring the majority of possible academic jobs.

This table was constructed from the AIP data circa 2004 as described in Footnote 1 at the bottom of this page. All faculty refers to the total of tenured, tenure track, and temporary faculty reported by the university. Temporary faculty could be full time instructors (usually at 4-year schools) or they could be semi-permanent researchers supported by external or internal funds (in PhD programs). These numbers do not include full-time post docs or part-time adjunct instructors, which fall in a different category, but probably include multi-year research positions (glorified post docs) that run for a fixed contract period greater than one year.

Dept typeall Facultyd/dtt-t Facultyd/dt
MS only900+10730-3
BS only2700+202130+1
2 year CC  1640 -28?

The time rate of change has units of people per year. The striking detail, no surprise to us old timers, is that the total number of faculty is increasing but the number of tenure-track faculty is roughly constant. Universities are shifting resources from permanent positions to temporary ones. The rational reason for this is it gives them flexibility to deal with shifting student demand, federal research support, and student enrollment (when the baby-boom echo comes to an end). The economic reason is that they are cheaper, particularly when we consider part-time faculty at the CC level.

These are all full-time PhD positions, with one exception. The number listed for 2-year schools (community colleges) is the number of tenured faculty, but only 640 of these have a PhD degree. It happens that the data for 2-year schools also tell us the number of part-time adjunct instructors and how many of those have a PhD. The table below (explained in Footnote 2) shows only PhD faculty but includes the 330 part-time CC instructors with a PhD in the "all Faculty" column.

Dept typeall Facultyd/dtt-t Facultyd/dt
other 4 year3600+302860-2
2 year CC970 ?640 +1?

This snapshot (and the derivative) suggests that there are about 7900 PhD's employed as full time, tenured or tenure-track faculty at colleges or universities. Keeping those positions filled as people retire, die, or leave the country is what generates job openings for newly minted PhDs. There is zero or negative growth in terms of tenurable faculty positions being added to physics departments.

Annual Job Openings

This is much more speculative, but based on pretty consistent trends identified in the AIP studies. See Footnote 3 for an explanation of the numbers shown here, and take this with a big grain of salt. Once you construct estimates from estimates the values get really fuzzy, but the main trends were real as of the period (circa 2003) when these studies were done.

Dept typeopeningsUS PhD hires
other 4 year200180
2 year CC75 70?
PhD degrees 1250?

One thing jumps out of the first column: There are more openings in the BS and MS departments (what I incorrectly call "other 4 year" schools) than in the PhD departments, even though the PhD departments have 50% more faculty! Turnover is very low in major PhD programs. (See my example up top of the guy who retired after 39 years. Working for 39 years is easier to pull off if you have a 1/1 teaching load and a modest research program, if any, than if you have a 3/3 or 4/4 load at a 4-year school.) But there are other factors at work.

In the time period of the study, about 1/3 of the faculty hired in PhD departments (but only about 10% for the others) earned their PhD overseas. I used this fact to generate the estimates in the second column, which would be the number hired who earned their PhD in the U.S. (Note that these could be foreign students who earned their degree in the U.S., not just US citizens.) That significantly skews the available jobs away from the top schools.

In addition, almost a third (about 55) of the US PhD hires into universities and maybe 55 or so of the others can be expected to be "senior" hires (persons who got their PhD more than 5 years before being hired). This would reduce the bottom line to 260 (+/- ??) openings for persons who earned a PhD in the US in the past five years.

The market reality:

There are estimated to be about 1300 persons earning a PhD this year, maybe more, maybe less. I'll use 1200 under the assumption that some foreign students (who make up about half of this total) are planning to seek jobs back home. For comparison, there were 200 fewer graduates (under 1100) and probably more job openings when Chad got out.

So, comparing 260 openings to 1200 job seekers, the odds of getting some kind of tenure-track academic job are about 1 in 5 during the first few years after getting your PhD. In the longer run, if you become one of the "senior hires", the odds increase to about 30%, maybe more. Since national surveys show that about 1/3 of all physics PhD jobs are in academia, including research faculty jobs, those odds seem plausible.

However, most of those are not at a research university like the one where you earned (or are working on) your PhD. Comparing 60 to 1200 tells a different story for that part of the market. The odds of a recent PhD getting a job at a research university are only about 1 in 20. The fourth installment of this series, along with info in part 3 will address some of the things you need to pay attention to if you have this as your goal. You need a clear plan to put yourself in the top 5% after 2 or 4 years in a post doc, and be prepared to win the grants and reputation that will earn you tenure. (Getting the job is not the end of the battle!)

On the other hand, if you are an American with an interest in teaching and running a modest research program with undergraduate students, the odds might be as good as 40% (240 openings, 600 candidates) that you can find that job. I will have additional comments about seeking those kinds of jobs in the final installment of this series.

Side comment:
The long odds against getting a t-t job at a research institution are why I started this section by mentioning that most PhD students who enter academia will end up "below" (in the hierarchy of colleges) where they earned their degree. This is inevitable, and can be understood with a simple "Fermi question" analysis. How many PhD's will your major professor produce? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? Only one is needed to "replace" him or her, so all the rest are fighting for that job.


Note 1.

The AIP faculty workforce reports give the total number of FTE faculty, including t-t, temporary, and research positions (but excluding post docs). The 1994 and 2004 numbers are the source of the derivative calculated over a ten year period.

Dept type19941998200020022004
MS only800850775900900
BS only25002500260028002700
total8200835083758800 9000


The reports also give the percentage who are in temporary positions (not tabulated here, but you can see them in Table 2 of the reports linked above). From these one can calculate the following for the years 1998 to 2004. I use the two end points to get a 6-year average derivative in my tables, but you can see that these are very noisy data. The derivatives are consistent with zero.

Dept type1998200020022004
MS only748651729729
BS only2125210621842133
total727372077299 7290

The 2-year data (community colleges) are much cruder. They come from two reports, one about the 2001-2002 statistics and another about 1995-1996 statistics. In 2001-2002, there were 2560 faculty (1640 full time, 920 part time) teaching physics on 1072 campuses, with 39% (or 640) of the full timers and and 36% (or 330) of the part timers holding a PhD degree. In 1995-1996, there were 2592 faculty (1810 full time, 782 part time) teaching physics on 1052 campuses, with about 35% (or 634) of the full timers holding a PhD. In both cases, a few percent of the full time are not "tenure track", while the 1996 report stated that a significant fraction of the PhDs (corresponding to 200 of 633) were in related fields such as engineering or chemistry. I cannot tell from the methodology of the 2002 report if they corrected for the 94% response rate in their final numbers, as I did when quoting the 1996 data. If not, the number of t-t faculty in 2002 increases to 1745 and the derivate drops from -28 to -11, but I doubt if this is the case.

Note 2.

See the two papers referenced above concerning the 2-year college dataand the discussion of the data above. The increase in PhD faculty from 633 to 640 over 6 years gives a tiny (and, I am sure, statistically insignificant) positive derivative. The other results are directly from the table described in Note 1.

Internal check: This gives a total of 9970 PhD's in academia, compared to the total of 10047 (5801 teaching, 4246 research) given in the Neuschatz and McFarling "Career Outcomes for PhD Physicists ..." paper. This minor undercount is plausible given that both numbers are derived from estimates (the latter extrapolating a longitudinal study of 1850 physicists to a population of 33,729). The "teaching" number is plausible if half of the t-t faculty at PhD institutions reported their job as research rather than teaching, which is what the authors said was likely the case.

Note 3.

The estimate of foreign fraction of new faculty is based on the Czujko paper on Enrollments and Faculty in Physics, which summarizes the fraction of new faculty who got a degree overseas (34% for PhD departments in 2000, 12% in BS departments). Similar data tables can be found in the workforce papers referenced above. [double check] The 50% value for the fraction of new PhD students who are foreign comes from the 2004 AIP Enrollment and Degrees report (54% of 2004 PhD grads were foreign students, up from 45% in 2000).

The Czujko paper is also the source for the statistical data on the fraction of new hires who earned a PhD in the US more than 5 years ago (31% in PhD departments, 28% in BS departments) and within the past 5 years (35% in PhD departments, 60% in BS departments) that is used in the discussion after this table about the hiring odds for relatively recent PhD graduates.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Physics Jobs - Part 1 (Supply History)

Any discussion of the physics job market has to start with the facts, and the most basic facts are those of supply and demand. When I started grad school in the mid 70s, I was told by my major professor that "there are no jobs". Although this was a bit of an exaggeration, there were only a few tenure track jobs spread over thousands of recent PhD's. My university, which had hired several new faculty every year in the 1960s, only hired one new person during my time in grad school - and he came from overseas to replace someone who left his t-t position for a national lab.

It is not even close to being that bad right now. (More info on demand is in part 2 of this series.) Indeed, I would say the situation is pretty good for people currently in grad school, but the situation still has echoes of that past. I want to start with what you can learn from history about the supply of PhD physicists looking for academic jobs. Fluctuations in that supply, which look like the damped response of an oscillator hit with an impulse, likely reflect the hiring patterns in academia. Until equilibrium returns, job openings due to retirements will come in clusters about 30 to 40 years after a previous cluster was hired. (Filling new positions takes only a tiny fraction of the annual PhD production.)

How did we get where we are today? The following is my analysis of the data.

The figure below was assembled from information given in two figures (fig. 7 and fig. 9) produced by the AIP as part of regular reports on the job situation in physics. (I created my own version of these figures because web links are notoriously unstable, these figures from a 2004 report will be replaced in a few years, and so I could annotate them with some trend lines to make discussion easier.) I strongly recommend that graduate students look over those reports, since they contain far more information than I can write about it a few blog updates.

My figure shows the PhD production in the U.S. from 1900 through 2004 (actual numbers, from fig. 7) and an AIP projection of PhD production from 2005 to 2010 (from fig. 9). The error band on the projection is the light colored band. I won't say much about those projections (they will soon be replaced by real data), but they might be important to students considering the odds of getting certain kinds of jobs. I'll discuss the history reflected in these data in roughly 20 year increments. (Until I sat down to write this, I had not noticed that some underlying trends seem to change on a two-decade time scale.) Click this picture to enlarge it.

The first 20 years, from 1900 to 1920, show a fairly flat rate of PhD production. The start of research and graduate education was modest, producing a roughly constant number (20 to 30) PhD's per year from a small number of departments. Old articles in Physics Today reported that most of these students went into industry, which was a fairly easy transition because the academic research itself was mostly funded by the industries that hired the PhD students.

Things changed in 1920, when we start to see a steady increase in production. The slope (about 6.5 additional grads per year) corresponds to a large percentage growth rate, because the starting level was so small. PhD production more than doubled each decade. Even more interesting to me is that the Great Depression (starting in 1929) does not show up at all. I do not know what drove this growth, although demand for engineers (despite the Depression, this was a period that saw much civil construction) would require more physics faculty and hence more PhD programs across the country.

What does disrupt graduate education is World War II. Anyone who doubts what a big deal that war was need only look at these data. I have put a "line to misguide the eye" across the period from 1940 to 1960 to show that the missing war-time degrees were completed after the war. On average (following my line), the slope increases (to 20 extra grads per year) but the percentage growth rate slows somewhat.

Side comment:
The senior faculty during my time in grad school, including my major professor, came from this group. Many of them left undergrad or grad school to work on the research side of the war effort: radar, aerodynamics, nuclear weapons, computing, and code breaking. (My thesis adviser worked at Bletchley Park "breaking the Enigma" and I knew a person who watched the Hiroshima bomb go off from the observation plane.) Chemistry students also played major roles in these programs. A few PhD theses that were completed during that time were classified. After the war, they returned to college with skills not found in a typical undergrad or grad student today, and experience working in large research groups. They knew how to operate a large, federally-funded research enterprise when the 60s rolled around. They had no ties to industry.

Then comes Sputnik. I put a red arrow at 1957 to indicate that important event. Sputnik resulted in massive amounts of money in support of science and math education and research, from K to PhD. The increased funding for graduate fellowships, coupled with job demand from colleges and NASA, was a boon for physics and the graph reflects that change. Back then, and even in my time, you could save money (not borrow it) on a grad assistant salary if you did not have a family to support. Everyone got a job. Many faculty were hired directly from grad school, without even a post doc. Average was more than good enough, until about 1968 or so, and PhD production almost tripled in that decade. The peak at 1970 is the result.

It was the perfect storm. A decade of lush spending came to an end circa 1968. The NSF budget was cut to pay for Vietnam and to punish the colleges for harboring anti-war protesters. (Nixon was not known as a lover of intellectuals.) The end of the baby boom was in sight (high school grads crested around 1971), so universities did not need to add faculty because student growth was ending and enrollments would soon decline. NASA started to cancel projects and stretch out others, and no longer needed to hire physicists.

Side comment:
Have you ever seen a Saturn moon rocket when touring the Kennedy Space Center, or Huntsville, or the Smithsonian? Those are not models. They are actual Saturn rockets built to go to the moon. The Command Module and LEM at Kennedy are the real thing. Missions were canceled on the fly, after the rockets were built, because Nixon could not afford to launch them and fight a war and increase social welfare spending ... so they were just turned into museum pieces.

It was ugly. I know some really bitter people who got out in 1969 or 1970. Top notch thesis work meant nothing, while a few years earlier you could get a tenured job based on average work. The spike is really sharp because some people rushed their work to completion in hopes of grabbing the last job in 1970, while others simply dropped what they were doing and walked away. Why work two more years and graduate in 1972, if you knew there were no jobs? [One remarkable detail in the historical data is that the number of first year physics graduate students dropped just 1 year before the number of PhD's plummeted. The fraction completing a PhD after 6 years or so went from 40%, if you started in 1964, to 25%, if starting in 1970. See this figure from the AIP grad student report.]

People who went to grad school in the 70s knew (or eventually learned) what you were getting into. I knew some people who lingered and then left ABD, not bothering to write a dissertation when the reality sunk in. However, by 1980 there were a lot fewer people looking for PhD-based jobs. There were plenty of post docs, because the odds of turning one into an academic job were really bad. There were tech jobs to be had, particularly if you were a US citizen (and thus could get a security clearance), although no physics faculty had any clue about them. Faculty were now fully disconnected from industry, except in some areas of condensed matter research.

So the period from 1960 to 1980 was feast and famine. What happened from 1980 to 2000? Why a big peak in 1994? Part of the story is the discovery of quarks in 1974 and the death of the SSC circa 1993. The second peak you see is in 1994, right after the SSC was killed. This was also a time period when rumored demand for retirement replacements did not appear. (Universities shifted open positions from physics to new areas; biophysics is now hotter than nuclear physics and positions planned for the SSC went unfilled.) I think you are seeing a peak as people quickly wrap up their thesis so they can move on, and a drop as people quit. The fact that the AIP data also show a large (200 person) peak in the number of MS degrees exiting PhD institutions (solid yellow curve) in 1994 backs up this opinion. There is no peak from masters institutions. Those are PhD students who saw no point in finishing. I'll bet you would see the same thing in 1970 if those data went back far enough.

The other thing that happened from 1980 to 2000 was an increase in the fraction of foreign students in US universities. Faculty research programs had been built on huge numbers of graduate students and post docs, and there were also labs to be taught. American students would not take those jobs, so foreign students were recruited to take their place. (A graph of PhD's granted to US citizens would look very different from the one shown above.) This, along with immigration of PhD faculty from overseas, complicates the supply side of the academic job picture.

I have put a pair of red "lines to misguide the eye" in this area, reflecting two possible models for the supply situation. One tracks what a nuclear experimentalist would term the "background" below the peaks, while the higher one tries to split the difference and average the production over that period. The top line would be something like a long-term average of actual production, while the bottom line might be the level that could really be sustained. I find it interesting that the line from 1940 to 1960 roughly meets that bottom line around 1980, and that the top line meets the production curve around 1966 (when the faculty market started to saturate) and 1976 (when those who started just before the crash finally graduated). The bottom line might be a sustainable production rate, with the bottom line being the minimum graduation rate under any circumstances.

Demand will be taken up next, followed by issues related to preparing PhD students for the kinds of jobs that are likely to be available.

One consequence of the training and research experience of the current faculty is that major professors at a top R1 school with a 1/1 teaching load are (partially) training students for the only job they know about, which is not likely to be the one the student will take. This was a huge problem in the 1970s, and my impression from the blogs I follow (much like the impression on Usenet a decade earlier) is that it remains a problem today.

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Mendacity from Chertoff?

The following statement was made by Michael Chertoff in video shown on the Situation Room on CNN (video seen on the afternoon of 12 July 2007):

"We don't currently have specific [ahem], credible information about a particular threat against the homeland [ah] in the near future."

This is a classic example of a carefully constructed, pre-spun statement that offers little but plausible deniability to Chertoff. The reporter doing the interview failed to ask Chertoff why he chose his words to not exclude the possibility that the truth is:

"We currently have specific, credible information about an attack within the US a few months from now."

Recited in a calm, soothing voice, Chertoff's handlers expect that most Americans will hear "There are no credible threats against the United States" rather than what those words actually mean to someone who understands logic and its use in rhetoric.

All that Chertoff has excluded is a very narrow group of possible situations. In addition to the version above, his statement leaves open the possibility that

"We have specific, credible information about an attack on American interests overseas in the near future."


"We have specific information about a particular threat against the homeland in the near future whose credibility is in question."

Like the Rice mendacity quaver, Chertoff might give away the truth when he pauses at two points in his statement where the qualifiers "specific" and "in the near future" are inserted.

Any of these would lead to a very different reaction in the media, yet the person interviewing him for CNN did not ask any followup question about why he chose his words to avoid excluding these possibilities. My guess is that he was backed into a corner by his earlier remarks and needed a way out that would not help our enemies realize we know what they are up to, and that he did a better job of fooling CNN and the public than he did of fooling Al' Qaeda.

Proof that he fooled the AP, and through them some American citizens. CNN carries an AP report that "he [Chertoff] and others continue to say they know of no specific, credible information pointing to an attack here." As you can see above, that is not what Chertoff said. What Chertoff said could mean that he knows of specific credible information pointing to an attach here in six months.

If he was forced to obfuscate a mistaken leak, at least Chertoff stayed within the bounds of proper handling of highly classified information, unlike the persons who have allowed Al' Qaeda to rebuild in Pakistan after the US military put them out of business at the end of 2001, the ones who also gave the enemy in Iraq three months warning of our impending "surge" and exposed our anti-proliferation assets in the middle east.

Let's pray that they handle this better than Katrina or "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US".

Presidential Update:

The President added another (rather transparent) example of the half-truth form of mendacity in his press conference today. When pressed about the National Counterterrorism Center's observation that "Al Qaeda better positioned to strike the West", Bush said that Al Qaeda is weaker now than if we had done nothing.

Right but not relevant. They are weaker now than if we had done nothing on 12 September 2001, but his own intelligence agencies are telling him that they are stronger now than if we had continued to fight Al Qaeda in 2003 instead of diverting our resources to Iraq and creating the ultimate recruiting and training tool for bin Laden. As above, we can already see reporters saying the administration is claiming we are safer now than 6 years ago when the real question is whether we are safer than we were 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bicycle Power

Enough ranting; back to physics. Today I feel a Cocktail Party Physics-style inspiration from watching the Tour de France. (I love that it is on live every morning with the sprint finish just before lunch. Can get some reading done while it is on in the background, then work on my fall classes in the afternoon.) Towards the bottom of this article, I will give a simple example showing the power required to race up a mountain.

Bicycle racing is about the physics concepts of power and torque. Because these same concepts are important to the design of hybrid cars and in motor racing, I will mention those also.

The quick version is that torque translates into force and is responsible for acceleration (short sprints at the finish) while power is responsible for sustained top speed (whether on the level in a time trial or when climbing).


This is a bit of an oversimplification because torque and power are not independent of each other: both involve force in their definition. Power is the rate of doing work (work in units of Joules divided by time in units of seconds gives power in units of Watts), and is defined as Work / time, or Force * velocity, or Torque * angular velocity. [Because force is more intuitive than torque to most people, I will use the force version in my examples.] You have to have power in reserve if you want to accelerate while already at high speed (sprints in bicycle racing), but power and force (or torque) can be considered separately in many situations.

(Factoid useful for automobile engines: Power in horsepower = Torque in foot-pounds at an angular velocity of 5252 rpm. Torque and power curves always cross there.)

Two engines (or people) producing the same power can produce a large force, doing a lot of work, in a long time (at a slow speed) ... or a small force, doing a small amount of work, in a short time (at a high speed). Power is about quickness, not brute strength, which is why many sports emphasize "power lifting" training (lifting a given weight 10 or more reps at a time) rather than working on a single lift of a heavier weight. The person who can lift a larger weight than another person in the same time (such as the time needed to sustain a block in football) is more powerful.

Since sport is all about getting there first, power is what usually wins a competition. However, what often matters more is the power to weight ratio, since a heavier person (or car) needs more power to (say) climb a hill at a particular speed.


The reason we treat power and force separately (and report both when talking about automobile engines) is that there are physiological and mechanical reasons that the upper limits on power and torque (or force) can vary independently of one another.

Automobiles with a push-rod V-8 have huge amounts of low-end (low rpm) torque. Diesel engines even more so. When you want to pull a trailer or accelerate from a stop light, you need that "grunt" of a large force at a low speed. Hybrid cars get this from the electric motor, which also produces a high torque at low speed. The key design concept of a hybrid is to use the electric motor for torquey things like getting moving, and design the gasoline engine to keep it moving at constant highway speed (where power matters more than torque) as efficiently as possible. Dividing the two functions between two physically separate devices makes the engineering design problem much simpler.

A DOHC (double overhead cam) engine, common on imports and smaller cars as well as high-end race cars, produces the maximum torque at quite high rpm. [My Miata has a torque peak at 5500 rpm.] If you want to get a large starting force from this kind of motor, you need to wind it up (and eat up the clutch) in a way that most people won't do. In my not-so-humble opinion, manufacturers have put bigger motors in "small" cars so that people who don't know how that motor works can get the torque needed to pull into traffic. This comes at the expense of highway mileage because the more powerful motor is less efficient. [My ancient Miata, with its 1.6L engine, got 34 mpg at sustained highway speeds of 77 mph on my last trip. Its top speed of 115 mph is plenty, so it does not need more power.] Again, a hybrid can have a DOHC engine designed only to cruise at 80 mph (100 mph if you are Al Gore) on the highway, letting the electric part deal with acceleration.

Human physiology has similar variability.

Two bike racers with the same mass will exert exactly the same force and do exactly the same work to ride up and over a mountain pass. Same m means same m*g*sin(theta) [force to move against gravity on a slope of angle theta] and same m*g*h [work done to lift you over the pass]. The winner does it faster, which requires more power ... not more force and certainly not more work (or more calories burned). You just have to be able to burn those calories faster, to do the required work faster.

Sprinting, like during the finish of the last few races, is about acceleration. Getting a jump on someone, to increase your speed to a level you can't sustain very long, just long enough to win the race. Competitive riders can get to over 60 mph on a level road, but only for several hundred meters. There is power involved here also, but not sustained power. It is about producing a large force for a short time, and only for a short time. These riders usually cannot climb mountains because they produce extreme amounts of power only in short bursts.

Power still plays a role in sprints, because your top speed occurs when the power you can produce is equal to the power being drained away by friction and air drag. More power translates into a higher top speed, the critical factor in winning an individual event like a time trial. It is also why the finish of a bike race looks a lot like NASCAR, with riders drafting someone until the last moment and then using a "slingshot" move to pass. The most powerful sprinter can only sustain top speed for a few hundred meters, so they time that move to get to the finish line just when they can't do it any more.

Example from today's finish:

I used a stopwatch to time the racers over the last kilometer of Stage 4. They took about 49.5 s, which translates into 20.2 m/s or 45.2 mph. That is the average speed. Since data shown during the previous kilometer indicated the leaders riding at about 34 mph when they started that stretch, the winner (Thor Hushovd of Norway) and the man who almost caught him at the line were probably going in excess of 50 mph as they approached the finish.

I'd really like to know what the computer on his bike said his speed was over the last few hundred meters.

The power demands are huge. The force of air drag increases roughly as the square of the velocity, so the power required increases as the cube of the velocity. You need eight times the power to go twice as fast.

(Side note: This dependence on the cube of the velocity explains why "restrictor plate" NASCAR cars cannot catch up with the draft when coming out of the pits. You asymptotically approach terminal velocity, so it takes more than a lap to pick up those last few mph. You also see this in qualifying, where the second lap on a superspeedway is always faster than the first.)

Example relevant to mountain climbing in the Tour:

The steepness of a road is given in %, which is the slope (rise over run). Thus an 8% grade corresponds to a rise of 8 m in 100 m (horizontal distance), or 100.3 m along the road (the hypotenuse of the triangle). If a bicyclist wants to climb that hill at a constant speed of 15.0 mph (24.1 kph), he has to do the work required to raise his mass (and his bike) 8 m in the time it takes to go 100.3 m at 6.7056 m/s. That work is m*g*h, and it must be done in 14.96 s. The work depends on the mass of the rider, of course.

It is too early to know who will be "King of the Mountain", but some past contenders have masses that range from 61 kg (134 lb) to 73 kg (161 lb). I will use 65 kg as my example, and assume the only other mass involved is the bike (6.8 kg minimum mass). They will also carry some water on longer climbs, because the rules forbid getting any water from a team car during a climb, but nothing extra on short climbs. That value gives us work = (71.8 kg)*(9.807 m/s^2)*(8 m) = 5.63 kJ in 15 s. That is a power output of 376.5 Watts = 0.505 horsepower. Additional power is required to overcome the drag due to the air, the work you need to do when riding that speed on level ground. Thus this is a lower limit on the power needed to climb at that speed.

Note: 1 hp = 746 W, which many top riders can develop for a period of time.

Also note that 1 food Calorie is 4.19 kJ, so they are burning over 5 Calories per minute just overcoming gravity on one of those climbs.

Some bike racing details for wannabe fans:

First, no mention of bike racing would be complete without mentioning the Oscar(R) nominated film, The Triplets of Belleville. Nominated for best animated feature and best original song, it tells a wonderfully strange story of the wildly improbably rescue of a young man who is kidnapped while in a bike race. That said ...

Mountain climbing starts this weekend with Stage 7 on Saturday. The page I linked to defaults to the route, but you can also view the "profile" of the route (showing the elevation changes) and the "passes", which gives the length and grade of each major climb.

Climbs were classified from easiest (4) to hardest (1) before anyone thought someone would be crazy enough to race over ones that are harder than the hardest. (Classification of whitewater rapids uses an open-ended scale with 1 as easiest to avoid this problem.) The H category (haute or high) has since been added to indicate climbs that are basically impossible for normal human beings. Difficulty is a combination of steepness and length, so it is possible for a very long 6% climb (such as the ones out of Val d'Isere on Tuesday's Stage 9) to be rated H while a short climb at 8% (like near the start of Stage 17) would be only a 3.

The really interesting climbs are on days with an H category (or two) in the route. Those include Stage 9 (linked above) on Tuesday, July 17, with two big climbs, Stage 14 on Sunday, 22 July, with two (one is at the finish so a climber will win that stage), Stage 15, with one on 23 July, and Stage 16, on 25 July, with two (again, one at the finish). Stages 14 and 16 may determine who wins the overall title.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Xanax and Politician's Kids

What is it about being the 24 year old child of a politician and getting caught with Xanax? First Noelle Bush, now Al Gore III.

You can be excused for not knowing about the connection, because the media rarely remember what was in that newspaper it sent to the recycling bin a few years ago. That is what I am here for. Besides, the bit about speeding in a Prius seems to have drawn their attention away from prescription drug abuse.

Of course, its not like my old buddy the Drug Czar wants to go ballistic on prescription drugs, or even meth. He is still fighting the Evil Weed of his Youth rather than the current menace of suburbia.

For those who don't remember, Noelle Bush, daughter of Jeb! Bush, was arrested for prescription fraud while trying to get some Xanax. This was in 2002, when she was 24. Oddly enough, Al III was also 24 when he was found to have quite a mix of drugs in his possession when stopped for speeding. Those two should put politics aside and hang out together. They probably have a lot in common, growing up in high-stress political families.

No guess as to how this will affect my fantasy politics 2008 ticket of Gore/Clinton and Cheney/Bush. Probably not at all, since all four of those have enough glass windows to be cautious about throwing stones.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

More of Middle America

Success! Got a good shot of the sort of highway sign I noticed on the first leg of the trip.

Now I just have to get some info from highway department and turn it into a physics problem. The approximately 2 foot wide base makes it ideal for a torque problem, and treating the two trusses and the sign as if each was a uniform object is probably not a bad approximation.

The shortage of "W" stickers continues, with a new twist. I saw the first example of a "coverup" - an oval sticker in the style of the "W'04" ones, except this says "GOP". Looks like the perfect way for a disgruntled Republican to show they line up with Hagel (and now Lugar) rather than Cheney and Bush. Still rare, however.

I also saw a regular "W" sticker and, more interestingly, one that read "May God Bless W" printed in a flag pattern. The latter was in a car with Florida plates driven by white haired folks who, apparently, think that their God would bless someone who ships people off to be tortured after even less of a trial than Pontius Pilate gave His Son. The United States is, truly, a land for everyone.

Puzzling over the mindset of the half of the Republican Party that still thinks things are going as planned in Iraq kept me awake for another hundred miles, but I prefer roadside delights like that pictured below to break up the monotony.

The sculpture is huge, by the way, and would not come cheap.

Then there are the things you don't want to see. Stopped traffic:

For an hour, parked on the freeway.

It did, however, turn out to be an interesting break from the road that contained an interesting lesson in chemistry and physics. Got a chance to talk to a wide variety of people who were on the highway, a truly interstate group. Among them was the driver of the truck you see in front of me. He filled us in on what he had heard over the radio about the wreck. Later I asked him about his load, since his tanker truck had an amusing warning sign suggesting a corrosive liquid.

He said the truck was carrying Maleic Anhydride, used in everything from making epoxy type resins to food products. (Google, in addition to confirming my memory of how to spell the name, confirms that it is used to make artificial sweeteners as well as epoxy hardeners and oil additives.) It was being transported in the liquid state at 150 deg F. It is solid at room temperature, so he needed to keep his truck running to avoid a very nasty problem. Although it reacts to become Maleic Acid when it encounters water, a spill is more likely to result in a white solid when it cools and hits the ground. One web link gives the MSDS info on it, and shows the "corrosive" symbol I saw on the truck. I'm glad I don't have an iPhone, where I would have known that info while parked behind it!

Bet you never guessed that a pretty truck like that would be carrying a hot chemical.

Anyway, the accident had occurred hours earlier. Reportedly the driver had either fallen asleep or had a heart attack, although there was also another vehicle involved. In any case, a truck hauling a double trailer (like the one in the parade picture) had run off the road, dumping his load in the ditch. You can't see any of that in the picture below, but you can see part of the response team.

Traffic had to wait while the back hoe was used to right the truck, because it had to swing across the only lane available for traffic. At the same time, a "bobcat" was being used to clean up the load from the ditch.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Side Trip Notes

Some odds and ends picked up on the side trip.

It is a good thing that Paris Hilton did not get caught driving under the influence in a northern Michigan county. The following is from the "Court Reports" published on 28 June in a weekly paper. Operating while visibly impaired or intoxicated (two examples), first offense: 93 days in jail, $1100 fine, 12 months probation. Operating while visibly intoxicated, second offence: 365 days in jail, $1375 fine, 18 months probation. Paris Hilton's "harsh" 45 day sentence (23 served) for violating probation with a second DUI offense, after getting nothing but probation for the first, looks pretty lame compared to what they dish out in the north woods.

If you plan now, you can catch the Baby Food Festival on July 17. Just don't drink and drive afterwards.

It is easy to forget that there is really nothing quite like a small town 4th of July parade. Before we get to the sublime part, it is worth noting that the group of active duty, Marines (veterans of Iraq) deferred to the Vietnam Veterans, telling them to lead the parade. I was struck by the observation that the vets of my generation's war are now a lot older than WW II vets were when I was a kid. And that they got more sustained applause than the Marines.

Now on to the small town parade:

After all, what is a parade without a beautiful big semi, with two trailers.

Or without a float promoting a bowling alley.

One of the great places in the world to visit, Mackinac Island, will be featured on the CBS Morning News on 23 August. Their weatherman was up there in June to film segments that will be cut into the live program in August. This visit made the top of the front page, with a color photo, in said local weekly.

  • The name Mackinac is from the French and is pronounced mackinaw, like the British term for a jacket that originated in that area. Pronounce it any other way and you are marked as a clueless tourist.
  • The Island has no motorized vehicles other than an ambulance, a fire vehicle, and a truck that washes the streets before dawn. Everything else is bicycles and horses, included horse-drawn delivery wagons and taxis. It is eerily quiet at night.
  • They do allow snowmobiles in the winter. Access in winter is either by plane or across an ice road from the mainland.
  • A featured food item is fudge. The odors on main street (horses and fudge) are totally unique.
  • The Island was used as the set for "Somewhere in Time", which contained the absurd premise that you can drive there from Chicago. Special approval was required to have a car on Mackinac Island for those scenes.

The Discovery Channel program Dirty Jobs spent some time in that area. One set of jobs was on Mackinac Island, where he shoveled horse manure and collected garbage. Another set was spent working on the Mackinac Bridge, changing light bulbs and painting 500 ft above the water. These will probably air next season.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Side Trip

Took a bit of a side trip yesterday to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to see "The Thinker" at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. If the name seems familiar to you, it is because he built a local grocery store into a major regional chain.

This casting of The Thinker (made in 1904) is on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts while they do some renovation. Seeing it outside is remarkable, but there was much more. For example, there are two others by Rodin that are part of the permanent exhibit. If you get close, this place (northeast of downtown) is well worth a visit. Afterwards, you can go up to Muskegon and ride one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world or hit the Lake Michigan beaches.

This photo shows the outside setting in context.

The Thinker is contemplating a wonderful Koi pond with a waterfall that hides road noise from just over the berm. Click the picture to view the full size original and look on the left side.

The gardens, besides being in full bloom, had a traveling exhibit featuring "the chocolate tree" scattered through the grounds and in the various indoor greenhouse spaces. (The main sponsor, Dove, gave out complimentary chocolates.) No photos of that, however.

I also cannot show you any photos of the sculptures of Sophie Ryder, which were in two of the indoor museum spaces. No photos were allowed of her wonderfully strange rabbit headed people. This picture shows part of a display banner by the entrance.

The signature piece of the outdoor display is a recreation of a horse sculpture designed and modeled by DaVinci but never cast full size. This one and the one in Italy were commissioned by Fred Meijer.

You do have to see it to believe it, although the people in this photo do help put it in scale.

Personally, I think this sculpture of a giant trowel, perfectly set in a field of native grasses ready to be turned into a garden, best captures the whole concept of blending a large collection of sculptures into a large horticulture garden.

There must be a mile of trails, some leading into garden "rooms" containing themed groups of art.

I'll let a group of them go without commentary, except to say that I included this next one ("Listening to History") because it reminds me of how The Little Professor seems to be so tied to her book collection.

This is not a Calder, but it really belongs here because of the large Calder stabile that is on the city hall plaza downtown.

Hard to believe this collection was assembled by a grocer, isn't it?

There is more than art and gardens. There is a large children's art and activity area near the entrance. It includes some hands-on sculptures, art activities, a tree house, and a recreation of the Great Lakes basin complete with plastic boats.

That is the mitten of Michigan, with Lake Michigan on the left, Lake Superior at top left, and Lakes Huron (top right) and Erie (bottom right). It even has Niagara Falls out of the picture to the right.

Finally, some more sculptures:

This last one is "Torso of Summer", which seems appropriate for the season.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Did Scooter call Dick's Bluff?

So the President had to rush back to Washington from a fishing vacation with Putin to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence?

What (or who) could make him decide to leave the press corps behind and make this sudden announcement?

My best guess: Scooter told his former boss that he would tell the whole truth about a wide variety of things (perhaps including statements the V.P. has made under oath, and not limited to the outing of a covert CIA agent) that would lead to Cheney's immediate impeachment and trial if he had to spend one night in prison. No more fall guy. (The RNC can help him cover his fines easily, but they can't serve time for him.) One phone call to the fishing boat and W was off to Washington to sign what he was told to sign and authorize a press release written by his handlers. (He certainly did not write it while fishing with Putin.)

Either that or Bush thinks he is the L.A. County Sheriff.

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