Spousal Shout-Out

By Sean Carroll | February 12, 2011 7:54 pm

Have I mentioned that my lovely wife Jennifer writes a blog called Cocktail Party Physics? And that she’s written a wonderful book called The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, And Survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

Well it’s hardly any secret now. Last night she was on one of the best things on TV these days, the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Where she rocked, both literally and figuratively.


How much more proud could I be? None more proud.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Yes we all know the Venturi effect discussion was discombobulated. That’s real time for you.

  • http://www.nightghost.ws Christopher Darrin Horn

    LOL! Love that book title. Classic!

  • http://visualphysics.org The Stand-Up Physicist

    OH MY, she won the golden mouth organ! That will become a family heirloom.

  • http://www.savory.de/blog.htm Ole Phat Stu

    Well done Jennifer! It must be really difficult reacting to someone like Craig who has all that show business practice. You never know when they’re going to go off at a tangent!

    So Sean, when are you going to put up an mp3 or even a video of Jennifer playing the golden mouth organ? 😉

  • incognegro

    Don’t take this the wrong way Sean, but your wife is hot. LOL

  • Jake

    You wife is not only beautiful and intelligent she is AWESOME!!! Which is why I’ve always loved reading her blog. But I just didn’t realize her AWESOMENESS until she showed the world that she could play the harmonica!! And she won the GOLDEN MOUTH ORGAN AWESOME!

    I’ve to run an post a comment on her blog now. AWESOME!

  • http://www.miskeptics.org Chris Lindsay

    Jennifer did a nice job of keeping up with Craig – who went into some far out places in the conversation.

    I picked up the Calculus Diaries a couple weeks ago. I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to reading.

  • Kevin

    This is full of awesome! I watch Craig Ferguson regularly – pretty sure Jennifer’s segment is one of the best interviews I’ve seen so far. And the Golden Mouth Organ is the proof! So far only three out of hundreds of guests have won this before…

  • http://www.theory.caltech.edu/~preskill John Preskill

    It’s so much fun I watched it twice. Jennifer is wonderful, but Ferguson should get his due, too — he did a great interview. They got into an excellent rhythm together.

  • Susan Pritzker

    What fun. I love the book, too. Thanks Jennifer!!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Absolutely. Ferguson doesn’t mind playing the goofball for laughs, but he is a very smart cookie. See e.g.:


  • Mike

    Very cool indeed!!

  • ricardo sandoval

    The part where she explains that the water is compressible can be misleading. I guess what she meant is that water is “malleable”, in fact, it is because the water is incompressible the water has to speed up when the pipe tightens so that the amount of water volume that passes thought is always the same.

    That is the reason I was lost when she talked about sponges since clearly they are compressible.

  • spyder

    I think one of the differences between Ferguson and the other late night talking heads (including Stewart and Colbert) is that Craig is always willing to push his own education and learning. He has done some of the most powerful interviews on television featuring race and inequalities. He can delve into physics and chemistry with the best of them. A real treasure that is on so late it is shameful. And giving the golden harmonic to Jennifer was a real treat. Aaarrrrsome.

  • http://twistedphysics.typepad.com Jennifer Ouellette

    @ricardo: Yeah, I had a brain freeze there. I was trying to convey something about how the Venturi effect applies to fluids, but when cars on the freeway reach a certain density threshhold, they cease to “flow” like a fluid (air, liquid) and start behaving more like a solid. But I didn’t quite get up to speed in time — it was a smart and astute question. Phantom traffic jams are fascinating because they’re so complex. But the foam car stuff he came up with to save my ass was totally awesome.

    That said, I’m glad folks don’t go to late-night TV to learn physics. :)

  • Lotty

    Congratulations Jennifer! The interview was great and very fun.

  • Frankel

    I had this post bookmarked in order to watch the clip, but turned on the TV last night (I live in Australia) and was overjoyed to see this interview was actually on!

    I think Jennifer did a great job, it must be hard trying to get a point across on a show like that, but I think she did it with grace and good humour.

  • Baby Bones

    The Venturi effect bit was really funny. Why can’t traffic physics be more like fluid mechanics? Does traffic have a freezing temperature?

  • http://twistedphysics.typepad.com Jennifer Ouellette

    @Baby Bones: Funny you should talk about freezing temps, because one of the most common analogies for traffic behavior is phase transitions — with the cars as molecules that flow freely in the air and liquid phases, but at some point become so dense that they start to “freeze.” The point at which that happens is kind of like the phase transition where a liquid turns into a solid.

    But phantom traffic jams are a bit more complicated, so the analogy is overly simplistic. WHat actually seems to be happening is that when the car “molecules” become too dense they become “strongly correlated” — a jargon term I didn’t want to use on the show — which means that tiny shifts in speed, sudden braking, etc. ripples through the correlated cars and causes pockets of “jamming.”

    If only I could have spit that out on the show. C’est la vie. :)

  • Thomas

    Just received the book today, just think the dedication was kind of cute. “For Sean, the sine to my cosine.”

    Thank you for the book, Jennifer. Will enjoy reading it tomorrow.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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