By Sean Carroll | March 24, 2011 4:06 pm

Loyal reader Mandeep Gill points out that I wrote “prevarication” when I clearly meant “equivocation” in the consciousness post. It’s now corrected. Very annoying, as I do like to use words to mean what they’re supposed to mean. I think I have a pretty good track record with “begging the question.”

While I have your attention, fellow loyal reader Richard O’Connell points us to a poem relevant to that post: Robert Browning’s Caliban upon Setebos. It begins:

‘Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best,
Flat on his belly in the pit’s much mire,
With elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin.
And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush,
And feels about his spine small eft-things course,
Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh:

There’s a lot more.

Also! Flip Tanedo points out that Brian Hill’s transcription of Sidney Coleman’s lectures on quantum field theory have finally been LaTeXed (pdf). Thanks to Bryan Gin-ge Chen and Ting Yuan Sen for undertaking this thankless task. I took that course a couple years after the notes were made, and every student in the class had a photocopy. Yes, Sidney did gripe a bit that nobody laughed at his jokes any more because they had all read them in the notes.

That’s all I got right now. Just trying to lower the bar so our co-bloggers will be encouraged to contribute more frivolous posts.

  • Mandeep

    Thx Sean – a public acknowledgment of your one-time misusage of a word after a gazillion and a seventh near-perfect (far as i’ve seen) blog posts wasn’t really *necessary* (which is why i just wrote you privately) — but it did make me smile. ;->

    Also, posthumous congrats to Slick Sid on getting his famous (infamous?) notes Texed too — and now they are for posterity.


  • http://www.theeternaluniverse.com/ Joseph Smidt

    I too am excited Sidney Coleman’s lectures have been written up. They should be awesome to look through!

  • Joe

    Ditto for Prof. Coleman’s lectures. I took Physics 253 in 1981-82, and it was the pinnacle of my Physics education (I was an undergrad then, and I do earth sciences now). Learning the CPT theorem was amazing, and then on to spontaneous symmetry breaking! Clarity of thought and presentation, and above all his engaging and humane presence made the difficult (for an undergrad, at least!) course a pleasure to attend.

  • Marc

    Sean et al. What do you think of this Jacob Barnett kid? The next Einstein, yea or nay?

  • http://coraifeartaigh.wordpress.com Cormac

    This is a real find, many thanks to all involved, and many thanks for letting the world know, Sean.
    The pedant in me can’t help making one editorial suggestion; it’s a pity to begin the notes with acroynms like NRQM and LI (no matter how self-evident), if they are truly for undergraduates. One of the advantages of writing up lectures after the event is that there is time to spell out these quantities, at least the first time we meet them…but maybe that’s just me

  • http://coraifeartaigh.wordpress.com Cormac

    Sorry, I’m talking about the Coleman notes of course!

  • Matt

    What? Wait? Equivocate has connotations of deceit. Prevaricate means waffling. Isn’t that more what hamlet did? Dithered? Prevaricated? Am I using a bad dictionary?

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

    Prevarication is really just lying.


    Equivocation can have connotations of deceit, but it’s really more about being vague and unclear.


    You can argue that what I should have said was just “hesitation,” but my brain was certainly reaching for “equivocation” and not quite succeeding.

  • Matt

    Huh. Apparently wiktionary has them backward.

  • Sili

    I think I have a pretty good track record with “begging the question.”

    Really? The recommendation is to just not use the expression.

  • Charon

    “Prevaricate” is defined as “equivocate” in American Heritage – but it’s true that while “equivocate” has two meanings, only one of which is explicitly lying, “prevaricate” really only corresponds to the lying one. Although American Heritage does say the other definition of “equivocate” is to use equivocal language intentionally.

    And begging the question…

    Really? The recommendation is to just not use the expression.

    Amen. In its “proper” usage, let’s just say circular reasoning. Its “improper” everyday usage… actually makes sense, if not from a historical standpoint, at least from an “understanding the words in the phrase” standpoint. It’s a really crappy phrase to convey its “proper” meaning.

  • slw

    Wouldn’t a simple “contemplation” have worked better in that context than either of the alternatives?

  • http://. Joe

    Clarification it was a graduate course (in the above comment — I was just a precocious undergrad when I took it along with a couple of friends, and I had to submit to a year of graduate quantum mechanics to get in to this course)…. Thanks to the person who put these online. But spelling out the acronyms would be a real help.

    Also pay attention to Prof. Coleman’s pedagogical style — the intuitive “physical” derivations are in the reverse order as the axiomatic one! And don;t shy away frmo actually doing calculations once the theory is in place….


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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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