Yesterday, Columbia professor Brian Greene was on Colbert’s show to talk about gravitational waves. Greene gives some nice explanations for laymen (with graphics!) about gravitational waves in general and about LIGO. He even brings out a Michelson interferometer to demonstrate how the LIGO setup works (though not with gravitational waves). Since Greene is a theorist, I would assume that someone else had to set up the interferometer for it to actually show some sensible results. You can find the video on Youtube here.
It was reported a few days ago that in order to resolve the so-called “Deflategate” controversy, the NFL’s investigators have been trying to enlist the support of physicists. The investigators apparently started asking the Columbia physics department for some help in figuring out whether or not the Patriots intentionally under-inflated some footballs at the AFC championship game.
While I applaud any news putting physics in a positive light (and it’s hard not to look good when compared to the NFL), I can’t help but be puzzled by this story. Surely it would be much easier just to buy a bunch of footballs and test them under similar conditions to the game. You don’t need to come up with a theoretical model of what happened when you can just replicate the conditions that you’re trying to investigate.
In sad news, Charles Townes died on Tuesday. Townes is one of the people credited for helping invent the laser, without which many important pieces of technology could not exist. He helped build the first maser (the microwave equivalent of the laser) at Columbia in the 50s and was awarded the Nobel Prize along with two others in 1964. He also spent some time serving as provost of MIT.
Over the weekend, the Colorado men’s cross country team won the NCAA Division I championship for the second straight year. The race was a 10k course in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Colorado team ended up with 65 points although the top two runners were both from Oregon, with the best finishing with a time of 30:19. Stanford came in second with 98 points. The northeastern region sent an all-Ivy set of individual qualifiers with two from Columbia and one each from Harvard and Yale. The Colorado women’s team also did quite well, ending up at #7 out of 31 qualifying teams. For some reason, the women’s course is only 6k instead of using the same 10k as in the men’s race.
While MIT is now past the first round of the D-III tournament, to no one’s surprise, Columbia football has now lost it’s 21st game in a row and has no wins in the last two years. One more game and they’ll be halfway to tying their epic 44-game losing streak in the mid-80s. As with nearly every other game in the past few years, the team lost in a blowout, this time to Brown.
In stark contrast to Columbia’s historically awful last couple seasons, MIT football is undefeated in regular season play and now in the NCAA Division III tournament. Their first round game is going on right now. This is not a joke. MIT really does have a football team and really is undefeated.
MIT plays in the New England Football Conference and in NEWMAC for most other sports. Going undefeated is quite the feat for MIT. Division III, if you don’t know, does not allow for athletic scholarships unlike Divisions I and II. The Ivy League is Division I but operates under rules similar to Division III due to a special rule in the D-I membership guidelines, with no scholarships and major recruiting restrictions (as well as very limited academic support for athletes compared to the rest of D-I). Even Columbia would probably beat nearly any D-III school at football or basketball but wouldn’t be expected to be competitive with anyone in D-I outside the Ivy League and maybe the Patriot League.
MIT actually won their first round game to reach the round of 8.
Even NPR takes a swipe at Columbia football.
Continuing some coverage of Columbia football, even the Wall Street Journal is weighing in now.
The Washington Post now has a short article on Columbia’s losing streak, which is now up to 20 games. It goes over the general context of both Ivy and Columbia football. Note that this isn’t Columbia’s worst losing streak. That happened in the mid-1980s and reached 44 games, which has only been surpassed by Prairie View A&M. Some people who were around then claim that the team actually looks worse than it did during the 80s. Right now, it looks like they’ll go 0-10 for the second year in a row unless they manage a huge upset against Brown next week. Brown isn’t even that good but any win is a huge upset at this point. The best chance of breaking this streak might be to start scheduling only the worst teams for the 3 non-conference games. At least when I was there, the team would be competitive in most games even if it rarely won in the end.
The FiveThirtyEight blog, which has now moved to ESPN from the New York Times, has a post where people actually write about Ivy football. Unfortunately, it’s not positive.
Today is the day where last place in the Ivy League will be decided, with Cornell coming to Inwood to play Columbia at Baker Field. Columbia, as usual, is having a terrible season and might just be the worst team in all of Division I (although the Ivies operate using something more like Division III rules they are actually D-I). Cornell is doing similarly badly this season and both are 0-8 right now. The game has already started, but since Columbia never sells out, there’s plenty of time to take the 1 train up to 215th Street to see some of this years’ worst college football.
Update: It was a hard-fought battle, but Columbia has seized sole control over last place.