All posts by Philip Yaffe

Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA's daily student newspaper. He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974. He is author of 14 books, which can be found easily in Amazon Kindle.
fake mustache, nose and eyeglasses on a blue surface

The Funny Side of Science

Some people have the strange idea that science is too straight-laced to be funny. These people are not scientists. True scientists love to tell jokes about themselves. To prove the point (scientists are always trying to prove a point), here is a collection of examples. Continue reading

Students suffer from scientific illiteracy.

Can Mankind Survive Scientific Illiteracy?

The United Kingdom was recently rocked by a furious controversy about the teaching of mathematics. Parents were enraged by a problem set in a national exam to assess the mathematical skills of 6-7 year-old children. Their complaint was the problem was just too hard for any child of this age to solve.

To me, this wasn’t the shocking part of the controversy. The real shock was that many of the parents complained that even they had difficulty Continue reading

Instead of thinking (either consciously or unconsciously) of the world as constrained by immutable scientific laws, we would be better off thinking of it as a place we can reshape by speaking the language of science differently.

Language Lessons from a Steam-powered Light Bulb

People who make a career in science, computers or otherwise, generally do so because they are naturally drawn to it. They find science fascinating and entertaining, and thus are usually very good at it.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it means they will spend most of their life doing essentially what they want to do; not everyone is so lucky. It is a curse because their instinctive understanding of science may cover up unsuspected misunderstandings, making it difficult to explain to others what they are doing and why it is important. Worse, these unsuspected misunderstandings may make certain aspects of the science to which they are naturally drawn less than pleasant, rendering them more of a burden than a pleasure. Continue reading

Coding

What Can Paragons of Literature Teach Us about Writing Better Computer Programs?

Playwright and raconteur George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said, “The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” This is true both for writing a text or giving a speech. Why? Largely because while grappling with mechanics of writing, we all too often lose sight of another important insight into effective communication enunciated by novelist and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.” Continue reading