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ESP Biography



MICHAEL SHAW, Grad Student, Physics, Stanford; MIT alum




Major: Physics

College/Employer: Stanford University

Year of Graduation: 2013

Picture of Michael Shaw

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Michael is a former President of the Stanford Educational Studies Program. As an undergraduate, he was the chairman of MIT ESP from 2003 to 2006. He is a member of MIT's class of 2007, with degrees in physics and mathematics. In his spare time, he is now studying for a PhD in physics at Stanford University. His research focuses on the astrophysics of blazars--supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, whose radio jets are created by some of the most massive engines in the universe.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Michael is a life-long educator. While at MIT, he tutored, TAed, and later lectured 8.02 and 8.022 (freshman electromagnetism). Here at Stanford, he TAed freshman Light and Heat, upperclassman Electrodynamics and observational astronomy for non-scientists. He spends countless hours teaching for and later organizing ESP programs on all scales.



Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

H2944: Guesstimation: How to think like a Scientist! in Splash! Spring 2013 (Apr. 13 - 14, 2013)
Have you ever seen someone guess the attendance at a concert, the number of cells in the human body, or the amount of ice cream consumed daily in Boston? Do you worry that you’re not “mathy” enough to do the same? This ability is not inherent talent, or dumb luck: it’s a skill that we’ll learn! Science asks us to look analytically at the world around us—to study complexity in all its wondrous forms. We break down these mysterious problems into simple pieces that we can wrap our heads around; then, put together the jigsaw, and voila: You have done something extra-ordinary. Come ready to think outside the box and to exercise your mind in new ways. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a nationally-ranked mathematician to have fun and flex some new mental muscles!


P2544: On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey into the Abyss in Splash! Fall 2012 (Nov. 03 - 04, 2012)
Back by popular demand! We’re going to dive right into the most massive objects in our universe—billions of times the mass of the sun. (Note: we won’t actually dive into a black hole—it’s hard to get out). When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and what’s left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We’ll tour around a few black holes, study their effect on our daily lives, and of course, the seven ways a black hole can kill you. I’ll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other exotics. We’ll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) Be ready to open your minds, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, and generally to lose yourself in the fun and beauty of the most amazing objects out there in the sky.


L2545: Guesstimation: How to think like a Scientist! in Splash! Fall 2012 (Nov. 03 - 04, 2012)
Have you ever seen someone guess the attendance at a concert, the number of cells in the human body, or the amount of ice cream consumed daily in Boston? Do you worry that you’re not “mathy” enough to do the same? This ability is not inherent talent, or dumb luck: it’s a skill that we’ll learn! Science asks us to look analytically at the world around us—to study complexity in all its wondrous forms. We break down these mysterious problems into simple pieces that we can wrap our heads around; then, put together the jigsaw, and voila: You have done something extra-ordinary. Come ready to think outside the box and to exercise your mind in new ways. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a nationally-ranked mathematician to have fun and flex some new mental muscles!


L2254: Know-it-alls: Tackling Intellectual Elitism in Splash! Spring 2012 (Apr. 21 - 22, 2012)
Excited about college? Can't wait to pursue higher education? Think twice--Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently called President Obama a "snob" for wanting more Americans to attend college. Who knew that "know-it-all" isn't a label you left behind in elementary school? This discussion course will attempt to define intellectual elitism, discuss how it affects a person's reputation, and explore ways to be an intellectual without being labeled an elitist.


P2287: A 45 Minute History of the Universe in Splash! Spring 2012 (Apr. 21 - 22, 2012)
Take a journey to the very origins of time, and learn about the history of the cosmos--from the first light to the galaxies of today. Bring open minds and a curiosity of the world around, and be ready for a whirlwind tour of the skies above.


P1788: On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey into the Abyss in Splash! Fall 2011 (Oct. 29 - 30, 2011)
Back by popular demand! We’re going to dive right into the most massive objects in our universe—billions of times the mass of the sun. (Note: we won’t actually dive into a black hole—it’s hard to get out). When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and what’s left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We’ll tour around a few black holes, study their effect on our daily lives, and of course, the seven ways a black hole can kill you. I’ll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other exotics. We’ll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) Be ready to open your minds, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, and generally to lose yourself in the fun and beauty of the most amazing objects out there in the sky.


P1792: Supernovae and the Expanding Universe in Splash! Fall 2011 (Oct. 29 - 30, 2011)
"When I had satisfied myself that no star of that kind had ever shone before, I was led into such perplexity by the unbelievability of the thing that I began to doubt the faith of my own eyes. " -- T. Brahe. Supernovas are among the most spectacular shows in the heavens. And earlier this month, observations of distant supernovae won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their role as a probe of the expanding universe. These massive explosions help keep the heavens in line, and provide our best constraints on supposedly faster than light neutrinos. Bring your questions and join us for an explosive discourse on what supernovae are, how they explode, and what we can learn from them.


P1546: Science And Society Roundtable in Splash! Spring 2011 (Apr. 16 - 17, 2011)
A discussion of the role of science in society. Should scientists more publicly spread and back up their beliefs about the world? Or should they get back to their labs and focus on what they do best? Is greater scientific literacy important? We will discuss these questions and more. Please come prepared with your questions, your burning desires for answers.


P1547: Nuclear Power in the post Fukushima Daiichi world in Splash! Spring 2011 (Apr. 16 - 17, 2011)
Nuclear power has been an integral, and remarkably safe, energy source around the world for the past half century. The unfolding tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan is emblematic of the great peril of nuclear power--and yet the very rarity of such a disaster speaks to its safety. In this class, we will cover an overview of nuclear power--of how it works, and of the safety mechanisms involved. We will then have an open discussion on the future of nuclear power, and what lessons the recent tragedy has taught us.


S1087: On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey into the Abyss in Splash! Fall 2010 (Nov. 13 - 14, 2010)
Back by popular demand! We’re going to dive right into the most massive objects in our universe—billions of times the mass of the sun. (Note: we won’t actually dive into a black hole—it’s hard to get out). When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and what’s left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We’ll tour around a few black holes, study their effect on our daily lives, and of course, the seven ways a black hole can kill you. I’ll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other exotics. We’ll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) Be ready to open your minds, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, and generally to lose yourself in the fun and beauty of the most amazing objects out there in the sky.


S1156: Time Travel and the Fourth Dimension in Splash! Fall 2010 (Nov. 13 - 14, 2010)
People have been fascinated by the idea of playing with time for generations. Whether in a Tardis or a DeLorean, or perhaps the Starship Enterprise, our culture is inundated by fictional characters who travel through time as we do space. Lets meet in the here and now to discuss the there and then. We'll see how fiction portrays time travel, and what science has to say. Einstein teaches us that time is not so absolute as we might think, and modern physics proposes tantalizingly plausible universes full of higher dimensions, and closed time-like curves. Join us on our quest through time, as we study the future, the past, and paradoxes of all varieties. Go home and tell your friends that you are an expert in temporal mechanics.


S766: Health Care Reform in Splash! Spring 2010 (Apr. 17 - 18, 2010)
For the past year, the US has been embroiled in a debate over health care. We all know that the status quo is unsustainable, as anyone with a pre-existing condition will testify. But there is great consternation over the new legislation, and its impacts on you and me. Join us for a discussion on how the American health care system got into its current state, why effecting change is so difficult, and where we are now, with new legislation finally in place.


S767: Guesstimation: How to think like a Scientist! in Splash! Spring 2010 (Apr. 17 - 18, 2010)
Have you ever seen someone guess the attendance at a concert, the number of cells in the human body, or the amount of ice cream consumed daily in Boston? Do you worry that you’re not “mathy” enough to do the same? This ability is not inherent talent, or dumb luck: it’s a skill that we’ll learn! Science asks us to look analytically at the world around us—to study complexity in all its wondrous forms. We break down these mysterious problems into simple pieces that we can wrap our heads around; then, put together the jigsaw, and voila: You have done something extra-ordinary. Come ready to think outside the box and to exercise your mind in new ways. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a nationally-ranked mathematician to have fun and flex some new mental muscles!


S589: Big Numbers—How to think like a scientist in Splash! Fall 2009 (Oct. 10 - 11, 2009)
Is a trillion larger than ten billion? A question so obvious and yet complex. In our daily lives, we rarely deal with numbers that large, and our minds aren’t tuned to understand them. Thinking about big numbers is incredibly important in science—where we must consider $$6.02\cdot10^23$$ little atoms flying around right here on Earth, or the $$10^40$$ kilograms in the biggest black holes known to man. But big numbers are also important in the real world—to understand just what a trillion dollar health plan means, or whether playing the lottery is ever a good deal. You’ll learn how to think outside the box about the large and the small, using techniques developed in the scientific community, and at Harvard Law School. Expect to come out with a new perspective on just how big a trillion is, and just how improbable some events can be.


S238: On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey in Splash! Spring 2009 (Apr. 04 - 05, 2009)
We're going to dive right in to the most massive objects in our universe--billions of times the mass of the sun. When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and whats left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We'll tour around a few black holes, and study their effect on our daily lives. I'll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other exotics, and we'll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) While I don't list any pre-requisites, we hope to go through the material with deliberate haste--come prepared to think deeply on the subject.


S411: On the Foundations of Long Term Growth in Splash! Spring 2009 (Apr. 04 - 05, 2009)
The recent financial meltdown has shocked our confidence in market-based long term growth. The need for maximizing quarterly growth figures does not, necessarily, lead to long term growth for the whole economy. In his recent address to Congress, the President has suggested that long-term challenges are best addressed by a concerted effort--led by the government. We will discuss the relationship between short term (ie: ~annual) profit and long term growth; the role of sustainable development, of infrastructure, and of science, and how our nation, and the world, can best ensure that the next generation inherits a better world than that which we live in today. I expect active participation of each and every student. Come prepared to think, to learn, to open your mind, and to help open mine.


S113: On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey in Splash! Fall 2008 (Oct. 18, 2008)
We’re going to dive right in to the most massive objects in our universe—billions of times the mass of the sun. (Note: we won’t actually dive into a black hole—its hard to get out). When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and whats left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We’ll tour around a few black holes, study their effect on our daily lives, and of course, the seven ways a black hole can kill you. I’ll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other extoics, and we’ll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) Be ready to open your minds, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, and generally to lose yourself in the fun and beauty of the most amazing objects out there in the sky.


S188: The Election in Splash! Fall 2008 (Oct. 18, 2008)
11/4/2008. The implications are mind-boggling. We will elect the first woman to the vice presidency or the first African-American to the presidency. And, thats not even the big story this year. Between an economy teetering on another depression, an international community rapidly losing faith in American supremacy, and an American people more polarized than ever, stakes have rarely been higher than this year. And yet, for the first time in generations, the youth vote is beginning to pick up. Between excitement on the left for Obama, and on the right for Palin, more young people have registered to vote this year than in any previous election. Our generation has become tuned in to politics as never before. Come join your peers for an hour of active discussion on the issues of the day. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are all invited.


On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon: A Journey in SPLASH (2008)
We're going to dive right in to the most massive objects in our universe--billions of times the mass of the ...