Readers will have picked up that I’m a little fanatical about hiking. Going to the gym would probably be the most efficient way to stay in shape, but there’s a problem — I dislike exercising in a gym. Going beyond odd personal preferences, I consider hiking time to be one of the most important parts of my work day: it’s a great time to go over ideas and make decisions about research directions without being distracted by anything other than the occasional rattlesnake. So I was interested to read this NYT article (PDF here) about researchers who believe that getting away from distractions may have quantifiable benefits. Among them is Dave Strayer, one of my wife’s colleagues who is best known for his result that driving while talking on a cell phone is about as bad a driving drunk. This looks like a fun research direction, and it should come as no surprise that a professor from the U of Utah is involved — SLC has perhaps best access to outdoor activities of any major metropolitan area in the USA. With any luck, in ten years, “advice for assistant professors” will commonly include something about getting outside every day and being totally out of contact for a few weeks each year.