Tag: Physics

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In a recent issue of National Review, Jack Fowler wrote a charming article about Thomas Aquinas College in upstate New York. It begins with his account of attending an early morning philosophy class discussing Aristotle on the nature of time. Naturally, I had to read Aristotle for myself, and think about what I might have […]

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Answering Cosmic Questions

 

Where did the universe come from? How does it work? When did it begin and when and how will it end? People have asked variations on these questions since people started asking questions.

“Where Did the Universe Come From? And Other Cosmic Questions,” by Chris Ferrie and Geraint F. Lewis examines those questions. They also show how the answers have changed over the last 50 years.

The pair looks at the biggest thing in existence, the universe itself. They also examine the smallest things, including subatomic particles. They explain how the largest and smallest things in the universe are interrelated and affect each other. They do so in language a layperson can understand.

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I believe these lectures should be regarded as a Great Book, alongside the likes of Edward Gibbon and Adam Smith. It seems preposterous that these lectures should have been intended for Cal Tech freshman, but standards were higher in the 60s. In any event, Feynman himself regarded them as a failure in that regard. This […]

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Physics Exam from a Parallel Universe

 

I was recently driving my classic restored DeLorean, when (due to circumstances too complex to describe, but it did involve a skateboard) I came upon a fragment of a physics exam from a parallel universe. Perhaps some of you stumbled upon the other questions.

Physics Exam from a Parallel Universe

Science in Crisis

 

I have an uneasy feeling about how things are going.

Years ago I was involved in clinical studies that examined the effectiveness of treatments for acute stroke. I participated in four of these. Each one took years and enrolled thousands of patients. We were one of hundreds of centers worldwide that did this work. All in all dozens of different medications for the treatment of acute stroke were tested. The idea was that people who had a stroke would receive one of these medications, and this would reduce the disability the stroke caused. They were supposed to work in various ways — reducing toxicity, reducing inflammation, inhibiting oxidation, etc. — all of them having been tested in labs and found to work in tissue cultures and animals prior to being tried in patients. At the end of it, not a single one of these medications worked when they were tried on human beings.

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Talking to an agnostic/atheist friend the other day who studies physics a little bit or at least used to. He explained to me that he’s becoming increasingly convinced that we are living in a simulated universe. To which I responded, “Great!” He seemed perplexed by my reaction. When I asked him why, he responded that […]

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The Emperor’s New Mind

 

Mathematical truth is not a horrendously complicated dogma whose validity is beyond our comprehension. -Sir Rodger Penrose

The Emperor’s New Mind is Sir Roger Penrose’s argument that you can’t get a true AI by merely piling silicon atop silicon. To explain why he needs a whole book in which he summarizes most math and all physics. Even for a geek like me, someone who’s got the time on his hands and a fascination with these things it gets a bit thick. While delving into the vagaries of light cones or the formalism of Hilbert space in quantum mechanics it’s easy to wonder “wait, what does this have to do with your main argument?” Penrose has to posit new physics in order to support his ideas, and he can’t explain those ideas unless you the reader have a sufficient grasp of how the old physics works. Makes for a frustrating read though.

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Pulse oximetry works on the principle that oxygen levels in the blood can affect the transmission of light through the tissue. It is also known that skin color also impacts the transmission of light. Forty years ago (when I worked on early university development of oximetry technology), it was common practice to calibrate the oximetry […]

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Fascinating video regarding the future of the earth, our solar system and the entire universe. Seven billion years from now, as the sun undergoes super expansion, the earth will be consumed.Or so it is explained in this video that compresses the major happenings from 2019 to the End of Time into a quick 30 minutes. […]

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Einstein, Ether Strings, and Millikan on the Electron

 

In the early years of the last century, R.A. Millikan measured the charge of the electron. He was one of the greatest experimentalists to ever live, not only isolating and measuring something so incredibly small but doing other important work with things like cosmic rays. As such, when I saw he had a book, named The Electron, I figured he ought to know a thing or two about the subject. He did; it’s a complete, informative, and up-to-date book, so long as that date occurs within World War I.

The book has been eye-opening, not because of the new physics, but because of all the outmoded and discarded theories that he mentions and dismisses on the way. What if electrons didn’t have a fixed charge, but a statistical distribution that averaged out to what we think of as a fixed charge? This was a viable theory until Millikan disproved it looking at his oil droplets. What really got me though was when he spent his last chapter describing wave-particle duality. Only there was no such thing when he wrote the book. At that point all modern physics had was a real head-scratcher of a problem. Sample quote:

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review ‘How to Find a Higgs Boson’ is a big look into […]

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Work is not just a paycheck retrieval system or hippie repellent.  There is actually a specific definition of work in physics, but we need to start before that. Force is not female, it is the push or pull on an object.  Gravity pulls you into your chair, toward the Earth, while the chair presses your […]

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How Falling Cats, Physics, Science Relate to One Another

 

A cat always lands on its feet. Generations of young (and not so young) boys have conducted experiments testing this. These reveal while not universally true, this saying proves generally so. The question is why?

“Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics” by Gregory J. Gbur, answers the question. He blends whimsy, the history of technology, the development of physics and cat curiosities to explain why cats land on their feet.

The ultimate solution to what appears to be a trivial problem takes Gbur and his readers on a trip rambling through apparently disconnected items: how a horse gallops, the development of photography, the Foucault pendulum, relativity, space travel, figure skating, skyscrapers, why warm water freezes quicker than cold water, and robotics.

Quote of the Day: Science

 

“All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” – Ernest Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford was a physicist. (You could tell, couldn’t you?) Yet he hits on one essential truth with this quote: the more rigorous and replicable experiments in a field of science are, the more reliable the results. With physics, mathematics provides the rigor, and if an experiment is not replicable, there better be a really good reason — some reason that when factored in makes the result replicable. Stamp collecting is Rutherfords’s shorthand for ordering and collecting, which is about all you can do absent mathematics and rigorous analysis.

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Listen, I’m going to be straight with you. This one is mostly for my fun. I mean, they’re all up largely because I like to hear the sound of my own voice. But this one, this one is a bit superfluous. This is the quantum mechanical explanation for how semiconductors work. I’ve already described the […]

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I am an armchair physicist, meaning that when inertia and a good group of books about new physics material take over me, inertia captures my body, while science captures my mind. Now there are worries that the constant clamor for equations to explain such modern physics dilemmas as string theory or the “multi verse” are […]

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Quote of the Day: Richard Feynman

 

“We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.” — Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, well known for his role on the Presidential commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The above quote came from his 1985 book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and was based on his 1974 Caltech commencement address. He was a strong advocate of scientific integrity that corresponds to utter honesty — test and retest your data and eliminate any other explanations. Note his disdain above to “cargo cult” science, which plagues us today with “Climate Change” and other such theories.

While at the university contemplating a degree in physics, I learned aspects of the Feynman diagram. Later, I saw the 1989 PBS Nova special “The Last Journey of a Genius,” which showed him being a bongo-playing scientist, adventurer, safecracker, and yarn-spinner. While dying of cancer, his last request was to visit Tuva, a part of Russia, located in the middle of Asia. Tuva was best known for its colorful postage stamps and for Throat Singing. For Feynman, it was the ultimate challenge to get there during the Cold War, but he died the day before being granted permission. His daughter visited Tuva in 2009.

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Some non-physicts I know are excited by this graphene energy story. It seems to propose the possibility of perpetual subatomic friction of graphite-based materials which could endlessly supply energy and perhaps be scaled to suit a variety of applications. Is that correct?  It sounds too good to be true, so it probably is. Over the […]

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The communications arm of the world’s high energy physics laboratories Interactions.org declared October 31, 2017 International Dark Matter Day, meant to spur outreach efforts by researchers in the field. The interested can see more about this and other outreach efforts here: https://www.interactions.org I organized an event at my institution, Indiana University South Bend, which had three […]

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for Tuesday, October 4, 2016. It’s the Hillary Heads for Home edition. We are former congressional candidate and nano-physicist Mike Stopa and radio talk host and newspaper editor Todd Feinburg, and this week we analyze

  1. the disastrous week that Donald Trump has inflicted on his campaign since the debate of last Monday night.
  2. Then we interview John Derbyshire, a longtime conservative writer whose hardline work currently appears at alt-right site VDare.com. We talk to John about the Trump candidacy. He explains why he’s voting for Trump even though he doesn’t necessarily support Trump.

We’ll also have our Shower Thoughts, and our Hidden Gem comes from folk-singer Stan Rogers and his song about (what else) a boat called The MaryEllen Carter.