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Communicating what physics says — The Science Asylum

Today’s post is somewhat different than usual. I’m highlighting a YouTube channel.

Communicating science to a general audience has a long history. The bibliography for my physics blog contains some books by authors to this purpose. Modern physics has many great stories, and the just plain strangeness of quantum physics lends itself to great storytelling. I’m particularly interested in efforts using visualization (which includes dramatization) to communicate what physics says.

The Online Video section of my physics blog contains examples of lectures and visualizations. Most of these presentations are by well-published “rock stars” or scientists at universities and research facilities. Examples are:

Fermilab –  Don Lincoln

• Union College – Chad Orzel

• Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

NASA Goddard‘s YouTube channel

• IQIM Caltech‘s YouTube channel

• Quanta Magazine’s YouTube channel

PBS Space Time’s YouTube channel

And then there are small teams or “lone rangers” with a passion for explaining what physics says, whether they have any formal title such as visualization scientist or science communicator. Desktop visualization tools permit them to include animation which used to require a CGI budget like that of a major film production.

Which gets me to Nick Lucid’s The Science Asylum YouTube channel [also here].

At the Science Asylum, we present anything related to science from the point of view of Nick Lucid… a physicist already driven a little crazy by science.

Here’s Nick’s Trailer for his YouTube channel:

What is the Science Asylum? A educational channel run by a crazy scientist with the assistance of a bunch of his clones. Here’s a sample of the madness.

And there’s a Web site:

The impetus for this post was three YouTube videos by The Science Asylum which I watched recently. These videos cover some favorite topics and questions for which visualization (especially in those books in my bibliography) remains quite limited.

What is a Quantum Field?!?

Published on Jan 3, 2018. You might hear a lot of physicists talk about how quantum fields govern the microscopic world of elementary particles like electrons, photons, and quarks. How exactly do they do that and what is this quantum field thing anyway?

Why Doesn’t Light Have Mass?

Published on Oct 23, 2016. Of all the things we can actually see (directly), we say light is the only one that doesn’t have mass. Is this true? How is this possible if it has energy? 1

Mass? Energy? What’s The Difference?!

Published on Jul 10, 2014. In 1905, Einstein came up with his famous equation showing a relationship between energy and mass… but what does it really mean?  The answer might surprise you.

I included Nick’s “What is Quantum Spin?” in my “Quantum spin — angular what?” post.

The Science Asylum raises money via Patreon. With enough support, Nick says:

I can quit my other jobs and do the Science Asylum full-time …which would be HUGE! Without those other distractions, the quality (and possibly quantity) of the videos would drastically increase. That’s just awesome for everyone.


[1] Regarding a photon’s mass/energy/inertia, you can’t “push” a photon, eh.


Update [1-12-2018]: Here’s a screenshot of Nick’s Science Asylum Rules from his YouTube video “Is Math the Language of the Universe?” (published 12-31-2016).


Additional Science Asylum videos

• “What the HECK is Energy?” (published Aug 28, 2018)

Just about every scientific discipline talks about energy. There are many different types: potential, kinetic, thermal, chemical, and even nuclear. It’s behavior has consequences that affect the very nature of matter and space-time itself, so what is it exactly?
Screenshot of energy tree

One thought on “Communicating what physics says — The Science Asylum

  1. More YouTube videos from science communicator Nick Lucid > The Science Asylum.

    Quantum Wave Functions: What’s Actually Waving? (Sep 27, 2019) – The most mysterious aspect of quantum mechanics is the wave function. What does it have to do with probability and statistics? Let’s find out.

    The Quantum Experiment that ALMOST broke Locality (Oct 12, 2019) – Electric and magnetic fields were considered the end-all-be-all of electromagnetism. However, in 1959, two physicists (Aharonov and Bohm) proposed a quantum mechanical experiment that shows electric and magnetic potentials are actually more real.

    What the HECK is a Tensor?!? (Jan 15, 2020) – The term “tensor” is often misunderstood. Let’s figure out what they are through vector examples like velocity, angular momentum, the stress tensor, and the electromagnetic tensor.

    The Sun can’t work without Quantum Tunneling (Feb 24, 2020) – The Sun’s core is 15 million °C (27 million °F), which is hot enough to turn gas into a plasma. But thermodynamics isn’t enough to explain nuclear fusion at those temperatures. It needs quantum tunneling!

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