A trip down memory lane this week led me to the topic of this post. In exchanging emails with a fellow alumnus, I mentioned the book A Canticle for Leibowitz1 which we read in a freshman English class. He remembered the professor’s name. That led to an exploration of my file cabinets and the class… Continue reading Two cultures redux
Imagine a survey where you ask “How old is the universe?” as a multiple choice question: 1,000’s of years 100,000’s of years Millions of years Billions of years Other _______________ What would you expect as a result? Quite a mix? Well, among scientists this question is essentially settled, as indicated in some Space.com articles. “How… Continue reading Age of universe — implications?
This Space.com article “Solar Eclipse Science Helps Prove Einstein’s Relativity Theory in Nat Geo’s ‘Genius’” published on May 30, 2017, reminded me of the connection between the study of solar eclipses and Einstein’s theory of general relativity. While the U.S. prepares for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse coming on Aug. 21, National Geographic’s “Genius” recounts… Continue reading Solar eclipse and relativity — there is no Vulcan
While studying physics this past year, I noticed tension between theoretical and experimental physicists, especially between younger quantum field theoreticians and veteran particle physicists — regarding deep reality and the various formulations of quantum mechanics (addressed in another post). Revisiting some archived debates, this philosophical question (“Is reality digital or analog?”) was posed in an essay… Continue reading Is reality digital or analog?
In a May 5, 2017, article Space.com‘s Spaceman1 discusses why there’s much ado about the Higgs boson. Let’s be perfectly honest. The Higgs boson and its role in the universe are not the easiest things to explain. It doesn’t help that the Higgs has the horrible nickname of “the God Particle” and is often described as being… Continue reading Not so deific particle
In reading Louisa Gilder’s book The Age of Entanglement, I was reminded of Bohr’s correspondence principle1 (originally analogy principle and also referred to as “Bohr’s magic wand”). I hadn’t thought about it much lately. Other than a few times in Lederman’s book Quantum Physics for Poets, the term wasn’t referenced in the other physics books… Continue reading Correspondence principle RIP
Fermilab has an amazing presence on the Web. One of their sites is Fermilab at work. There’s a YouTube channel as well. There’s a splendid 10.5 minute video by Dr. Don Lincoln on “Why is the Weak Force weak?” Excellent graphics (including Feynman diagrams) and well presented. Published on Apr 14, 2017 The subatomic world… Continue reading Why is the Weak Force weak?
In the chapter “Beyond this horizon,” Sean Carroll discusses two related problems involving properties of empty space. Before discussing the vacuum energy problem, he profiles the so-called hierarchy problem in the cosmic energy scale. It’s about the effects of virtual particles. The energy scale that characterizes the weak interactions (the Higgs field value, 246 GeV)… Continue reading Sisyphean hierarchy
In previous posts, I’ve discussed how important nature’s symmetries are to modern physics. So critical, in fact, that Nobel laureate PW Anderson wrote in his widely read 1972 article More is Different that “it is only slightly overstating the case to say that physics is the study of symmetry.” “It is increasingly clear that the… Continue reading Symmetry → conservation laws
A theoretical physicist walks into a bar. The bartender says, “What can I get you?” The physicist says, “Nothing.” The bartender gives the physicist an empty glass. The physicist says, “Thanks, that’s plenty!” Physicists take emptiness quite seriously. So-called empty space is an important area of study and research. The future of the cosmos, eh.… Continue reading Empty dumpty