Built on Facts

Archives for September, 2008

Some Experimental Mathematics!

In physics, you come up with an idea, formulate it mathematically, find the theory’s predictions about the real world, and test those predictions by experiment. This works because God is subtle, but not malicious (to borrow Einstein’s words). In more concrete language, the laws of physics fit well together and make sense as a coherent,…

Failout.

Update: I seriously feel guilty for writing politics in a physics blog. I personally sometimes get annoyed at reading politics on other non-political blogs, and I imagine you do too. That’s why I happily encourage you not to read anything I write tagged with politics unless you like that sort of thing. The election’s only…

#7 – Erwin Schrodinger Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics! Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics! That’s the first couple of lines of Cecil Adams’ brilliant epic poem about Schrodinger’s cat. Why does Schrodinger deserve an epic poem? Because he’s the 7th greatest physicist, that’s why. Schrodinger was born in Austria in 1877. Looking back we…

Sunday Function

Due to some homework which is taking longer than anticipated, today’s Sunday Function will have to be a bit quick. It’s no less interesting for that. Define a function Q(n) on the natural numbers, such that Q(n) = 1 for a prime number and Q(n) = 0 for a composite number. In other words, it’s…

Randomness for the Weekend

The debate? Didn’t watch it. I’m keeping my “not watching the debates this year” record spotless. Not because I don’t want to keep myself informed but because modern TV debate formats don’t let anyone do anything but go for the best soundbites, zingers, and gotchas. That said I’ll probably read the transcript, but I can’t…

Lack of Regulation, and the Crisis

Mean-spirited reactionary politics below the fold. If you’re a kind-hearted liberal here for the physics, you might want to skip this post, have a nice tea instead, and calmly meditate on Obama’s recent rise in the polls.

Science, PR, and Human Nature

The Terminator? Which headline do you think would sell more papers? INTELLIGENT ROBOTS KILL 20,000, NO SIGN OF STOPPING or AUTO FATALITIES DECLINE 50% In a nutshell, this is the PR problem of technology. Technological progress is taken for granted, and technological problems are trumpeted to the skies. In this case, I’m pessimistic about the…

Falling Rock, Part… Something

We’re holding a rock, and we drop it. What happens? There’s lots of methods for treating this problem. We’ve done it with Newton’s laws of force, and we’ve done that in more than one way. We’ve done the Lagrangian formulation in terms of minimizing the classical action. I don’t think we’ve done the quantum mechanical…

Greatest Physicists #8 – Paul Dirac

#8 – Paul Dirac Dirac was a physicist of incredible brilliance even by the standards of the great physicists. You can’t turn a corner in quantum physics without bumping into something he discovered. Solve the ubiquitous and vitally important quantum harmonic oscillator problem using the wave equation method and you’ll get a complicated and not…

Hey, I just wanted to draw some attention to this great post of Chad’s about femtosecond lasers and laser bandwidth in physics and chemistry. Those lasers are near and dear to my heart, as they’re one of the main focuses of my research group. And just so you have some original content, here’s the Crazy…