Has anyone checked out ScienceBlogs’ new election site, A Vote for Science? It’s nominally about science issues in the presidential and congressional elections, but of course in practice it’s a pretty standard near-self-parody of the ultraviolet end of the political spectrum. Well, I’ve got an account there as well. Haven’t used it yet, but I think I probably will at some point. My own nutty borderline minarchist politics will be decidedly in the minority, but it’s no fun if everyone agrees with you anyway.
Moving on, a couple of links. Here is Dr. Frank Close of Oxford University discussing the much discussed (and deservedly so) LHC. It’s a good essay, but he says this which I think is unintentionally funny:
As the 21st century begins, physics can explain almost all of the fundamental phenomena revealed in the search for our origins, yet there are niggling loose ends. We see hints of a unified theory vaguely in the shadows, but what it is and how the structures that led to the particles and forces that molded us are still perceived only vaguely.
Loose ends, eh? I believe this has been said once or twice in physics before. Usually it’s right before some colossal revolution upends our understand and reveals that the well-charted island we lived on is merely the tip of a much vaster peninsula. Will the collider experiments being conducted allow us to wrap physics up with a Theory of Everything? Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it. History is strongly against it.
Via Swans on Tea, we have Assume a Spherical Physicist from the excellent blog The First Excited State. There’s an exploration of several approximations, including how N + 1 = N is for all purposes true in percentage terms for very large N. But how about this one, mentioned in my undergrad thermodynamics textbook (Schroeder, if you’re curious)?
1023N = N
You don’t believe me, but it’s in some respects true for very large N. Look:
Yeah, the approximation is inaccurate by a factor of Avogadro’s number. But in lots of thermodynamics calculations that’s a trivial error.
Here’s a really interesting post from Dot Physics analyzing some physics from a video game. Why so interesting? Not just for the physics but also for the metaphysics. In a way analyzing the physics of a game is like trying to discover the laws of nature in and entirely different universe with entirely different rules.
Have a great weekend!