Built on Facts

Physics. Also maybe computer games!

News from around the world of physics:

Near and dear to my heart is any clever experiment involving lasers. And via Swans on Tea, this one’s a doozy. It’s paddleball, but instead of a rubber ball you have a single atom. And instead of a paddle you have a beam of laser pulses. No string, so it’s an extra challenge. Of all the esoteric ways people have devised to measure g, I think this one is the best.

Over at Uncertain Principles, Chad discusses science writing. Lots of it isn’t very good, but he gives some excellent examples of the cream of the crop. Very, very far down my list of things to do eventually is write a book. I think Chad’s advice is very good – stick to the science, and don’t get too carried away with narrative. Sure Einstein had an interesting life, but aren’t the amazing things he discovered the reason we care about his life in the first place?

For the mathematically inclined, Arcsecond has a great three part (so far!) series about complex exponentiation without reference to calculus. He’s a brave guy, and he’s approaching it in a number of clever ways. It’s by approaching old problems from new perspectives that a lot of advances are made. They used to say the prime number theorem couldn’t be proved with elementary methods (well, for a professional mathematician’s definition of “elementary”), but lo and behold it was done.

Dirac Sea writes a post I’d love to have written on order of magnitude and unit calculations. It is grade-A+ conceptual material, and gives a lot of insight into one of the most important skills a scientist can have.

Also, any readers out there with a Steam account? It occurs to me that our demographic profile probably plays a decent number of computer games. I myself have a soft spot for games like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. If there’s interest, I might create a ScienceBlogs or Built on Facts group. No, this has nothing to do with science. But Seed (who runs SB) is the magazine of science and culture, and I’m pretty sure computer games are culture.

So there’s some very good ways to pass the weekend time. See you tomorrow for Sunday Function!


  1. #1 Max Fagin
    February 14, 2009

    I’m not much of a gamer, but is anyone else here on SecondLife?

  2. #2 rhett
    February 14, 2009

    You mention Chad at Uncertain Principles, but the link goes to Swansont

  3. #3 Matt Springer
    February 14, 2009

    Fixed. Thanks!

  4. #4 Braxton Thomason
    February 14, 2009

    Matt, I play l4d and tf2 (not much tf2 these days). I’d be up for playing a bit.

  5. #5 dreikin
    February 14, 2009

    Mostly Counter-Strike when I play, but I could try the others..
    WoW otherwise. Maybe our own guild if enough of us? (would we all have to take engineering as a profession [in game]? 😉 )

  6. #6 foole
    February 14, 2009

    I have a Steam account and would be up for playing (I have Counter-Strike and Half-Life 2). I have to warn that I am mostly a target: I tried playing multiplayer for the first time in years at the beginning of this year and got totally stomped (hrm, maybe I’m too old to be a gamer now?)

  7. #7 Merle
    February 15, 2009

    I do indeed have a Steam account! I do not have Left4Dead as of yet, but I hop on TF2 now and again.

  8. #8 Pocket Nerd
    February 18, 2009

    I have a Steam account, and the name is the same as the one I use here: Pocket Nerd. (It might be Pocket.Nerd or PocketNerd, I forget the exact rules regarding Steam names.)

    I’m also a fan of L4D, and I know at least one other really fun player, so if you need two more survivors for a game, drop me a line. And I think a ScienceBlogs group on Steam would rock like unto nothing that hath rocked before.

    Besides Steam, I also have a subscription to World of Warcraft (which I don’t play much, but my girlfriend loves it), City of Heroes (which I do play a lot of, when I can, but lately I haven’t had time) and EVE Online (ditto).

  9. #9 opony
    February 23, 2009

    See You in GTA4 multiplayer games.You can be what You want to be:)

  10. #10 ball valves
    March 27, 2011

    The unveiling truth about this post is, that it spoke to me deeply. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

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