Built on Facts

Archives for May, 2009

Light waves, clarified

Transverse or longitudinal waves, purely as a matter of aesthetic preference? Transverse all the way, of course. Not that there’s a huge difference mathematically speaking. It’s more of a species-type categorization than a rigorously formal one. Transverse waves oscillate perpendicular to their direction of motion, longitudinal waves oscillate parallel. This stuff does however give me…

In some ways, a crowd at a stadium has two possible overall states. They can be a normal crowd, or they can do the wave. But first, some background: A gas isn’t usually too hard to model at the statistical level. Treat is as a large collection of free particles and you’re pretty much set.…

Physics in Star Trek

I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. But given the subculture of nerdery in which I’ve been proud to spend much of my life, I’ve managed to pick up a fairly tremendous amount of the lore by osmosis. I’ve seen a pretty good percentage of the original series as well as the two…

Sunday Trekction

I’m out of town, visiting family and friends in the period between the end of the summer and the time things get cranking back up later this summer. One thing I did do on Friday was catch the new Star Trek. I’ll save the review and “physics of” posts for later this week. I’ll be…

The Dismal Science?

Somewhat apropos of yesterday’s entry in the perennial “what’s science?” discussion comes this graph from Innocent Bystanders. The graph is originally from a report put out in January by the government’s Council of Economic Advisers and the (then) Office of the Vice President-Elect, projecting the level of unemployment with and without the proposed stimulus. The…

If you’re reading this the morning it’s published, there’s a good chance that right at this very second I am sitting with pen in hand doing battle with a statistical mechanics final. Topics: fermions at zero and low temperature, virial expansion of the equation of state, critical constants and critical exponents of a Van der…

Physics, Tolkien, and the Bomb

The little picture of me in the left sidebar was taken on the northeast shore of Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita two summers ago. It’s a beautiful place where you can experience nature in a peaceful and quiet way. There were several of us who went, and one of them gave me a book of his that…

Sunday Function

Let’s do two functions today. As sometimes happens, in this case we’re not so interested in the functions themselves as the fact that these functions happen to be part of a general class of functions. Just as we can classify the real numbers as even, odd, or neither (numbers like pi, 1/2, and the rest…

Cool Science Elsewhere

You know what I’ve been delinquent in? Posting about some of the other blogs out there that I take for granted as being great, because they are. A random sampling of good stuff: Swans on Tea discussing entanglement in the popular press. Chad Orzel on the physics of Rumpelstiltskin. Dirac Sea on the fine art…

Most Likely to Seceed

A while back, Texas governor Rick Perry made the news for the following comment: We got a great Union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that. All things considered it’s a very mild…