Physical Science

Battle of the Nobel Laureates (Synopsis)

When it comes to the very nature of quantum mechanics — about the inherent uncertainty and indeterminism to reality — it’s one of the most difficult things to accept. Perhaps, you imagine, there’s some underlying cause, some hidden reality beneath what’s visible that actually is deterministic. After all, a cat can’t simultaneously be dead and alive until…

The Most Wanted Particle (Synopsis)

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” -Tom Freston Yes, the Universe can be considered the ultimate innovator, taking the fundamental particles and forces of the Universe, and assembling them into the entirety of what we know, interact with and observe today. But what is it…

It’s the simple formula we all know and recognize: inner, rocky worlds closest to the Sun, an asteroid belt farther out, and then gas giant worlds out beyond them. That’s how our Solar System works, at any rate. But what about the other star systems in the Universe? We’ve finally got enough data to determine…

STEM Is Not an Alien Menace

Everybody and their extended families has been sharing around the Fareed Zakaria piece on liberal education. This, as you might imagine, is relevant to my interests. So I wrote up a response over at Forbes. The basic argument of the response is the same thing I’ve been relentlessly flogging around here for a few years:…

When you think about our world and our place in the Solar System, you very likely think about Earth, spinning on its axis, with the Moon orbiting around it, and with the entire Earth-Moon system orbiting the Sun. But did you know that all of it — the Earth spinning on its axis, the Moon revolving around…

“If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.” -Lee Trevino When it comes to lightning, you inevitably think of thunderstorms, rain, and the exchange of huge amounts of charge between the clouds above and the Earth.…

I hinted once or twice that I had news coming, and this is it: I’ve signed up to be a blog contributor at Forbes writing about, well, the sorts of things I usually write about. I’m pretty excited about the chance to connect with a new audience; the fact that they’re paying me doesn’t hurt,…

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” -Jim Valvano It’s been a little too long since I rounded up the best of your comments and doled out the astrophysics knowledge to…

“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” -Alfred A. Montapert You might not think of falling into a black hole as a choice, but in the case of this week’s Ask Ethan, someone is choosing to explore exactly that! Imagine, if you will, taking a solid object that’s completely outside of an…

That’s the title of the talk I gave yesterday at Vanderbilt, and here are the slides: Talking Dogs and Galileian Blogs: Social Media for Communicating Science from Chad Orzel The central idea is the same as in past versions of the talk– stealing Robert Krulwich’s joke contrasting the publication styles of Newton and Galileo to…