Relativity

Category archives for Relativity

This coming fall term, I’ll be teaching Astronomy 052, “Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars,” because the guy who has traditionally taught it (a radio astronomer who studies active galactic nuclei) has to do other courses instead. But I said “Well, hell, I’ve written a popular audience book explaining relativity. I can teach that.” And since…

Last week’s talks were using sci-fi space travel as a hook to talk about relativity, and my original idea for the talk was to explain how faster-than-light travel ultimately ends up violating causality. Some observers will see effects happening before the events that cause them, and that’s just weird. In How to Teach Relativity to…

Space Travel, Einstein, and GPS

Below you’ll find the slides from my Physics Day presentations at Space Center Houston, embedded via SlideShare. I was doing the TED-style minimal text thing, so they’re probably not all that comprehensible on their own. The event was supposed to have a pop-culture connection, so I decided to use space travel and extrasolar planets as…

SteelyKid Demonstrates Relativity

Before going to the playground Saturday to investigate non-intertial frames, SteelyKid and I went over to campus to do some experiments in relativity. Galileian relativity, that is: What you see here is SteelyKid sitting on a rolling lab cart with a camera bolted to it. She throws a ball up in the air a couple…

Cosmos F*$&ing Loves Science

The fourth episode of the Cosmos reboot aired last night, and as I said on Twitter it was a beautiful demonstration of why I’m finding this show intensely frustrating. There were flashes of brilliance, but also quite a few bits that left me shaking my head. Thus fitting the pattern of the previous episodes– I…

One of the interesting things about the pile of old theses we found in the basement is the opportunity to look at things that nobody believes any more. Past installments of the Old Thesis Club have shown people fumbling toward an understanding of quantum physics via electron scattering and spectroscopy, but in both of those…

Of Controversies and Clocks

A few months back, I got a call from a writer at a physics magazine, asking for comments on a controversy within AMO physics. I read a bunch of papers, and really didn’t quite understand the problem; not so much the issue at stake, but why it was so heated. When I spoke to the…

Last year, Alan Alda posed a challenge to science communicators, to explain a flame in terms that an 11-year old could understand. this drew a lot of responses, and some very good winners. This year’s contest, though still called the “Flame Challenge,” asked for an answer to the question “What Is Time?” This is a…

SCENE: The library at Chateau Steelypips. DADDY is typing on the computer, while THE PIP plays on the floor. Enter STEELYKID. STEELYKID: I’m already four years old. DADDY: Yes, yes you are. THE PIP: Thbbbbbbbpppt! STEELYKID: How old is The Pip? DADDY: Eleven months. Not quite one year. STEELYKID: When The Pip is four, how…

In which we look at a slightly crazy-sounding proposal from my former boss, the experimental realization of which is getting close to completion. ———— I spent more or less the entire first day of DAMOP a couple of weeks ago going to precision measurement talks. Most of these were relatively sedate (at least by the…