Theory

Category archives for Theory

Mysteries of Introductory Physics

Every now and then, I run across a question in class that I genuinely don’t know how to answer. If I’m lucky, this happens when I’m prepping a class, rather than when a student asks it live. Like today, when I noticed the above discussion question in my slides (reproduced at the bottom as well…

Review and Replication

So, there was this big story in cosmology the other day– Tom Levenson’s write-up is very nice– which has been hailed as one of the greatest discoveries since the last greatest discovery, blah, blah, blah. And now that a few days have passed, we’re starting to see the inevitable backlash, ranging from detailed technical analyses…

Sticky Tape: The Final Chapter

I realize people are getting sick of reading me talk about this charged-tape business, which has run to one, two, three, four posts at this point. Truth be told, I’m losing enthusiasm for it myself. So this will be the final post, at least for now… As I mentioned on Twitter, as I type this…

Reductionism Is Not Fundamentalism

Ashutosh Jogalekar has a response to my post from yesterday complaining about his earlier post on whether multiverses represent a philosophical crisis for physics. I suspect we actually disagree less than that back-and-forth makes it seem– he acknowledges my main point, which was that fundamental theoretical physics is a small subset of physics as a…

The very last section of the book-in-progress (at least the draft that’s with my editor right now…) is titled “Science Is Never Over,” and talks about how there are a nearly infinite number of phenomena that you can investigate scientifically. The universe is a never-ending source of amazement and wonder, with surprisingly rich dynamics in…

In the previous post about simulating the attraction between sticky tapes using VPython, I ended with a teaser mentioning that there was a discrepancy between the simulation and the theoretical solution from directly solving the equations. The problem is kind of subtle, but clearly visible in this graph from that post: In this, we see…

Simulated Tape and Universal Behavior

Having spent a lot of time solving equations related to sticky tape models, including trying to work solutions in my head while driving to Grandma and Grandpa’s with the kids, and making some measurements of real tapes, there was only one thing left to do: try simulating this problem in VPython. Because I’m a physics…

Keeping BEC Cold

I know I said there weren’t going to be physics posts for a while, but yesterday our Communications office passed along a media request about this paper on feedback cooling of BEC, from some sort of communications-person mailing list. I’d seen it talked up elsewhere– here, for example, so I banged out an email to…

Finding That There’s Nothing to Find

In 1967, a team of scientists hauled a big pile of gear– electronics, particle detectors, a giant slab of iron– into the burial chamber at the base of one of the pyramids at Giza. This sounds like a scene from a science fiction or fantasy novel– throw in the fact that their first attempt was…

Two papers with a similar theme crossed my social media feeds in the last couple of days. You might think this is just a weird coincidence, but I’m choosing to take it as a sign to write about them for the blog. So, what are these papers, and what’s the theme? One is the final…