Theory

Category archives for Theory

Having spent a bunch of time talking about heavy stuff in the science blogging community, let’s unwind a bit and kick the week off with a look back at an old Master’s thesis. This one is from 1932, and is almost certainly a draft copy, because it’s extremely cheaply bound in cardboard with the title…

As noted in a previous post on Monte Carlo simulation in 1960, we recently came into possession of a large box of old Master’s theses. The bulk of these are from the 50′s and 60′s, but there are some going back much farther. As I pass these every day I’m in the office, I thought…

Quantum Viruses?

The Twitter conversation that prompted yesterday’s post about composite objects was apparently prompted by a comment somebody made about how a virus left alone would see its quantum wavefunction spread out on a time scale of minutes. This led to wondering about whether a virus could really be considered a particle that would move as…

When Is a Composite Object a Particle?

Through some kind of weird synchronicity, the title question came up twice yesterday, once in a comment to my TED@NYC talk post, and the second time on Twitter, in a conversation with a person whose account is protected, thus rendering it un-link-able. Trust me. The question is one of those things that you don’t necessarily…

We cleared a bunch of space in our deep storage area over the summer, and one of the things we found was a box full of old student theses from the 1950′s and 1960′s. The library already had copies of them, but I thought it was sort of cool to have a look into the…

I’m putting together slides for a TED audition talk in a couple of weeks, about how the history of quantum mechanics is like a crossword puzzle. This involves talking about black-body radiation, which is the problem that kicked off QM– to explain the spectrum of light emitted by hot objects, Max Planck had to resort…

Trapping Neutrinos?

One of the chapters of the book-in-progress talks about neutrino detection, drawing heavily on a forthcoming book I was sent for blurb/review purposes (about which more later). One of the little quirks of the book is that the author regularly referred to physicists trying to “trap” neutrinos. It took me a while to realize that…

Fun With Simulated Scattering

Two chapters of the book-in-progress will be devoted to the development of the modern understanding of the atom. One of these is about the Bohr model, which turned 100 this year, but Bohr’s model would not have been possible without an earlier experiment. The actual experiment was done by Ernest Marsden and Hans Geiger, but…

Spooky Action at What Distance?

When I wrote up the giant interferometer experiment at Stanford, I noted that they’ve managed to create a situation where the wavefunction of the atoms passing through their interferometer contains two peaks separated by almost a centimeter and a half. This isn’t two clouds of atoms each definitely in a particular position, mind, this is…

I’m writing a bit for the book-in-progress about neutrinos– prompted by a forthcoming book by Ray Jaywardhana that I was sent for review– and in looking for material, I ran across a great quote from Arthur Stanley Eddington, the British astronomer and science popularizer best known for his eclipse observations that confirmed the bending of…