Thermo/StatMech

Category archives for Thermo/StatMech

Another weekend day, another story I’m going to outsource a bit. In this case, to the original scientist, who at the time of his discovery was a 13-year-old schoolboy in Tanzania: In 1963, when I was in form 3 in Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania, I used to make ice-cream. The boys at the school do…

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…

Free, As In Energy

Via social media, John Novak cashes in a Nobel Betting Pool win from a while back, asking: Please explain to me the relationship between energy, entropy, and free energy. Like you would explain it to a two year old child. Why? There is a statistical algorithm called Expectation Maximization which is often explained in terms…

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…

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…

Bose Condensation of Coffee?

Writing up the evaporative cooling post on cold atom techniques, I used the standard analogy that people in the field use for describing the process: cooling an atomic vapor to BEC is like the cooling of a cup of coffee, where the hottest component particles manage to escape the system of interest, and what’s left…

In our last installment of the cold-atom toolbox series, we talked about why you need magnetic traps to get to really ultra-cold samples– because the light scattering involved in laser cooling limits you to a temperature that’s too high for making Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC). This time out, we’ll talk about how you actually get to…

Hey, dude? Yeah, what’s up? I’m not normally the one who initiates this, but I was wondering: When you were at DAMOP last week, did you see any really neat physics? Oh, sure, tons of stuff. It was a little thinner than some past meetings– a lot of the Usual Suspects didn’t make the trip–…

How Good Is My Starbucks Cup?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post over-analyzing some everyday situation, because I’ve been too busy to do any silly experiments. We’re on break this week, though, so I took a little time Monday to bring excessive technology to bear on the critically important scientific question: how good is my insulated Starbucks cup?…

This past weekend, I was at Boskone, where I appeared on a few science-y panels. One of these was on the possibility of beaming power down from space: Energy From Space Beam me down some juice, Scotty? Let’s talk about the possibilities — and practicalities — of really long-distance power transmission. Tom Easton (M), Jordin…