History of Science

Category archives for History of Science

Attempted Mpemba Effect

One of my favorite modern tales of scientific discovery is the Mpemba Effect, named after Erasto Mpemba, a schoolboy in Tanzania who noticed while making ice cream that hot mix put in the freezer solidified faster than cold. This counter-intuitive result has been replicated a bunch of times, and physicists and chemists continue to debate…

The Exotic Physics of an Ordinary Morning

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at TEDxAlbany on how quantum physics manifests in everyday life. I posted the approximate text back then, but TEDx has now put up the video: So, if you’ve been wondering what it sounded like live, well, now you can see…

So, yesterday was my big TEDxAlbany talk. I was the first speaker scheduled, probably because I gave them the title “The Exotic Physics of an Ordinary Morning,” so it seemed appropriate to have me talking while people were still eating breakfast… The abstract I wrote when I did the proposal mentions both quantum physics and…

Somebody in my social media feeds passed along a link to this interview with Berkeley professor Daniel Boyarin about “the humanities,” at NPR’s science-y blog. This is, of course, relevant to my interests, but sadly, but while it’s a short piece, it contains a lot to hate. For one thing, after the dismissive one-two of…

My Week in Waterloo

I spent the last few days in Ontario, attending the Convergence meeting at the Perimeter Institute. This brought a bunch of Perimeter alumni and other big names together for a series of talks and discussions about the current state and future course of physics. My role at this was basically to impersonate a journalist, and…

The Birth of BEC

I’m massively short on sleep today, and wasn’t going to blog until I saw somebody on Facebook mention that June 5th 1995 is the date of record for the first Bose-Einstein condensate at JILA in Boulder. I couldn’t let that pass, so I wrote it up for Forbes: Twenty years ago, in the summer of…

I’ve been sort of falling down on my obligation to promote myself– I’ve written two blog posts for Forbes this week, and forgotten to post about them here. The first is a thing about philosophy in physics, and how Einstein illustrates both the good and bad aspects of a philosophical approach. The second is a…

Giant Ants and Illegal Acts

A month or so back, when I went to Vanderbilt to give a talk, I met Robert Scherrer, the department chair down there, who mentioned he was starting a blog soon. That blog is Cosmic Yarns, and has now been live for a while, but I’ve been too busy to do a proper link. He’s…

Einstein and Revolution

As mentioned over the weekend, I gave a talk last week for UCALL, part of a series on “The Radical Early 20th Century.” I talked about how relativity is often perceived as revolutionary, but isn’t really, while Einstein’s really revolutionary 1905 paper is often overlooked. And, having put the time into thinking about the subject,…

My Valuable Extra Phone

Back when we went to London for Worldcon (and then I went to Sweden for a workshop), I bought a smartphone in Heathrow thinking I could sell it back when I left. That turned out not to work the way we thought, but it’s served me well ever since as an e-reader. It can’t connect…