History of Science

Category archives for History of Science

The fungal tea tastes vile, and not for the first time he considers dumping it on the last of the morning’s fire. It does seem to be helping the pain in his gut, though, as the medicine man said it would, so he gulps the last of it with a grimace. Around him the younger…

She kneels on the dirt and watches the elder study the rocks she brought. Five fist-sized chunks of red stone, laboriously hacked from an outcrop. Half a day walking there and back, and half a day pounding rocks against rocks to yield this offering. The elder’s hands are stained the same red as the stone,…

“…and unless the King comes here himself, I’m not to be disturbed.” “Yes, of course.” The servant bowed out, leaving him alone with the bath. He stepped in, gingerly at first, the water almost too hot to stand. Slowly, he lowered himself down to a sitting position, feeling the heat soak into his tired legs.…

Eureka: Collecting the Origin

Almost everybody, regardless of what side they favor in the culture wars, knows that Charles Darwin was the first scientist to come up with the theory of evolution. At least, they think they do. In fact, lots of people had the general idea long before Darwin, including his own grandfather. We remember Darwin not because…

Eureka: Bridge to Dark Matter

The first time you hear about dark matter, it sounds kind of crazy– asserting that we’re surrounded by tons of invisible stuff is usually a good way to get locked up. But the process of its discovery is surprisingly ordinary: it’s just what you do when you play cards. Here’s the second green-screen video I’ve…

Benefits of an Academic Day Job

I’ve been quieter than usual here, partly because I’ve been crushingly busy, but primarily because most of the things I want to talk about, I can’t. Not yet, anyway. But I’m still alive, and this murderous term will be over soon, at which point blogging will pick up a bit. I will throw in a…

Eureka: Quantum Crosswords

My new book comes out one month from yesterday, or four weeks from tomorrow. Of course, yesterday was Sunday, and tomorrow’s a federal holiday, both lousy times for promotional posts, so I’ll drop this in today instead. Here’s a promotional video I put together, about how the history of quantum mechanics can be compared to…

A fine if somewhat intermittent tradition hereabouts has been the offering of high-concept Halloween costumes for people interested in physics, surfacing in 2010, 2012, and 2013. I’m a little too fried right now to do anything all that deep, but I’ll try to offer a few suggestions; see also these particle-physics suggestions from Symmetry magazine,…

The Copernicus Complex by Caleb Scharf

I enjoyed Caleb Scharf’s previous book, Gravity’s Engines a good deal, so I was happy to get email from a publicist offering me his latest. I’m a little afraid that my extreme distraction of late hasn’t really treated it fairly, but then again, the fact that I finished it at all in my current state…

Schrödinger’s Cat at TED-Ed

The third of the videos I wrote for TED-Ed is now live: Schrödinger’s Cat: A Thought Experiment in Quantum Mechanics.This is using basically the same argument I outlined in this post, but with awesome animation courtesy of Agota Vegso. I’m impressed by how close the images that ended up in the video are to the…