Physics

Category archives for Physics

“Electricity can be dangerous. My nephew tried to stick a penny into a plug. Whoever said a penny doesn’t go far didn’t see him shoot across that floor. I told him he was grounded.” –Tim Allen Static electricity is often the first exposure to physics beyond gravity that we encounter in our lives. Simply rub…

“Scientific ideas should be simple, explanatory, predictive. The inflationary multiverse as currently understood appears to have none of those properties.” –Paul Steinhardt, 2014 Cosmic inflation is alternately talked about by serious scientists as either the definitive beginning to our Universe, the thing that happened before and set up the Big Bang with absolute certainty, or…

“Nothing is lost… Everything is transformed.” –Michael Ende If you take all the kinetic motion out of a system, and have all the particles that make it up perfectly at rest, somehow even overcoming intrinsic quantum effects, you’d reach absolute zero, the theoretically lowest temperature of all. But what about the other direction? Is there a…

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” –Marcus Aurelius There are four known fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the…

“When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images.” –Niels Bohr Shortly after the Big Bang, the first nuclear fusion reactions occurred in the Universe, filling it with hydrogen, helium, and little else. Billions of years…

A Quantum of Parody (Synopsis)

Although physicists are well-known for their quirky personalities, the in-joke among ourselves is our extremely nerdy sense of humor, telling jokes about our field, our equations, and of course, the legends in our field. These range from the subtle (Schrodinger walks into a bar, and also he doesn’t), to the mischievous (Heisenberg gets pulled over…

If we want to understand the Universe at a fundamental level — all the forces on all scales — the biggest obstacle facing us is to come up with a correct, consistent, testable and verifiable theory of quantum gravity. To no one’s great surprise, we’re not quite there yet. In 2001, Lee Smolin — one…

“I just think too many nice things have happened in string theory for it to be all wrong. Humans do not understand it very well, but I just don’t believe there is a big cosmic conspiracy that created this incredible thing that has nothing to do with the real world.” –Edward Witten It’s a difficult…

“One feels that the past stays the way you left it, whereas the present is in constant movement; it’s unstable all around you.” –Tom Stoppard You might best know Einstein for E=mc^2, but I would argue that the far greater contribution was the development of relativity. Think about the following: if you strike the upper…

Does a black hole have a shape? Is there a front and back or side view? Does it look the same from all vantage points? When you think about a black hole, you very likely think about a large amount of mass, pulled towards a central location by the tremendous force of gravity. It’s not…