Physics

Category archives for Physics

The Chameleon in the Vacuum Chamber (Synopsis)

The particles of the standard model, some type of dark matter and dark energy, and the four fundamental forces. That’s all there is, right? What if that isn’t true? What if dark energy, for example, isn’t simply energy inherent to space itself? What if it isn’t just an unusual property of gravitation, but rather a dynamical…

Wishing Doesn’t Make It So (Synopsis)

When our science fiction fills our heads with ideas that could make our lives tremendously improved, we like to believe it’s only a matter of time before technology catches up with our imaginations. Indeed, tricorders, wireless communicators and rocket ships were just some of the breakthroughs predicted by sci-fi on their way to becoming commonplace technology.…

Nature is not symmetric (Synopsis)

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” -Jean-Luc Picard We like to think of nature as beautiful, elegant and infallible. Yet our notions of what’s beautiful and elegant don’t always line up with what reality gives us. Take the notion of symmetry, for example:…

The Physics of Wormholes (Synopsis)

If you wanted to travel to the stars — and by that, I mean star systems beyond our own — you’d better be prepared to take your sweet time. Even at the speeds the Apollo astronauts traveled to the Moon, it would take millions of years to reach even the next nearest star beyond our own,…

Into the Woods (Synopsis)

Wandering into the woods unprepared and without a plan sounds like a terrible idea. But if you’re interested in scientific exploration at the frontiers, confronting the unknown with whatever you happen to have at your disposal, you have to take that risk. You have to be willing to take those steps. And you have to…

Ghostly Physics (Synopsis)

You’ve no doubt heard of quantum entanglement before: the idea that if you create a mixed quantum state that consists of two particles, you can then know the properties of one by measuring the properties of the other. The odd — and counterintuitive — thing about this is that once these particles are entangled, you…

“The anthropic principle – the idea that our universe has the properties it does because we are here to say so and that if it were any different, we wouldn’t be around commenting on it – infuriates many physicists, including [Marc Davis from UC Berkeley]. It smacks of defeatism, as if we were acknowledging that…

“Between cold fusion and respectable science there is virtually no communication at all. …because the Cold-Fusioners see themselves as a community under siege, there is little internal criticism. Experiments and theories tend to be accepted at face value, for fear of providing even more fuel for external critics, if anyone outside the group was bothering…

“There’s a mark born every minute, and one to trim ‘em and one to knock ‘em.” -David W. Maurer, The Big Con (1940) But how could you tell? There’s lots of amazing science going on out there, and none of us can be experts in it all. Moreover, even when we think we know how things…

There are no free quarks (Synopsis)

“In physics, you don’t have to go around making trouble for yourself — nature does it for you.” -Frank Wilczek Freedom is an easy thing for almost all the particles we think of. Want a free photon? Just let it go in a place where there’s nothing that’s going to absorb it. A free electron? Just keep…