Physics

Category archives for Physics

“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…

Learning to Chill (Synopsis)

The heat death of the Universe is the idea that increasing entropy will eventually cause the Universe to arrive at a uniformly, maximally disordered state. Every piece of evidence we have points towards our unfortunate, inevitable trending towards that end, with every burning star, every gravitational merger, and even every breath we, ourselves, take. Yet even…

“The crust, being so thin, must bend, if, over wide areas, it becomes loaded with glacial ice, ocean water or deposits of sand and mud. It must bend in the opposite sense if widely extended loads of such material be removed. This accounts for… the origin of chains of high mountains… and the rise of…

A few weeks ago, Amanda Peet gave a public lecture that we live-blogged here. In the Q&A part after the talk, she made a statement that I sort of glossed over: that the LHC was able to verify some of the predictions of String Theory. In my head, I thought, “yeah, all the predictions that…

It’s one of the cardinal laws of physics and the underlying principle of Einstein’s relativity itself: the fact that there’s a universal speed limit to the motion of anything through space and time, the speed of light, or c. Light itself will always move at this speed (as well as certain other phenomena, like the force…