Physics

Category archives for Physics

“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” -Stephen Hawking One of the greatest discoveries of the 20th centuries was not only that there were just four fundamental…

“Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” -Richard Feynman Writing in the New York Times on Monday, philosopher James Blachowicz argues that just as “justice” and “courage” are hard to define but easy to recognize, so science is the same way, and that there’s no method to it.…

“All sins have their origin in a sense of inferiority otherwise called ambition.” -Cesare Pavese We’re halfway through the year at Starts With A Bang, but it feels like the greatest things are just getting started! For one, enjoy our newest podcast: on Interstellar Travel, highlighted by an interview with Larry Niven last month at Balticon…

The Physics of Fireworks (Synopsis)

“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.” -The Simpsons When gunpowder was first invented more than 1,000 years ago by mixing activated carbon (charcoal), sulfur and potassium nitrate together, its first major application was to the development of fireworks. By combining four simple elements – a launch, a…

“How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.” -Johnny Cash The largest mountains, the greatest chasms, steepest cliffs and the tallest peaks on Earth are certainly impressive, particularly…

“I have this one little saying, when things get too heavy just call me helium, the lightest known gas to man.” –Jimi Hendrix The second lightest and second most abundant element in the Universe, helium, is incredibly rare on Earth. Practically none of the helium that Earth was formed with still exists, since was too easy…

“We have made the discovery of a new particle – a completely new particle – which is most probably very different from all the other particles. It’s nearly a once in a lifetime experience, I would say.” – Rolf-Dieter Heuer At the end of its second, high-energy run, the Large Hadron Collider appeared to display…

“Black holes can bang against space-time as mallets on a drum and have a very characteristic song.” -Janna Levin If you had told an astrophysicist five years ago that binary black holes were common, that would’ve been news, but not surprising. If you had told them that ~30 solar masses was a good estimate for…

“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” -Alexander Hamilton Seen poking through a cloud,…

“If you’ve seen one gamma-ray burst, you’ve seen one gamma-ray burst!” -Common quote among gamma-ray burst astronomers, emphasizing how little we know about them. When the first gravitational wave signal ever, GW150914, was directly detected, NASA’s Fermi GBM team shocked the world by announcing the detection of a high-energy burst of electromagnetic radiation. This was…