Physics Blogging Round-Up: Mundane Space, Spectroscopy, Changing Constants, Rest Energy, Magnetic Sensing, Wiffle Balls, and Revolutions

Another few weeks of physics blogging at Forbes, collected here for your convenience.

-- Commercialization Of Space: Three Cheers For The Mundane: Some belated but brief comments on the SpaceApps conference I went to down in NYC.

-- How Studying Atoms On Earth Helps Us Learn About Other Planets: As a snobby grad student in cold-atom physics, I thought of old-school spectroscopy as boring and pointless, but a recent DAMOP session showed how those classic atomic physics studies still have a lot to offer for studies of astrophysics.

-- Are The Constants Of Nature Changing, And How Can We Tell?: An explanation of some of the techniques involved in trying to test exotic models of physics where values like the fine-structure constant evolve in time.

-- The Simple Explanation Of Why E=mc2: Ethan "Starts With a Bang" Siegel did a post on the World's Most Famous Equation that followed Einstein's original math-y derivation. There's a more elegant and illuminating way to think about it, though, that starts with changing the question.

-- Using Atomic Magnets To Study Baby Humans And Baby Planets: More stuff from DAMOP, this time a couple of conversations at a poster session about cool things people I know are doing using extremely sensitive magnetic field sensors.

-- Why Are There Holes In A Wiffle Ball?: In which I launch plastic balls out of a surgical tube crossbow and analyze the video to see the effects of air resistance.

-- Are There Revolutions In Physics?: Chuck Klosterman's new book sets up an argument between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Thomas Kuhn over whether physics has actually seen revolutionary changes. The answer's probably yes, but Tyson left himself a loophole to wriggle through.

I'm generally happy with these, and very pleased with how the E=mc2 thing came out, but blog traffic in general has fallen off a cliff. Not sure if that's a function of Forbes's increasingly irritating ads driving people away, or a start-of-summer thing, or just the presidential primaries sucking all the oxygen out of the Internet, but the last several blogging weeks have been really frustrating.

More like this

There is also some history of low energy gamma rays (photons being emitted from closely spaced levels in the nucleus) being misinterpreted as x rays (photons being emitted from high energy transitions of atomic electrons). As in the case you noted, there really wasn't any reason to look for those except when some specific problem came up. Otherwise it is also just boring spectroscopy.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 09 Jun 2016 #permalink

I like your analysis of E = mc^2. As to the "why is this surprising?" question, I would add that -- at that time and even today -- the fact that an object at rest has internal energy by virtue of having a non-zero temperature was not fully appreciated. (I see elements of that behind the derivation offered in the article you responded to, if you replace the photon with a particle. It is just statistical mechanics with photons.) One can see string theory as an attempt to represent matter as "merely" a manifestation of internal energy associated with strings in a fashion similar to how thermodynamics is understood in terms of the statistical mechanics of particles.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 09 Jun 2016 #permalink

Just a note on the Forbes thing. It happens to Wired too. For me some Firewalls are now being interpreted at that site as being Ad Blockers and aren't letting me in, even if I am not running an ad blocker. I often browse at a Hospital with a network that goes through a firewall and I can never look at Forbes or Wired.

One anecdote....

For me some Firewalls are now being interpreted at that site as being Ad Blockers and aren’t letting me in, even if I am not running an ad blocker.

Yah, Forbes won't let me in even with the ad blocker disabled; they seem to have focused on ABP and not bothered testing against other situations.

Correlation isn't necessarily causation, but, ahh.... (The blockade started in December.) If I correctly understand the compensation model, though, there's an underlying consideration – Forbes may be fully monetizing their eyeballs (except the "being broken" part), but if the author payments start to fall, their source of content might start to evaporate as well.

It's a lot harder to recover from that than it is from a few months of irritating one's readers.

Ah, this is timely: Forbes CRO Mark Howard looks on the bright side, or something:

* 13 percent of visitors had ad blockers installed.
* 44 percent, or 8 million people, stopped from accessing the site have turned off their blocker or whitelisted Forbes.
* Those with an “ad-light experience” — no interstitials, heavy ads or in-page video units — consume 40 percent more pageviews and double their time spent.

The "tragedy of the commons" bit that follows is inscrutable but priceless.

No question about it. The only reason I'd consider going to Forbes dot com is to read your posts, and the hoops I have to jump through drastically reduce the number of articles that you have written that I read. This may be more a reflection of my habits than the access requirements implemented by Forbes, but my one data point requires highly elevated levels of interest to even entertain going to Forbes.

By transcendentape (not verified) on 11 Jun 2016 #permalink

FFS, the daily quote BS is enough to turn me off of Forbes. Please find another venue. I understand that I am not paying you directly, but I will gladly add my clicks, whatever little value they are, if I am not forced to do so through Forbes.

By transcendentape (not verified) on 11 Jun 2016 #permalink