Here's a nice essay in the New York Times by science journalist Denis Overbye about the wonder of what is.
Monday, October 14, 2002
Sick of loud explosions in the vacuum of outer space? I knew you were. Now comes a website which reviews movies primarily on the basis of whether they conform to known laws of physics. I give you: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.
[via Yahoo's Picks of the Week]
Monday, October 7, 2002
Cyborgs 'R' Us
What's your sign, baby?
Never mind, I already know just by shaking your hand.
TWO Japanese telecoms giants have developed technology that turns the human body into a broadband-paced link that allows e-mail addresses to be exchanged through a simple handshake, a report said Monday....
Is that a PDA in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
Apparel and handbags have their own conductivity, allowing an electrical connection to a PDA that can remain in one's pocket, the paper said.
Yeah, man, we just had this, like, instant connection!
The companies have confirmed in an experiment that data can be transmitted at 10 megabits per second, comparable to the speed of a broadband Internet connection, it said.
Hey boss, I finished that report you wanted, but I can't give it to you because the doorknob to my office just crashed.
The technology could allow data communications through door knobs, switches, desks and chairs, the paper said.
... for math. I had a lively discussion with my brother this morning about Wolfram's A New Kind of Science. He asked me to explain the main concepts. I did my best. As he's quite mathematically adept, I urged him to read the book himself. My brother is a very creative thinker, and I suspect it would inspire him to have all sorts of interesting ideas ~ which I'd like to hear about later myself.
Finally, theoretical physics has become a refined form of creative play, in which testing out wacky ideas mathematically continually outruns experiment. Sometimes it outruns experiment so far the ideas are barely testable even in principle, but that doesn't stop it being enormous fun for those intellectually equipped to play the game.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Now here's a beauty contest I can get behind!
Here They Are, Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments...
Most of the experiments ~ which are listed in this month's Physics World ~ took place on tabletops and none required more computational power than that of a slide rule or calculator.
What they have in common is that they epitomize the elusive quality scientists call beauty. This is beauty in the classical sense: the logical simplicity of the apparatus, like the logical simplicity of the analysis, seems as inevitable and pure as the lines of a Greek monument. Confusion and ambiguity are momentarily swept aside, and something new about nature becomes clear.
Eratosthenes' measurement of the Earth's circumference
Galileo's experiment on falling objects
Galileo's experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes
Newton's decomposition of sunlight with a prism
Cavendish's torsion-bar experiment
Young's light-interference experiment
Millikan's oil-drop experiment
Rutherford's discovery of the nucleus
Young's double-slit experiment applied to the interference of single electrons
I have to admit that I was less than familiar with 2 of these. How about you? You can read up on them in the New York Times article.
Friday, September 20, 2002
Get out your shades, baby...
...you'll be needing them to see the polarized light from the Big Bang. And that glare is the "star power" of the inflation theory of cosmology getting another piece of evidence chalked up in the Yes column. The New York Times reports on the results announced by astronmers from the Universities of Columbia and California .
"We're stuck with a preposterous universe," Dr. Carlstrom said. Two papers describing the work will be posted on the team's Web site, astro.uchicago.edu/dasi, he said.
Other cosmologists responded with a mixture of glee and relief, saying it would have been bigger news if the polarization had not been found. "If you had any doubts that this radiation is from the Big Bang, this should quash them," said Dr. Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago.
Next up: more powerful polarized telescopes that will actually be able to see the distortions (gravitational waves) in space-time caused by inflation, if it occurred, in the first thirty seconds of the universe's existence. We'll need some new telescopes and satellites for that. (I expect the shape of the number "42" will be especially difficult to make out.)