Cross Talk: Physics (again!)

Cross Talk is a regular feature, highlighting three to seven items on some discipline taught at the college. We should all know more about what our colleagues know, teach, and love. Lifelong learning, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.

Yes, yes…I’ve missed many of these, and yes, yes, I did Physics earlier, I know. But big things are afoot in the weird world of physics:

~Watch as Stanford physicist Andrei Linde learns about the discovery of supporting evidence for his Cosmic Inflation Theory. I still can’t say that that I remember a time that science made me cry, but my allergies sure did start acting up while I watched (and if you want to know a little more about what was said, some explanation is here):

~Two more explanations of the findings: one in Slate for Humanities majors and one in Wired for those not terrified of sciencey words.The upshot is that they managed to “detect a signal from the beginning of time.”

~Good chance they found “Dark Matter”, too.

~A great piece explaining a famous quantum physics experiment and the very weird findings (a.k.a., Bell’s Theorem).

~This one is probably my favorite out of these. It is a reminder that often Physics is fantastic (as in “fantasy”): “This move beyond the visible has become a fundamental part of science’s narrative. But it’s a more complicated shift than we often appreciate. Making sense of what is unseen—of what lies “beyond the light”—has a much longer history in human experience. Before science had the means to explore that realm, we had to make do with stories that became enshrined in myth and folklore. Those stories aren’t banished as science advances; they are simply reinvented. Scientists working at the forefront of the invisible will always be confronted with gaps in knowledge, understanding, and experimental capability. In the face of those limits, they draw unconsciously on the imagery of the old stories. This is a necessary part of science, and these stories can sometimes suggest genuinely productive scientific ideas. But the danger is that we will start to believe them at face value, mistaking them for theories.”

~Care for an example? How about this: “Life is a Braid in Spacetime.

~On particle smashing (for regular people).

~Probably the universe is just a simulation. Likely a hologram. Maybe some computer from the future trying to figure out how it came to be and running a Monte Carlo experiment. That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

~Science is always moving on from ideas and theories, too, as shown by this list of “science ideas ready for retirement,” as chosen by prominent scientists.

~Feynman is still the best, though. Watch this guy talk about Physics for six minutes and try to stay uninterested.There’s a whole series of them. This one was particularly fun to watch.

~And if that freaks you out, there’s always the physics of the curve ball to consider. Oh, and take heart–there aren’t any black holes after all.

2 thoughts on “Cross Talk: Physics (again!)

  1. It’s like you wrote this post especially for me.

    1) Stanford! I miss the Farm. Although I’m disappointed that they didn’t show the laptop screen with the data. Are they worried somebody is going to copy the graph from the screen and publish before they do?

    2) Quantum physics! My favorite aspect of quantum is the idea that particles are really particles at all but simply local perturbations of the same global field, so of course they interact: they’re the same thing!

    3) Science making people cry! Actually, just yesterday, physics made a student cry, but I don’t think it was the same sentiment as you had. 😦

    4) Physics of the curve ball! Speaking of which, good seats for Sox opening day are still available! (Please give me a good reason to be cautiously optimistic this season.)

    and finally…is there a Bracket Challenge this time around?

    • I always write the physics posts for you, Anthony!

      The school paper is running a contest for a Sweet Sixteen challenge that I was going to tell everyone about if/when I had the chance (everyone…I just told you), but I couldn’t find the link on their website that the brackets taped up on the bathroom mirrors said had the information. In all honesty, I don’t see myself getting it set up and posted between now and tomorrow morning. Anyone who wants to set it up is welcome to and then post the info in this comment thread.

      As for #3, I must paraphrase Wittgenstein and pass by in silence that which I cannot express in a meaningful way. I’ve already resigned myself to cheering for Cubs losses.

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