Some Radio Science

I meant to tell you about this on Thursday or Friday, but I had to focus on the Southern California String Seminar, and so did not get to it sooner. So you might not get to listen to it as part of a Sunday afternoon relaxation.

The Royal Society gave an award to Stephen Hawking on Thursday, and the BBC took the opportunity to make a special effort to cover some very good science discussion, as a sort of away mission for the Radio 4 Today program. You can go to the Royal Society’s site with all of the interviews (with Martin Rees, Stephen Hawking, Lewis Wolpert, and John Krebs among others) on various subjects. The last two interviews have comments about ethical implications of scientific research, and about whether the public can trust the information they are given by scientists, respectively. I’ve not listened to those yet, but I bet they’ll be interesting.

You can listen to the whole thing in one continuous block by going to Radio 4’s listen again archive for Radio 4’s Today programme, clicking on the Thursday link (before it gets over-written by the next Thursday programme).

Radio 4’s In Our Time last week also had some interesting material. It was all about the speed of light. This is particularly timely in view of the [sometimes morbidly fascinating] discussion going on about varying the speed of light on another thread. The programme features John Barrow (Cambridge), Iwan Morus (Universirt of Wales, Aberystwyth), and Jocelyn Bell Burns (Oxford). Programme here. (Although you might have to go to the archive page here after Thursday to find this episode.)



(*Thanks Ed Copeland!)

[Update: Andrew Jaffe also talks about these programmes.]

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3 Responses to Some Radio Science

  1. Cynthia says:

    Quoting Lee Smolin from Wired Magazine entitled, ‘Physics Wars’: “Well, every string theory that’s been written down says the speed of light is universal. But other ideas about quantum gravity predict the speed of light has actually increased. And an experiment on the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope, launched next year, will check this. So I’ve said, look, if the speed of light isn’t universal, that disconfirms string theory. But the string theorists say they could probably invent versions of the theory that work either way. We’d have to change our notion of what science is to accommodate this proposition. You just can’t do science on that basis.”

    Three thoughts emerge from Prof. Smolin’s above statement…

    Thought#1: Recently, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of comments on VSL theories appearing across the physics blogosphere. Nonetheless, I’ll surmise that Prof. Smolin has sparked this lightning rod of faster-than-light talk across the blogosphere.

    Thought#2: Prof. Smolin seems fairly confident that a violation in the speed of light limit will be detected following a series of gamma ray burst experiments. Furthermore, he suggests that string theory will essentially die if “light isn’t universal.”

    Thought#3: Most damning of all, he remarks that string theorists will resort to some kind of “fudge factoring” or “voodoo physics” if light is proven not to be universal. It’s extremely insulting of Prof. Smolin to insinuate that string theorists will simply utilize cook-the-book methods (via some sort of disreputable creative accounting scheme) in order to balance their cosmic books!

    I’d greatly appreciate anyone’s input or output on either Smolin’s above statement or my thoughts on his statement.

  2. The trouble with Real Audio (.ram) is that you can’t download it to your mp3 player and listen while in the car. Oh, i suppose it’s possible. I mean, you could have your computer play it, and have your computer simultaneously digitize the sound and save it. You could probably automate the whole thing. But i have dialup, and it can’t sustain real time sound. So, for me, Real Audio is a non-starter.

    On the other hand, The Royal Society Press Release page is a pretty good summary of science in the news, and with RSS.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Now, I’d like someone to please explain why there’s a surge of faster-than-light talks racing through the physics blogosphere. Recently, Lee Smolin remarked that an upcoming gamma ray detector is quite likely to reveal that “the speed of light isn’t universal.” Smolin’s remark – in my opinion – is perhaps what triggered this sharp rise in the number of comments on VSL theories.