A silly lawsuit vs the search for physical law, that is. What’s the story?* An attempt to stop the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva from operating over fears that the experiment will destroy the earth by creating a black hole that will swallow it up. Or some other bogeyman. Article by Dennis Overbye here, or here, and there’s a Fox News story by Paul Wagenseil here.
The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.
Quite an entertaining read can also be found at the two plaintiffs’ website. The main Continue reading ‘Law Vs Law’
We’ve been studying rotating black holes in my class this week, which has been fun. We get to apply the techniques we’ve been honing in the context of the Schwarzschild solution (link to recent posts below) to a bit more complicated solution, the Kerr solution, which includes rotation. Some equations follow, although you needn’t be put off by them. Most of this will make sense without really understanding them much. Just so you can see the shape of the things we scribble, I’ll show you the equation that captures this curved spacetime geometry, with no real explanation (sorry):
Here and The parameter is the ratio of the solution’s spin or angular momentum to its total mass , measured in appropriate units. It’s a very important solution to get to grips with, since it’s not just fantasy physics, but highly relevant for astrophysics since black holes that are “out there” are unlikely to be non-rotating, and in fact, one can expect them to be rotating at quite a clip in many cases. A good many black holes – including some of the Continue reading ‘Bigger than the FCC’
In physics, most of what we do is look for the simple, often in extremely complicated systems. If you’re asking the wrong question, or looking at the wrong aspect of the system, this quest for the simple is unlikely to work at all, but the right question asked about the right aspect can yield rather striking insights, often with far-reaching consequences. Although it often is not emphasized in this manner during our school or undergraduate (and sometimes even graduate) education, this is the primary skill in the physicist’s arsenal that we teach and learn. (See an earlier article here for a take on this.)
Sometimes, you don’t need the sharp eyes and years of training and drilling in these seemingly arcane (but, I’d argue, most natural) arts (and the requisite sequestering away in monasteries and nunneries with abstinence, self-flagellation, and so forth) – there are times when if just jumps out at you that there’s a simple question or two Continue reading ‘Sand, Man’
There’s really nothing like a sweet potato roasted in the heart of a wood fire. A wood fire lit out under a clear big sky with a full moon. After a long day of hiking. A day of hiking in the desert on a super hot day of vivid blue, brown, and gold. Delicious flavours, textures and colours.
I spent most of last week on retreat in Death Valley. It was Spring break, and I was Continue reading ‘Potato, Moon’
I got an email from one of the group’s graduate students today*, pointing to an archive of videos of lectures by the great Sidney Coleman. He’s doing quantum field theory. This makes this a marvelous resource, in principle, and so I thought I’d share them with you. They are here.
I wonder: are these the lectures that Jacques Distler has mentioned attending a few times in the past on his blog? This was the 1975-1976 year, a graduate course. I wonder if anyone (else) I know was in that class room…
[Update: I learned from the discussion over on Jonathan Shock's site that there are some partial lecture notes from the course here, by Bryan Gin-ge Chen, based on notes by Brian Hill. He's looking for help on completing the project, so get in touch if you want to help out.]
I’ve never seen Coleman in action before, and so I was immediately rather curious, Continue reading ‘Lighting Up Field Theory’
Am I the only one who sees this, or does this look like the head of some giant friendly robot, all smiles with big cheeks? Remember Brad Bird’s Iron Giant, for example?
Well, it is actually not from science fiction but science fact. And it is a robot, sort of – well it can be controlled remotely to swivel its head and so forth. It is actually a Continue reading ‘Biggest Binoculars Ever’
I find this a bit sad, although most people will say “they’re only bees”. They (and lots of other beekeepers with their bees on trucks) were in the area to help with pollinating crops. I’m very enamoured of the idea that we still need bees to be brought in to perform such a crucial task for our agriculture, which makes it all the more sad to me to hear of the accident befalling the dutiful drones. Millions of bees were released on Sunday (and apparently hundreds of thousands probably killed) after a truck carrying several of their colonies overturned near Sacramento, California. You can listen to the NPR story (here) about the resulting chaos (and the emergency call-out to beekeepers in the area for help) and sting-fest that followed.
You can also read more on this in the local newspaper in the area, er… The Sacramento Bee. (No, really!)
It’s a bit more than a month away. It’s always fun every year. It’s a Los Angeles celebration of the written word, done in wonderful sunshine, with hundreds of marvellous events in three days for young and old – Yes, it is the LA Times Festival of Books, coming up the weekend starting April 25th. The main daytime proceedings take place on the 26th and 27th (Saturday and Sunday) and I recommend them to you if you’ve not been. Mark your calendar. (Once you’re over there on Sunday, stay for the Categorically Not! event in the evening (entitled “Loops”), which will involve among others, science writer Dava Sobel!!) (Above right: One of the 2008 theme images from the Festival’s website. More here.)
The Friday evening will see the book prizes given out, kicking off the festival as usual. I remembered this just now because I found myself curious about the shortlist of books in the Science and Technology category. I wondered if there was something on Continue reading ‘Festival of Books’
Continuing a bit about the microbiology to be found in the garden, I did a post not so long ago on Correlations giving an update about the composting system I started a while ago (post on that here). You might find it interesting, and so I thought I’d let you know about it. It is here.
All’s looking well for an exciting Spring season of gardening!
Wow, a lot of time has passed since I thought I’d get around to posting about this. You’ll recall that I went to take part in the taping of a segment for Comedy Central some time ago. Well, later on I went to the taping of the full show in which it will appear, and it was an amusing and interesting experience.
The show? Comedy Central, and in particular, Daily Show fans will be pleased to learn that Lewis Black finally has a show of his own, and it is called “The Root of All Evil”. The format is that he presides as a judge over a case examining which of two popular Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XIX – Black Comedy’
Black Holes, by Tamsin Van Essen. Part of a series of lovely ceramics with a physics theme. For more, visit the websites here and here.
As you may recall from the post I did some time ago, the “Light Cone” is a rather important concept in physics, and keeping track of it in a given physical scenario is an extremely important tool and technique for understanding many physical situations. (I urge you to review that post before continuing reading this one.)
One way to understand a most important concept – the event horizon – is by keeping track of lightcones, and so let’s go ahead and explore that here. The outcome is that Continue reading ‘Tipping the Light Cone: Black Holes’
Not quite as (juvenile) funny as the equivalent phrase when rings were discovered around the seventh planet, but it’ll do as a post title. I’ll tease you with the image here Continue reading ‘Rings Around Rhea’
The next Categorically Not! is on Sunday March 9th (upcoming). The Categorically Not! series of events that are held at the Santa Monica Art Studios, (with occasional exceptions). It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events.
The theme this month is Puzzles! Here’s the description from K C Cole:
What isn’t a puzzle? The universe, life and everything are essentially puzzles that, to borrow from Einstein, “beckon like a liberation.” Designing buildings, choreographing dances, cooking meals and getting along with other people all involve solving puzzles (as, of course, does figuring out what’s right in front of your eyes—not to mention putting together a program such as Categorically Not!) A love of puzzles and the challenge of solving them is deeply embedded in human nature.
Gwen Roberts, Scott Kim, Gavin Scott.
Our March 9th Categorically Not! features puzzlemaster Scott Kim, who’s Continue reading ‘Categorically Not! – Puzzles!’
I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is what it is. Quite varied and wonderful, our universe is, with unexpected features I don’t think many would have guessed at not long ago (like the fact that we only understand what about 4% of it is!! Crazy, in a Continue reading ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’
Planetary Nebula NGC 2371. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
A lovely release from the Hubble Heritage project. Well worth clicking on for more detail. The image was made using Hubble. It’s a planetary nebula (NGC 2371), the Continue reading ‘Warm and Fuzzy’
Not long ago David Morrison (UCSB) came to the mathematics department here at USC to give a colloquium.
This was a treat for me for many reasons. Here are three:
- It’s always good to see Dave. He’s one of the people I’ve known in the field was since my very first postdoc when I was learning to survive in the big bad world on my own after graduate school. I mostly could not understand a word he or anyone there else said in those days (IAS Princeton, right in the belly of the Continue reading ‘Beyond Einstein: Fixing Singularities in Spacetime’
Cosmologist Stephon Alexander, with saxophone.
A snapshot from last Friday night (a week ago). There was no organized meal from the conference that night, and so people were left to their own devices to explore the chilly embrace of Washington DC. With the group of people that I was with, music emerged after dinner. Here is cosmologist Stephon Alexander (some of you may know him from his blogging days as part of the Quantum Diaries project.) with his saxophone. He’s in the middle of explaining tritone substitutions to two young Continue reading ‘A Musical Interlude’