Science and Space on Mayo

On the BBC’s Daily Mayo the other day there was a science focus!

Scientists Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw joined Simon to talk about their new book Why Does [tex]E=mc^2[/tex]? that looks at Einstein’s famous equation which explores the principles of physics through everyday life. Commander Lee Archambault, currently on a tour of the UK, joined them and spoke about Space Shuttle Mission 119’s recent trip to the International Space Station.

One of the interesting things was that there was a lot of amiable chatter around the science, but hardly any actual explanations. This was particularly marked when Simon tried to get them to explain [tex]E=mc^2[/tex], and I perked up since it sounded like there was going to be a very clever quick radio soundbite of Relativity and a snappy thought experiment to nail the concept, and I was all ready to be super-impressed by Brian Cox’s answer… but instead he punted it to “the theorist” Jeff Forshaw, who beat a bit about the bush for a while, and in the end it came down to the audience being told that… it’s in the book. To be fair, it was a tough job they had. Even though they did not drill down to the science, I think it was great to have them come on and chat (as well as the astronaut fellow) and show a human side to things as well as keep people interested in what is going on at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The key thing is that they probably got people interested in the topic, maybe started a few conversations, and some people may well go away and look up some of this stuff, maybe even buy their book.

The phone/email questions were amusing too. Look out for the excellent (and right on schedule!!) question about infinity, and the answers and discussion!

Here’s the audio:

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4 Responses to Science and Space on Mayo

  1. Nige Cook says:

    The question “why” surely is an unscientific question, just philosophy? Maxwell’s empirical equations of electromagnetism (based on experimental laws from Ampere for curl B, Gauss/Coulomb for div.E, and Faraday/Lenz for curl E) don’t contain any absolute motion dependence: e.g. you only get a magnetic field when there is a current (charge moving) relative to the observer, and that plus the fact that the velocity of light appears the same to all observers (as confirmed by the Michelson-Morley experiment) are the principles Einstein uses to derive E = mc^2 mathematically.

    We don’t know why nature is the way it is. Models and equations are just convenience predictive descriptions of observable phenomena. In biology you still have mechanisms like evolution, but basic physics is more mature and has dispensed with all mechanisms long ago. As far as mature physics is concerned, we’re not allowed to ask “why” questions, let alone come up with mechanisms to answer them. 🙂

  2. Nige Cook says:

    I want to read the book, though! Maybe they’ve discovered proof that all fundamental particles with rest mass are actually like loops spinning around at speed c,/i> or alternatively maybe they are actually 1-d lines oscillating at speed c……

  3. Heather says:

    Reading about Einstein’s formula reminded me that we’re having a little competition for the coolest scientist ever you might be interested in. Einstein’s definitely in the running but we’ve also got physics represented with Nikola Tesla (and others more peripherally).

  4. Clifford says:

    Heh…. Just looked over. I’m amused by some of the people in the “living” list!

    Good luck with the competition!