Discover a new way to find and share stories you'll love… Learn about Reading Desk

All Blogs / Academics / Physics / Popular

Ernest, the Purple Aardvark

Ernest, the purple aardvark Had a long and hairy nose And if you ever saw it, You would really say “Boy I bet you could eat some ants with that thing…” All of the ants in Tasmania Use to run away when they saw him Because if they ran to slowly, [Loud slurping noise] Ernest…

Holiday Thermal Physics

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a Seek Thermal camera, so I can continue my transformation into Rhett Allain. What’s this for? Why, physics, of course. Such as this video of the operation of the Christmas pyramid my parents picked up in Germany, and had set up at the start of Christmas dinner:…

Quantum Complexity Theory Student Project Showcase 3

Merry Christmas (belatedly)!  This year Quanta Claus has brought us eight fascinating final project reports from students in my 6.845 Quantum Complexity Theory class, covering everything from interactive proofs to query and communication complexity to quantum algorithms to quantum gates (and one project even includes a web-based demo you can try!). Show More Summary

Holiday Card

Once again, it’s Christmas for those who celebrate it, and a really boring Thursday on the Internet for those who don’t. In keeping with tradition, we’ve taken the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Scenic Whitney Point, NY for a few days. This will coincide with a big drop-off in social media use on…

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 24: You

When I launched this back at the start of December, I honestly wasn’t sure I would have enough good stories to make it through. I suspected I might end up going a week or two, then quietly letting the whole thing drop. As we come to the end, though, I’ve run out of days well…

Winter Break

Blogging here should be light to non-existent for a while, with family holiday celebrations tomorrow and departure for a trip to Europe the day after. Travel plans still in flux, but the general idea is to head south after arriving … Continue reading ?

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 23: Parity

For the penultimate advent calendar of science stories post, we’ll turn to a great experimentalist with a great biography. This story also appears in Eureka: Discovering your Inner Scientist, but it’s too good not to re-use. Chien-Shiung Wu was born in china in 1912, at right around the time education of women was first legalized.…

New Live Model!

Sorry I've been quiet here the last week. I was busy with helping complete the acquisition of a new drawing subject! Within 24 hours of said acquisition, I found a few minutes to do a quick pencil sketch of him (as it turned out) in my notebook, through my profound lack-of-sleep fog. Show More Summary

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 22: Hazing

One of the very best books I ran across in the process of doing research for Eureka is The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics by Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann. It’s an extremely detailed treatment of the development of quantum theory, and includes anecdotes that I haven’t seen elsewhere.…

Eureka: Radio Now, Radio in the Future

Last week I mentioned that I was going to be on the radio twice, talking about Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist. I was right about one of those: — My appearance on Voice of America’s Science World ran over the weekend, and there’s a link to the program up now. I can’t figure out a…

Weekend plot: Bs and more

This weekend's plot shows the measurement of the branching fractions for neutral B and Bs mesons decays into muon pairs: This is not exactly a new thing. LHCb and CMS separately announced evidence for the B0s??+?- decay in summer 2013, and a preliminary combination of their results appeared a few days after. Show More Summary

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 21: Hot and Cold

Another weekend day, another story I’m going to outsource a bit. In this case, to the original scientist, who at the time of his discovery was a 13-year-old schoolboy in Tanzania: In 1963, when I was in form 3 in Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania, I used to make ice-cream. The boys at the school do…

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 20: Dot Physics 1976

We’re going to depart from the chronological ordering again, because it’s the weekend and I have to do a bunch of stuff with the kids. Which means I’m in search of a story I can outsource… In this case, I’m outsourcing to myself– this is a genuine out-take from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, specifically…


There’s a very interesting new paper on the arXiv by Joe Polchinski, a survey article for Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, entitled just Dualities. It’s an unusually lucid summary of the story of dualities in quantum field … Continue reading ?

TRIUMF announces photo contest winners

Visiting photographers get an insider’s view of Canada’s national particle and nuclear physics laboratory. Of course the winning entry in a photo competition at a Canadian laboratory involves the word “sorry.” In October, Canada’s national...Show More Summary

Quick Links

The Planck data release has been delayed yet again. December 22, is now off the table, the latest plan is “before the end of January 15?, see here. Some peeks at their results are in slides from the Ferrara conference, … Continue reading ?

Advent Calendar of Science Stories 19: Eucatastrophe

As I endlessly repeat, I’m an experimentalist by training an inclination, so I especially appreciate stories about experimental science. There’s something particularly wonderful about the moment when an experiment clicks together, usually after weeks or months of hard, frustrating work, when things just keep breaking. Of course, sometimes, breaking stuff can be a Good Thing.…

Method and Its Discontents

Given that I am relentlessly flogging a book about the universality of the scientific process (Available wherever books are sold! They make excellent winter solstice holiday gifts!), I feel like I ought to try to say something about the latest kerfuffle about the scientific method. This takes the form of an editorial in Nature complaining…

Physicist turned carbon catcher

Particle physics inspires ASU professor Klaus Lackner's work on climate change. In the early 2000s, physicist Klaus Lackner decided to change fields based on one powerful idea: that we can pull carbon out of the air fast enough to counter...Show More Summary

Eureka: Radio, Radio

Two radio appearances upcoming as I continue to promote Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist: — Tomorrow, Friday the 19th, I’ll be going down to WAMC around 11am to be on Roundtable, talking with Joe Donahue. This will be live, but fairly short. This is available on a whole host of stations in the not-The-City part…

Copyright © 2011 Regator, LLC