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Son of Interstellar Laser Communications

I didn’t plan to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the optics of sending messages with lasers, but then I starting idly thinking about detection, prompted in part by a bunch of conversations with my summer students about single-photon detectors. which led to scribbling on the back of an envelope, which led to Googling,…

Interstellar Laser Communications

In the comments to yesterday’s grumpy post about the Fermi paradox, makeinu raises the idea that advanced aliens would be using more targeted communications than we do: On the point about electromagnetic communications: even we are now using lasers to target communications with space, because it’s simply more efficient and reliable. It’s also basically impossible…

Waiting for supernova

Catching a nearby supernova would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could give scientists a glimpse into physics they could never recreate on Earth. Thousands of years ago, when a stargazer noticed a bright, new speck in the sky, one that wasn’t there the night before, he likely would have been mystified. Show More Summary

Fermi Fallacies

I’ve seen a bunch of people linking approvingly to this piece about the “Fermi paradox,” (the question of why we haven’t seen any evidence of other advanced civilizations) and I can’t quite understand why. The author expends a good deal of snark taking astronomers and physicists to task for constructing elaborate solutions to Fermi paradox…

The Mumbling Philosopher

The physics vs. philosophy slow-motion blogfight continues, the latest major contribution being Sean Carroll’s “Physicists Should Stop Saying silly Things About Philosophy. I’ve been mostly trying to stay out of this, but when I read through the comments at Sean’s post to see if anybody offered any specific examples of problems that could’ve been avoided…

It’s Dynamical Cosmological Constant Day!

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Asymptotia

As you may know from three previous recent posts on research (here, here, and here), I've been thinking and calculating a lot in the area of dynamical cosmological constant - concerning mostly (but not entirely) thermodynamics and quantum gravity. Show More Summary

A Rock the Size of Jupiter?

For some reason, the topic of really big rocks came up at dinner the other night, and SteelyKid declared that she wanted to find “A rock as big as the solar system.” We pointed out that that was pretty much impossible, more or less by definition, rocks being sub-parts of the solar system. “OK, how…

Of People, Things, and Places

I’m not quite awake enough yet to deal with reviewing copyedits and reformatting figures for the book-in-process, so while I wait for the caffeine to kick in, let’s talk something simple and cheerful: rural poverty. This week, Vox and the New York Times both touched on this, the former with a story about the food…

Physical Mathematics and the Future

The “vision” talk at Strings 2014 that I found most interesting was that of Greg Moore, whose topic was “Physical Mathematics and the Future”. He has a very extensive written version of the talk here, which includes both what he … Continue reading ?

String Theory Visions

Strings 2014 ended today, with five separate “vision” talks, giving a good picture of where the leaders of the string theory community see the subject going. I saw the talks on streaming video, presumably they should appear on the conference … Continue reading ?

Getting the jump on big data for LSST

Efforts are already underway to ensure that the data the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope collects will be ready to be mined for scientific gold. On the first night the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope points its 8.4-meter mirror toward...Show More Summary

Strings Talks

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Asymptotia

The conference is really rather good, with a varied program involving topics and speakers from all over the map. This includes the parallel sessions we had on Wednesday, which were held down at the Institute. Those were a lot of fun, because of the dodging back and forth between different auditoria at the IAS to get to talks of interest. Show More Summary

f0(500) and f0(980) are not tetraquarks

Last week I have been in Giovinazzo, a really beautiful town near Bari in Italy. I participated at the QCD@Work conference. This conference series is now at the 7th edition and, for me, it was my second attendance. The most striking news I heard was put forward in the first day and represents a striking […]

Uncertain Dots 17

After a bit of a hiatus because of scheduling issues, Rhett and I are back to talk about… stuff. Mostly summer classes, World Cup soccer, and Twitter. Also, how we’ve each gotten a blog comment from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Miscellaneous links: – My long-ago book review and Rhett’s more recent complaint about Cosmos, where we…

Smashing Stuff and Making Ice Cream

A few weeks back, a Union alumnus who works at Troy Prep contacted the college to arrange a visit for a bunch of second-graders, and asked if faculty would be willing to arrange talks and demos for the kids. I said something like “Sure, we could probably make liquid nitrogen ice cream for them,” and…

A Physically Universal Cellular Automaton

It’s been understood for decades that, if you take a simple discrete rule—say, a cellular automaton like Conway’s Game of Life—and iterate it over and over, you can very easily get the capacity for universal computation.  In other words, your cellular automaton becomes able to implement any desired sequence of AND, OR, and NOT gates, store and retrieve […]

Measuring the lifetime of the Higgs boson

Scientists are looking for new ways to determine the quick-as-a-thought lifetime of the Higgs boson, which could point the way to new physics. For all the media attention the Higgs boson has received over the last few years, it certainly doesn’t stick around very long to soak it all in. Show More Summary

Integrated Information Theory: Virgil Griffith opines

Remember the two discussions about Integrated Information Theory that we had a month ago on this blog?  You know, the ones where I argued that IIT fails because “the brain might be an expander, but not every expander is a brain”; where IIT inventor Giulio Tononi wrote a 14-page response biting the bullet with mustard; and where […]

Small World

2 months agoAcademics / Physics : Asymptotia

I've been looking at some of the many changes to Princeton, as I get the chance between sessions at the conference. A significant one for me is that Small World Coffee has really thrived and grown significantly. I can't over emphasize how big a deal the place was to the lives of many in Princeton when it opened in 1993. Show More Summary

Computing power for all

The Open Science Grid enables faster, more efficient analysis of LHC data—and also contributes to advancements in fields from geology to medicine. Science today collects a mind-boggling amount of data. Particle physics experiments at...Show More Summary

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