Tag Archives | Physics

Is It Blasphemous to Describe Science as “Magic”?

The Higgs boson announcement last week has reignited an age-old debate about science and the supernatural. Andrew Aghapour reports at Religion Dispatches:

In a thought-provoking post on RD just before the weekend, Yoni Pasternak highlighted some of the enchanted language that has been associated with CERN’s announcement of a Higgs boson-like particle discovery. The Higgs boson has been labeled the “God Particle,” and numerous scientists and journalists have described the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as a “magical” device. If news about the Higgs boson has struck you as esoteric and confusing you are not alone, but the video embedded in Pasternak’s post offers a nice primer.

As Pasternak points out, even this explanatory video is full of magician’s hats and pink elephants. The fact that scientists themselves are using this vocabulary, he argues, “is a sign of the utility that these supernatural concepts still maintain” for describing our universe.

The use of supernatural concepts to describe the Higgs boson has been hotly debated ever since CERN’s announcement.

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Higgs Boson ‘God’ Particle Discovered – And Explained

CERN has indicated that after many false starts, it has finally found proof of the elusive "God Particle," a/k/a the Higgs boson. It's widely being hailed as the most significant scientific discovery of our generation, etc. But what exactly is it? We thought this video about CERN's operation of the Large Hadron Collider might be especially useful:

The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

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Eventually, Time Itself Will Come To A Halt

 Wondering about the end of everything? At some point, the world may freeze into a single giant photograph-like state, for eternity. Via Unexplained Mysteries:

In a startling new theory, scientists have predicted that the passage of time will stop altogether.

The theory is based on research conducted at two Spanish Universities aimed at explaining why the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating, a conundrum that has puzzled scientists for years. What they came up with was the notion that the expansion of the universe isn’t accelerating at all; instead time itself is slowing down at an imperceptible rate and that eventually it will stop entirely, resulting in a perpetual static snapshot for the rest of eternity.

“We believe that time emerged during the Big Bang and if time can emerge, may disappear as well as the opposite effect,” said cosmologist Gary Gibbons.

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A Skeptical Physicist Argues With An Economist

glowingballVia Do The Math, physicist Tom Murphy shares his dinner conversation (with a pro-growth economist) in which he finds that the laws of mainstream economics do not jibe with his understanding of the laws of reality:

Some while back, I found myself sitting next to an accomplished economics professor. After pleasantries, I said to him, “economic growth cannot continue indefinitely,” just to see where things would go. It was a lively and informative conversation. I was somewhat alarmed by the disconnect between economic theory and physical constraints—not for the first time, but here it was up-close and personal.

We do not share the view of many of our economics colleagues that growth will solve the economic problem, that narrow self-interest is the only dependable human motive, that technology will always find a substitute for any depleted resource, that the market can efficiently allocate all types of goods, that free markets always lead to an equilibrium balancing supply and demand, or that the laws of thermodynamics are irrelevant to economics.

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Dark Matter Collides With Your Body About Once a Minute

Dark MatterRebecca Boyle writes on Popular Science:

A dark matter particle smacks into an average person’s body about once a minute, and careens off oxygen and hydrogen nuclei in your cells, according to theoretical physicists. Dark matter is streaming through you as you read this, most of it unimpeded.

Dark matter is arguably the greatest mystery in modern physics. Observations from multiple sources across a few decades now shows that most of the universe is made of matter we can’t see — hence the name — but no one has been able to find it. One strong candidate for this dark material is called a WIMP, for weakly interacting massive particle, and there are a variety of observatories in Europe and the U.S. that are looking for these things. Some have found promising hints, but others have seen a whole lot of nothing.

Still, cosmologists generally agree there’s a halo of dark matter particles out there, and our solar system and our planet are flying through it.

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Why The Age Of Quantum Computing Is Nearer Than You Think

DPAG1998-Max-Planck-GesellschaftTrevor Quirk reports in the Christian Science Monitor that new research at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics shows quantum computing beginning to flirt with practical technology:

Tech-buffs, investors, IT industrialists, and boffins alike eagerly await the day when the science of quantum computing yields practical technology. Physicists of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ), recently published research that, they believe, has brought that pivotal day closer.

For many years, physicists have sought to create an information network far superior to today’s by exploiting quantum phenomena. The team of German researchers have constructed the first vital component of such a network: a link between two atomic nodes over which information can be received, sent, and stored using a single photon. Successful exchanges of information recently took place in Garching, Germany, between two MPQ labs connected by a 60-meter fiber-optic cable. Though only a prototype, this rudimentary network could be scaled up to more complex and distanced quantum networks.

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Nassim Haramein: Fraud or Sage?

NassimWill the new age messiah of free energy please stand up! You may recognize Nassim Haramein from his cameo in the recent internet film “Thrive”. Surely many are wondering if there is any legitimacy to his credentials or theories and one curious skeptic has taken him to task in the following article. Via Up:

I’d like to outline here some very sound reasons for asserting that Nassim Haramein is grossly misleading people by claiming to have any depth of scientific understanding behind his ideas. If you’d prefer to just see some straightforward examples, try some of these — but do come back when you’re done … (Alternatively, read this if you think I’m just being a bit horrid.)

On many of his videos, and on the main page of his Resonance Project’s website, he displays a “prestigious” award for one of his physics papers. What is this?

His certificate looks at first to have been awarded for best paper in the whole of “physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, field theory and gravitation” at the entire university of Liège, Belgium in the year 2009, and “chosen by a panel of peer reviewers”.

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Sunsets On Alien Planets

alien sunsetA simulated sunset from a foreign solar system — what a dreamy dusk. PhysOrg writes:

Professor Frederic Pont, of the University of Exeter, imagined what it might really look like if a person were able to visit another planet and to then sit quietly watching as the sun set. He used data from a camera onboard Hubble, knowledge of how the color of light changes based on chemicals it encounters, and computer modeling, to create an actual image of what a sunset on an actual planet far out in space would look like. The planet in question, exoplanet HD209458b, nicknamed Osiris, just happens to be quite large and circles its star rather closely.

Though we couldn’t technically sit on the surface of Osiris, since it doesn’t have one, the picture that Pont produced approximates what it would look like, and the results are truly beautiful. The light from Osiris’s star is white, like our own sun, but when it passes through the sodium in Osirisi’s atmosphere, red light in it is absorbed, leaving the starlight to appear blue.

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Our Sun Is This Small (Animation)

Canis MajorisFor those of you who hated this proposed Earth-centric view of our Solar System, check out this video below. (VY Canis Majoris RULES for now; Giordano Bruno would be proud ...):
VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant star located in the constellation Canis Major. At between 1800 and 2100 solar radii (8.4–9.8 astronomical units, 3.063 billion km or 1.7 billion miles in diameter), it is currently the largest known star and also one of the most luminous known ...
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Earth (Usually) Has Two Moons

Two MoonsSo reports MIT's Technology Review:
Back in 2006, the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona noticed that a mysterious body had begun orbiting the Earth. This object had a spectrum that was remarkably similar to the titanium white paint used on Saturn V rocket stages and, indeed, a number of rocket stages are known to orbit the Sun close to Earth. But this was not an object of ours. Instead, 2006 RH120, as it became known, turned out to be a tiny asteroid just a few metres across--a natural satellite like the Moon. It was captured by Earth's gravity in September 2006 and orbited us until June 2007 when it wandered off into the Solar System in search of a more interesting neighbour. 2006 RH120 was the first reliably documented example of a temporary moon ...
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