Writer with a lack of imagination says physicists might be at the limit of their imagination.


…cultures themselves can be categorised in terms of how well they deal with linguistic ambiguity. Some cultures accept the limits of their own language, and of language itself, by understanding that there will always be things that cannot be cleanly parsed. Others become obsessed with ever-finer levels of categorisation as they try to rid their system of every pangolin-like ‘duck-rabbit’ anomaly. For such societies, Douglas argues, a kind of neurosis ensues, as the project of categorisation takes ever more energy and mental effort. If we take this analysis seriously, then, in Douglas’ terms, might it be that particle-waves are our pangolins? Perhaps what we are encountering here is not so much the edge of reality, but the limits of the physicists’ category system.

via Margaret Wertheim – The limits of physics.


Take ice, add lime juice, cover the ice with Campari, fill with soda.


No, you can’t control the rate of dilution with big cubes any more than you can with small cubes. Thermodynamics is in the driver’s seat in both cases—you’re just in a sidecar, along for the ride.

via Big ice cubes – All this.


The Difference Between True and the Truth

If all the planets in the observable universe were crawling with monkeys, who had been typing ever since the first planets formed, then the best they would have done is typed a single sonnet. Their output would include short coherent stretches from all the world’s literatures, but no single complete work.

via One universe among many? | Prospect Magazine.

Mayhem, as Long as the Power Is On

The benefits of lasers are many, the authors claim. For one, DE weapons don’t constantly run out of ammunition…

via Study recommends deploying lasers on ships, bases and planes – Stripes Central – Stripes.

Nothing Is Not What You Think It Is

Ill be the first to say that empty space as Im describing it isnt necessarily nothing, although I will add that it was plenty good enough for Augustine and the people who wrote the Bible. For them an eternal empty void was the definition of nothing, and certainly I show that that kind of nothing aint nothing anymore.

via Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete? – Ross Andersen – Technology – The Atlantic.

Glide on the Space Train

The system would see a spacecraft magnetically levitated to avoid friction, while the same magnetic system is used to accelerate the spacecraft to orbital velocities – just under 9 km/sec 5.6 miles/s.

via Startram – maglev train to low earth orbit.

‘The Scientists’

The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest InventorsThe Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended, heartily.

It sounds like hubris to think you could write a book that, basically, tells the whole broad story of science in one go. But here it is, and it is worth reading.

Mr. Gribbin’s explanations of dizzying series of innovations are always clear and concise. But his strength is a perspicacious gift for knowing what to put in and what to leave out, and when to bind the threads of his story together more tightly. Indeed, this was the most satisfying part. Time after time, Gribbin would seed his narrative with a detail that would sprout in the succeeding pages into a delightful coincidence. Time after time, I would slap my hand to my forehead, then sink back into my chair (or subway bench) in a weary exultation of edification.

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‘QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter’

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and MatterQED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard P. Feynman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s funny; it really is. To wit, Feynman writes: “You see, the chemists have a complicated way of counting: instead of saying ‘one, two, three, four, five protons,’ they say, ‘hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron.’ ”


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Too Smart for His Own Good

But I really can’t do a good job, any job, of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else you’re more familiar with, because I don’t understand it in terms of anything else that you’re more familiar with.

via Richard Feynman on Why Questions at Farnam Street.

‘Oh, my God, Magnum!’

In the end, it would not make sense if a theoretical concept put forward 40+ years ago showed up in Nature in precisely the predicted form, would it? Yet what ATLAS and CMS are seeing looks dangerously close to the Standard Model Higgs: the signal is showing up everywhere it should, and with roughly the size it should. Of course (now this is a serious of course) we’re in no position yet to make any quantitative statements about the properties of the Higgs. Indeed, measuring the couplings of the Higgs to matter will be the clue of the experimental particle physics program for the next 20 years. The more precisely we’ll measure these couplings, the bigger chance there is to catch a glimpse of new physics. Still, it is getting more likely than ever that the Standard Model is the correct description of physics at the TeV energies. This is dubbed the nightmare scenario; in the first place a nightmare for particle theorists who become expendable, but in a 30 years perspective also a nightmare for the entire particle physics program.

I’m no physicist, but there are two things about the search for the Higgs boson that I am compelled to mention. One is that Higgs always makes me think of the 1980s telvision program “Magnum P.I.,” and two is that while I understand that finally tracking the Higgs down is a valid, even spectacular, accomplishment, it does not really change anything, does it? Finding the Higgs is not as momentous as not finding it, it seems to me. What these intrepid folks have done is confirm what everyone was assuming, anyway.

It is a little like finding out the score of a ballgame after seeing the winning team’s fans set couches on fire in the street.