Einstein’s unfinished revolution

Lee Smolin gave a lecture at the Perimeter Institute this week. Here’s the blurb: “On April 17, in a special webcast talk based on his latest book, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution, Perimeter’s Lee Smolin will argue that the problems that have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics waiting to be discovered”. This sounds interesting. It's definitely my kind of thing. Let’s take a look. 00:49 Greg Dick starts…

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The double slit experiment

There’s a nice little physicsworld article dating back to 2002. It was written by then-editor Peter Rodgers, and it started by asking “What is the most beautiful experiment in physics?” The answer was, of course, the double slit experiment: Double slit experiment image from the curiosity makes you smarter article by Ashley Hamer People refer to the double slit experiment as an example of the weirdness of quantum physics. Or to promote weird ideas such as the multiverse. See for example Tim Radford’s 2010 Guardian article…

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Quantum gravity is a castle in the air

When you spend some time digging into the history of physics, you find yourself uncovering the foundations of physics, and then you come to appreciate a few things. You come to appreciate how gravity works, and why an electron falls down. It isn’t because gravitons are flying back and forth: Graviton image by Julie Peasley, see http://www.particlezoo.net/ You also come to appreciate that light interacts with light to form electrons and positrons in gamma-gamma pair production. You come to appreciate that the electron is not a…

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What energy is

If you ask what is energy? some people will tell you that energy is an abstract thing. This was how Richard Feynman described it in the Feynman lectures, volume I chapter 4. He used the analogy of children’s blocks. He said these blocks were absolutely indestructible and could not be divided. But then he said there are no blocks. Only then he contradicted himself by saying energy has a number of different forms, such as gravitational energy, kinetic energy, and heat energy: Image from Assignment point…

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Dark energy

Dark energy is said to be a mystery. Google on dark energy mystery and you can find plenty of material saying as much. Such as dark energy: the biggest mystery in the universe by Richard Panek in the Smithsonian magazine. Or dark energy: mystery of the millennium by Thanu Padmanabhan on the arXiv. Dark energy comes above dark matter in 10 greatest unsolved mysteries in physics on IFL science, and since it’s circa 68% of the mass-energy of the universe as opposed to 27% for dark…

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The Big Bang

Big Bang cosmology arguably started in 1917. Vesto Slipher had measured 21 galactic redshifts by 1917. That’s when Albert Einstein wrote his cosmological considerations paper and Willem de Sitter came up with the de Sitter universe. The next year in 1918 Erwin Schrödinger came up with his cosmic pressure. In 1922 Alexander Friedmann came up with a non-static universe. In 1924 he came up with negative and positive curvature, and Knut Lundmark came up with an expansion rate within 1% of measurements today. In 1927 Georges…

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A compressed prehistory of dark energy

In the Wikipedia dark energy article you can read how the term "dark energy" was coined by Michael Turner in 1998. This was in a paper co-authored with Dragan Huterer called prospects for probing the dark energy via supernova distance measurements. It referred to the type 1a supernovae observations made by the Supernova Cosmology Project and by the High-Z Supernova Search Team. Their observations indicated that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, which was contrary to expectations and led to Nobel prizes in 2011: Expanding…

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The nuclear disaster

The nuclear force is the force that keeps protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei. It is often said to be due to a pion exchange proposed by Hideki Yukawa in 1935. His Nobel prize lecture Meson theory in its developments gives some background: “As pointed out by Wigner1, specific nuclear forces between two nucleons, each of which can be either in the neutron state or the proton state, must have a very short range of the order of 10-13 cm, in order to account for…

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Electroweak theory

The weak interaction is said to be responsible for beta decay, muon decay, and some other decays. For example it’s said to be responsible for charged pion decay, but not for the more rapid neutral pion decay. That’s said to be caused by electromagnetism. However the electroweak interaction is said to be a unification of the weak interaction with electro-magnetism, and thus is said to cover all pion decays. The beginnings of unification As to when this unification began, it’s hard to say. Some might say…

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A partial history of the weak interaction

The weak interaction is said to be responsible for beta decay, where a neutron decays into a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino. All four of these particles are said to be fermions. Fermions are of course named after Enrico Fermi, who proposed what’s now known as the Fermi interaction. That was in his 1933 paper Attempt at a theory of β rays. It was famously rejected by Nature, then published in both Italian and German in 1934. The Fermi Interaction The Fermi Interaction is “the…

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