Mysteries of physics part4

This is the fourth and final section of mysteries of physics. I’m working through the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. In doing so I’m forming an opinion that some mysteries are nothing of the kind. I’m also forming an opinion that some physicists and institutions peddle mystery in order to promote themselves, because they aren’t doing useful science. More on that another day. Meanwhile, on with the show: When sound waves make light Though particle-physics questions account for many…

Continue Reading

Mysteries of physics part3

Again carrying on from last week, I’m working through the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. I’ve done the first nine. The next topic concerns grand unified theories, the sort of thing Alan Guth was thinking of when he came up with inflation. A grand unified theory or GUT is said to be a step toward a theory of everything or TOE. Do the universe's forces merge into one? The universe experiences four fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the…

Continue Reading

Mysteries of physics part2

Carrying on from last week, I’m working through the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. Of course, not everybody would come up with the same list, so if there’s anything you’d like me to talk about, please drop me a line using the contact form. OK, where were we? We’ve had dark energy, dark matter, the arrow of time, parallel universes, and the mystery of the missing antimatter. Next is the fate of the universe: What is the fate of…

Continue Reading

Mysteries of physics part1

When I google on mysteries of physics, a whole pile of websites comes up. Top of the list is the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics. It’s a Livescience article written by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak. It makes for interesting reading, especially for me. That’s because I’m the physics detective. I solve mysteries. Some people don’t. Instead some people peddle mystery. Because mystery sells, just like quantum sells. That’s why CERN peddle the myth that antimatter might fall up, even though everybody who knows about…

Continue Reading

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, which was first performed by Thomas Young in 1801: 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…

Continue Reading

Quantum computing and the quantum quacks

I have a computer science degree. I work in IT, and have done so for many years. In that period "classical" computers have advanced by leaps and bounds. I remember teletypes and paper tape, and punched cards too. I also remember when a top-notch disk drive was the size of a washing machine and the cost of a car. It provided a miserly 10 megabytes of storage. My disk drive today is the size of my wallet and cost £46.99. It provides a terabyte of storage.…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

The fate of the universe

One of the things cosmologists like to talk about is the fate of the universe. Some say it all depends on the density parameter omega: Ω. This started life as the average matter density of the universe divided by a “critical” matter density for the Friedmann universe: Based on the Friedmann universes public domain image by BenRG, see Wikipedia Commons and Wikipedia Nowadays when we talk about omega we don’t restrict ourselves to matter alone. That’s because energy doesn’t necessarily take the form of matter, and…

Continue Reading

The edge of the universe

When you dig into the history of cosmology, some things catch your eye. Things like the “boundary conditions” in Einstein’s 1917 cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity. Or something Willem de Sitter said in his 1917 paper On the relativity of inertia. Remarks concerning Einstein's latest hypothesis. He said this: “if the gμν at infinity are zero of a sufficiently high order, then the universe is finite in natural measure”. There’s also something Paul Steinhardt said in his 1982 Natural Inflation paper. He said this:…

Continue Reading
Close Menu