Mysteries of physics summary

Here’s my summary of my feedback to the 18 biggest unsolved mysteries in physics by Natalie Wolchover and Jesse Emspak: Mysteries of physics part1 What is dark energy? Think of the universe expanding because space has an innate pressure, like a squeezed-down stress ball. Then think of a bubble-gum balloon in vacuum. As it expands the skin gets thinner and weaker, and less able to resist the further expansion. So it expands further, so the skin gets even thinner and weaker, and so on. So the…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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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How a magnet works

There's a rather interesting Discover magazine article called Three Words That Could Overthrow Physics: “What Is Magnetism?”. It was written by Bruno Maddox in 2008. The subtitle is "The standard model still doesn't describe magnets' spooky action at a distance". Maddox was on holiday reading Electronics for Dummies when he realised that he didn't how a magnet works. He said this: "I set out on what I assumed would be a minutes-long odyssey to understand the phenomenon. Seventy-one days later, I am here with astonishing findings.…

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The principle of equivalence and other myths

Once you know that an optical clock goes slower when it’s lower because light goes slower when it’s lower, you soon understand why light curves. Not because it follows the curvature of spacetime. Because the speed of light is spatially variable, like Einstein said. Then once you know about the wave nature of matter and electron spin, you soon understand why matter falls down, and why the Newtonian deflection of matter is only half the deflection of light. Then once you know how gravity works, you…

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A detective story

So why isn't the future what it used to be? I think it’s something of a detective story, one where you have to look back at the history. In 1831 Michael Faraday was doing his ground-breaking experiments, showing how electricity and magnetism were interrelated. Then in 1865 James Clerk Maxwell developed the theory, and in 1880 we had light bulbs courtesy of Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison. In 1905 Einstein gave us E=mc², saying there was an awful lot of energy in matter. Then in 1934…

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