A worble embracing itself

See the 2014 essay on the fluid dynamics of James Clerk Maxwell by Henry Keith Moffat. He referred to Maxwell’s 1867 letter to Peter Guthrie Tait. That’s where Maxwell said the simplest indivisible whorl “is either two embracing worbles or a worble embracing itself”. A worble embracing itself has a ring to it. I think it’s one of the secrets of the universe myself. Because John Williamson and Martin van der Mark were talking about something similar in their 1997 paper Is the electron a photon…

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The TOE that Maxwell missed

If you’ve ever read James Clerk Maxwell’s 1865 paper A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, you might have noticed his Note on the Attraction of Gravitation. It’s at the end of part IV. Maxwell ends up saying energy is essentially positive, and that “the presence of dense bodies influences the medium so as to diminish this energy wherever there is a resultant attraction”. Then he said this: “As I am unable to understand in what way a medium can possess such properties, I cannot go…

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A grand unified history lesson

Like I was saying last time, a major goal of physics is “to unify the various fundamental forces” in a theory that offers “a more elegant understanding of the organization of the universe”. This is called a grand unified theory or GUT if it doesn’t include gravity, and a theory of everything or TOE if it does: Image from Sten Odenwald’s astronomy cafe Personally I don’t understand why anybody doesn’t include gravity. Gravity is easy. Einstein explained most of it in his 1920 Leyden Address. A…

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Grand Unified Theories

I was talking to a guy the other day about Grand Unified Theories, and I thought I ought to say something about them. The Wikipedia Grand Unified Theory article gives a fair account. It says a GUT is a model where “at high energy, the three gauge interactions of the Standard Model that define the electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, or forces, are merged into a single force”. You’ve doubtless seen the picture: Image from the particle adventure That’s from the particle adventure website. They say this: “one of the major goals of particle physics…

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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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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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