Tag: physics

Pique the Geek 20120422: The Isotope Effect

The germ of this piece came from an undertaking that I am considering.  That undertaking is to write a post for every chemical element.  The recent successes of my more technical pieces have made me decide to concentrate more on the harder part of science rather than less technical material.

The problem with that is that it would take over two years to cover all of the elements, and in reality even longer because there are topics out there that will surely be more topical.  I am not sure that this is feasible.  Maybe I could look at families, but then that gets way too general.  Any thoughts on how to approach (or even if I should) this huge array of subjects would be appreciated.

In any event, I would start with hydrogen and work my way to heavier elements.  One of the first things that came to mind was the isotope effect, because hydrogen has the largest isotope effect of any element.  Please stay with us!

Fantasy Fun 20101018: Let’s Have Dinner Together

Well, not you and me particularly, but with some historical figures.  This was sort of spurred by Keith Olbermann’s story about Michele Bachmann’s list of people with whom she would like to have dinner.  I could not imagine a dinner with only six to eight folks, including me, wherein I could meet everyone that I would want, so I have set up a series of dinners with diverse groups of folks that I would love to get to know.  By the way, K.O. will be in a future installment if there is enough interest in this series.

Tonight’s installment will include a dinner with physicists (or their historical counterparts) that are both living and dead.  Here are my rules:  1) I am not personally acquainted with anyone mentioned (a chance meeting, like on a flight does not count), 2) within certain limits, only a maximum of eight people can attend.  More than that would make highly interactive conversation difficult, and 3) there is no language barrier.

Tony Hayward issues Executive Order: Plumes do not Exist.

Since everything they try, to clean up the mess in the Gulf fails, BP CEO Tony Hayward has decided to take a different tact.

CEO Hayward has decided to “will away” the Oil by some sort of Divine Executive Fiat!

(Managing Billions of Dollars can inflate a person’s Ego sometimes, it seems.)

BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

Associated Press — 05/30/2010

VENICE, La. – Disputing scientists’ claims of large oil plumes suspended underwater in the Gulf of Mexico, BP PLC’s chief executive on Sunday said the company has largely narrowed the focus of its cleanup to surface slicks rolling into Louisiana’s coastal marshes.

During a tour of a BP PLC staging area for cleanup workers, CEO Tony Hayward said the company’s sampling showed “no evidence” that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface. He didn’t elaborate on how the testing was done.

Hayward said that oil’s natural tendency is to rise to the surface, and any oil found underwater was in the process of working its way up.

“The oil is on the surface,” Hayward said. “There aren’t any plumes.”

So that’s, THAT, then.

How the universe began…almost.

KuangSi2Some say that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. But what do we know about our early universe and how we got here? How do we know that our ideas about the early universe are right? What is dark matter and dark energy and why do we think it exists in the first place?

All of the matter in the universe expanded from a single point. It doesn’t matter much what that means, though. To beg the question is to ask what happened before time began. And because of events that happened during the the inflationary epoch, we can no longer see all of the details of how the universe looked at the beginning of time.

But we won’t ask those questions today. Here we will talk about the current state of cosmology given by The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe — the reigning Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation [CMBR] experiment that gives us our best data from the early universe. Within a year, though, we expect a new and improved data set from The Planck Satellite.

Can God Travel Through Time?

On Divine Intervention and Prideful Ignorance.

I gave up my short career in physics decades ago, after becoming seriously disenchanted with one of its most dangerous applications. Though of course general interest has led me to keep up with developments in the fields over the intervening years. With some amusement at the absurdity of it all, I might add.

Then as the millennium turned, I was prompted to get involved again by way of new theoretics about the nature of consciousness, having witnessed what became the first legally adjudicated ‘Miracle’ of human consciousness ever. Science and medicine had no explanations for what my family and a good number of other people witnessed, so I went looking for possible answers out there on the fringes. There are quite a few of those, including combo theories of cosmology and consciousness so mind-bogglingly complex that they could melt the brains of most people. Including me.

One such theory that caught my attention was developed over a quarter of a century by a Norwegian mathematical physicist named Matti Pitkaanen, who calls it Topological Geometrodynamics, or TGD. It’s definitely a mind-melter, though when I contacted Matti directly I found him pleasantly willing to review the evidence and descriptions of what we’d witnessed, and attempt to explain how this could have been accomplished within the confines of his physical theoretics and application to consciousness. It was the only fringe theory out there that could even have conceivably applied, and once I began to wrap my head around it (once your mind is sufficiently melted it becomes pliable enough to stretch and wrap…) it did begin to make a modicum of sense.

What I liked best about TGD was its reliance upon p-adic primes in its descriptive mathematics. These are infinite numbers, and get around those pesky singularities that crop up at every corner in standard physics, which have been ‘renormalized’ away so conveniently by cheats built into the math. I’ve always considered the infinite (or, if you prefer, eternity) to be all around us all the time – that which provides the counterfactual milieu of our existence inside of and bounded by time. It struck me that approaching the mysteries with a method that embraced the infinite instead of flat denied it might give us a more useful picture of the totality of the reality we inhabit. But that’s just me, of course.

Pique the Geek 20091004. The Periodic Table Part 2

Last time we talked about the history of the periodic table and some of the reasons behind why it “works”.  We also took a look at the first three periods (rows), the very short first period, with only two elements, and the two short periods with eight elements each in them.  We also grouped these elements into families (columns) that show similar chemical properties.

Now we shall look at Periods 4 and 5, the two long periods.  These periods (and later ones) contain the transition metals.  In the first three periods, chemical properties change radically from one element to the next as atomic number increases.  For example, fluorine, the most chemically reactive element sits next to neon, which forms no known ground state chemical compounds.

Pique the Geek 20090927: The Periodic Table Part I

The single most important piece of scientific literature is, in my opinion, the periodic table.  Those who understand what it means, and what it actually implies, have mastered more science than most professors ever will.  This may sound like an exaggeration, but come with me and I think that I can prove it to you.

One thing that scientists like to do is to make order out of what seems to be a myriad of disjointed facts.  The table does just this.  The table did not just appear overnight; it is the product of contributions by hundreds of scientists over decades and finally took a form sort of like what we use today in 1869.  That was the year in which Dmitrii Mendeleev published his table, but he was not alone by far.

Fun physics: should you wear a tinfoil helmet?

In the beginning, god created…


Why 137?

I’ve decided that I want to write about physics for a while…

I’ll get started by explaining my username. Well, the r and the b aren’t very exciting (they’re my initials), but the 137 represents a story about one of the fundamental constants in the universe: the Fine Structure Constant. The story, though, has to do with the way people tend to think about science.