Stephen Wolfram, inventor of the Wolfram computational language and the Mathematica software, announced that he may have found a path to the holy grail of physics: A fundamental theory of everything. Even with the subjunctive, this is certainly a powerful statement that should be met with some skepticism.
What is considered a fundamental theory of physics? In our current understanding, there are four fundamental forces in nature: the electromagnetic force, the weak force, the strong force, and gravity. Currently, the description of these forces is divided into two parts: General Relativity (GR), describing the nature of gravity that dominates physics on astronomical scales. Quantum Field Theory (QFT) describes the other three forces and explains all of particle physics. Continue reading “Wolfram Physics Project Seeks Theory Of Everything; Is It Revelation Or Overstatement?”
While most people who make the trek to the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse next week will fix their gazes skyward as the heavenly spectacle unfolds, we suspect many will attempt to post a duck-face selfie with the eclipsed sun in the background. But at least one man will be feverishly tending to an experiment.
On a lonely hilltop in Wyoming, Dr. Don Bruns will be attempting to replicate a famous experiment. If he succeeds, not only will he have pulled off something that’s only been done twice before, he’ll provide yet more evidence that Einstein was right.
Continue reading “Eclipse 2017: Was Einstein Right?”
It was the year of 1687 when Isaac Newton published “The Principia“, which revealed the first mathematical description of gravity. Newton’s laws of motion along with his description of gravity laid before the world a revolutionary concept that could be used to describe everything from the motions of heavenly bodies to a falling apple. Newton would remain the unequivocal king of gravity for the next several hundred years. But that would all change at the dawn of the 20th century when a young man working at a Swiss patent office began to ask some profound questions. Einstein had come to the conclusion that Newtonian physics was not adequate to describe the findings of the emerging electromagnetic field theories. In 1905, he published a paper entitled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” which corrects Newton’s laws so they work when describing the motions of objects near the speed of light. This new description became known as Special Relativity.
It was ‘Special’ because it didn’t deal with gravity or acceleration. It would take Einstein another 10 years to work these two concepts into his relativity theory. He called it General Relativity – an understanding of which is necessary to fully grasp the significance of gravitational waves.
Continue reading “About Those Gravitational Waves”
If you are British, you probably already know where this is going. For the rest of you, it might help to know that The Infinite Monkey Cage is an odd little show on BBC Radio 4 (and they’ve been on tour, too). It is the show that asks a question you probably never asked: “What would happen if a physicist and a comedian had a radio show?”
The answer, it turns out, is some science information that is anything but dry. If you are prone to listening to radio programs or podcasts, you might find some interesting tidbits in the Cage. A two-part episode on general relativity was especially interesting although it isn’t exactly like their regular program.
The physicist in question is [Brian Cox] who is an Advanced Fellow of particle physics at the University of Manchester. The comic, [Robin Ince] is not only a comedian, but also a writer, an impressionist, and has an honorary doctorate from Royal Holloway, University of London.
If you poke around the BBC’s site, you can find plenty of episodes to stream or download. General relativity is just one of the topics. You might also enjoy episodes on artificial intelligence or the science of sound.
If you need more comedy connections, consider that [Eric Idle] is responsible for the theme song. Of course, we cover relativity (and other topics) in a hopefully amusing style. Americans typically get British humor, or they don’t. There’s no in between. The good part about these is that if you don’t get the humor, there’s still the science content. Contrast this to the very funny (if you get it) Look Around You series that is probably not the best place to get scientific information (see the video below).
Continue reading “The Infinite Monkey Cage And General Relativity”