## Posts Tagged ‘**Physics**’

## “There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them”*…

They have just found the gene for shyness. They would have found it earlier, but it was hiding behind two other genes.

- Stuart Peirson, senior research scientist, Oxford University Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology

Other howlers at *The Observer’s* “Scientists Tell Us Their Favourite Jokes.”

* Niels Bohr

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**As we titrate out titters,** we might send birthday yucks to Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA; he was born on this date in 1942. A theoretical physicist and cosmologist, he is probably best known in his professional circles for his work with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, for his theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation (now called Hawking radiation), and for his support of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

But Hawking is more broadly known as a popularizer of science. His *A Brief History of Time* stayed on the British *Sunday Times* best-seller list for over four years (a record-breaking 237 weeks), and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

*“We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”*

## Ways of seeing…

Photographer Víctor Enrich‘s NHDK project involves digitally reconfiguring the same building in Munich in 88 different “poses”…

The Barcelona-based artist is known for his “reconstructive” interpretations of architecture around the world (c.f., e.g., his images of Tel Aviv shot back in 2010). See more of Enrich‘s NHDK project at Colossal.

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**As we consider different perspectives,** we might send terrifyingly (and at the same time, amusingly) insightful birthday greetings to Edwin Abbott Abbott; he was born on this date in 1838. A schoolmaster and theologian, Abbott is best remembered as the author of the remarkable novella *Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions *(1884). Writing pseudonymously as “A Square,” Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointedly-satirical observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. But the work has survived– and inspired legions of mathematicians and science fiction writers– by virtue of its fresh and accessible examination of dimensionality. Indeed, *Flatland* was largely ignored on its original publication; but it was re-discovered after Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity– which posits a fourth dimension– was introduced; in a 1920 letter to *Nature*, Abbott is called a prophet for his intuition of the importance of *time* to explain certain phenomena.

## Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force…

What happens when an immovable object encounters an unstoppable force? MinutePhysics explains…

*Email readers, click here*

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**As we acclimate ourselves to anticlimax,** we might send ethereal birthday greetings to Edward Williams Morley; he was born on this date in 1838. A chemist by training, Morley is best remembered for his collaboration with physicist Albert Michelson at (what is now) Case Western Reserve University, where both taught. They attempted to detect the relative motion of matter through the stationary luminiferous aether (“aether wind”– the medium required, scientists then believed, for the transmission of light). On their first attempt, they found nothing; they tried again, with more sensitive equipment, and again found nothing.

The Michelson-Morley Experiment, as it’s now known, has been called both the most famous and the most important failed experiment of all time: because the aether couldn’t be detected, scientists had to contemplate the possibility that it didn’t exist… thus, the Michelson-Morley Experiment kicked off the Second Scientific Revolution– initiating the line of research that eventually led to special relativity (in which a stationary aether concept has no role).

[Here's a candidate for the "experiment with surprising results" that might herald the *Third* Scientific Revolution...]

## What’s (the) matter?…

On the heels of yesterday’s film recommendation, another… albeit somewhat different: Stanford physics professor, **Leonard Susskind**, one of the fathers of string theory, articulator of the **Holographic Principle**, and explainer of the **Megaverse**, has **a gift for making science accessible**… a gift that is on display in this lecture, “**Demystifying the Higgs Boson**“:

*(email readers, click here)*

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**As we say “ahh,”** we might spare a thought for Pierre de Fermat; he died on this date in 1665. With Descartes, one of the two great mathematicians of the first half of the Seventeenth Century, Fermat made a wide range of contributions (that advanced, among other fronts, the development of Calculus) and is regarded as the Father of Number Theory. But he is best remembered as the author of **Fermat’s Last Theorem.* **Fermat had written the theorem, in 1637, in the margin of a copy of Diophantus’ *Arithmetica–* but went on to say that, while he had a proof, it was too large to fit in the margin. He never got around to committing his proof to writing; so mathematicians started, from the time of his death, to try to derive one. While the the theorem was demonstrated for a small number of cases early on, a complete proof became the “white whale” of math, eluding its pursuers until 1995, when **Andrew Wiles** finally published a proof.

* the assertion that no three positive integers *a*, *b*, and *c* can satisfy the equation *a*^{n} + *b*^{n} = *c*^{n} for any integer value of *n* greater than two