Physics / Quantum Mechanics / Science And Math

Bruno Maddox and the Magnet: A Story of Misconceptions

This week the ever-inquisitive Gary Matthews pointed me to a 2008 article for Discover Magazine by Bruno Maddox, claiming that physicists cannot explain how magnetism works, and that they are in denial about it. I encourage you to read the article. Maddox is wrong—dead wrong—but his argument displays a number of common misconceptions about science. And I’d like to address some of them. The most important misconceptions Maddox displays are that of first cause, of classical intuition, and of distrust of the abstract. Let’s get started. (DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this article are my own. I will be describing

optics / Physics / Quantum Mechanics / etc.

Why The Sky is Blue: Lord Rayleigh, Sir Raman, and Scattering

The Sky is the Daily Bread of the Eyes ~Ralph Waldo Emerson   At some point in his or her life, almost every child on Earth asks, “Why is the sky blue?” The question is so prevalent that, to me, it has come to represent the wonder that the world holds for a a child. Adults don’t ask such questions… at least, not unless they’re scientists. Part 1: John Tyndall In 1859, physicist John Tyndall thought he’d found the answer to the sky’s color. His studies of infrared radiation required him to use containers of completely pure air. He

Physics / Quantum Mechanics / Science And Math

Binary Unity: The Pauli Exclusion Principle

Sameness leaves us in peace but it is contradiction that makes us productive. ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe In previous entries, I’ve discussed the wave nature of particles and some consequences of that wave nature, how electrons occupy specific energy states in atoms, and how particles obey the laws of probability. This is all pretty weird stuff. However, there’s another strange phenomenon in quantum mechanics that I haven’t discussed. That phenomenon is the Pauli exclusion principle. The Mystery of Stability An atom is made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. A good (but not quite right) model of the atom is

Physics / Quantum Mechanics / Science And Math

Unreal Truths: Matter Waves and the Bohr Model of the Atom

Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real ~Niels Bohr This is the second part of a multi-part series on quantum mechanics. In part one,  I described and motivated particle-wave duality for light. I demonstrated that light waves are also particles (photons). But does this duality go the other way? Are particles like electrons also waves? As I hinted last time, the answer is yes. These are called matter waves, and their story is very interesting. The Mystery of the Emission Spectrum Last time, I discussed the emission spectrum of hydrogen, and the