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

Electronics / Geometry / Mathematics / etc.

Lightning Detection

Since I’ve been very busy lately my good friend Michael Schmidt agreed to do another guest post! Mike has a masters degree in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. You can check out Mike’s own blog at or his personal website Mike’s Personal Website. Without further ado, here’s Mike: Lightning Detection   Currently, in the mid-west of the United States the first thunderstorms of the year have begun. Because I am a giant geek, I love lightning and I think tracking lightning is quite interesting. My personal favorite site is LightningMaps. On LightningMaps website you’ll see

Physics / Quantum Mechanics

Sometimes a Particle Isn’t Possible

Last time, I showed you how you could construct a photon, a light particle, in a configuration of mirrors called a ring cavity. This time I’ll show you that sometimes, you can’t make just one particle—they only come in pairs. And sometimes, the notion of a particle doesn’t make any sense at all. (This post relies heavily on last week’s post, so if you haven’t read that, I recommend you do so.) Disclaimer: What I’m about to describe is only the simplest case, and I make simplifications for the sake of exposition. It is possible to capture and manipulate

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

Geometry / Mathematics / Physics / etc.

Stuff From Shape — Kaluza-Klein Theory

There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres. ~Pythagoras When Albert Einstein and David Hilbert published the theory of general relativity, they weren’t just proposing a new theory of gravity. They were proposing a new way of thinking. In general relativity, gravity isn’t a force. Instead, it’s a natural consequence of the shape of the universe. Force comes from stuff. Matter pushes and pulls on other matter. A proton may need to use its electric field to attract an electron, but the field is a property of the proton.

Physics / Relativity / Science And Math

Rock Me, Einstein — Some Questions on Special and General Relativity

In 1905 Albert discovered Relativity, in 1906 he invented Rock and Roll ~Yahoo Serious In the last week or two, I’ve gotten several excellent questions on special and general relativity. I’d like to devote this week’s post to presenting and answering those questions. For the sake of anonymity, I will call the people who asked the questions Ms. C and Mr. A. I hope you enjoy! A Question on Special Relativity The first question is by Ms. C, who asked: I’ve read your article “The Speed of Light is Constant.” I’ve… got a question on the speed of light