Tag Archives: physics

The Next Fire

Fareed ZakariaCredit where credit is due, both the major ideas in this post come from Fareed Zakaria on his CNN Sunday program, GPS. If you follow TV news at all, you know Sunday mornings have such long-running standards as Meet the Press (on NBC since 1947!) and Face the Nation (on CBS since 1954). (Or was it Meet the Nation and Face the Press?)

Zakaria is one of the good ones: very intelligent, highly educated, calm and measured. He’s well worth listening to. (I’ve realized one attraction to TV news is the chance to — at least sometimes — hear educated, intelligent talk. It’s a nice respite from most TV entertainment.)

Two things on Zakaria’s last episode really rang a bell with me.

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reblog: Pi in the Sky Science Journalism

I seem to be doing a lot of reblogging lately (a lot for me, anyway). But I’m on kind of a math kick right now, and this ties in nicely with all that.

4 gravitons

You’ve probably seen it somewhere on your facebook feed, likely shared by a particularly wide-eyed friend: pi found hidden in the hydrogen atom!

FionaPi

ChoPi

OuellettePi

From the headlines, this sounds like some sort of kabbalistic nonsense, like finding the golden ratio in random pictures.

Read the actual articles, and the story is a bit more reasonable. The last two I linked above seem to be decent takes on it, they’re just saddled with ridiculous headlines. As usual, I blame the editors. This time, they’ve obscured an interesting point about the link between physics and mathematics.

So what does “pi found hidden in the hydrogen atom” actually mean?

It doesn’t mean that there’s some deep importance to the number pi in nature, beyond its relevance in mathematics in general. The reason that pi is showing up here isn’t especially deep.

It isn’t trivial either, though. I’ve seen a few people…

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Existence and Consciousness

My recent post about how the Big Bang and “Let there be Light” seem equally fantastic to me triggered an interesting comment from a reader. A detailed response requires more elbow room than a comment allows, so here’s a follow-up article instead.

One of the points involved that our scientific ideas, no matter how inaccurate they may turn out to be, are at least based on evidence. And to the credit of science, when we recognize errors in our interpretation of the evidence, science changes to accommodate the new interpretation.

This has been, as I mentioned in that post, hugely successful. One of the failures of our spiritual metaphysics is that it clings to frameworks defined thousands of years ago and often stubbornly refuses to accommodate new information.

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Big Bang? Let there be Light?

In an earlier post, I wrote that:

The problem for any honest theist is,
“What if it isn’t true?”
The problem for any honest atheist is,
“What if it is true?”

Ultimately both represent ways of looking at the universe. There is no factual conclusion, no proof, about either one; both are matters of faith and belief.

Science can argue all it wants that the Logic and Scientific Method is superior to believing in an ineffable reality, but given all we do know and all we don’t know, in the end it is still just a worldview.

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Sideband #19: LHC

The previous article contains a bit of doggerel I wrote as an informal writing assignment on a current events/blogging site I inhabited for a while a few years back. One of the other regulars sometimes held online “parties” complete with musical playlists (suggested YouTube and other musical links) and multiple, simultaneous conversations. Basically a kick off article followed by a very long, branching tree of comments.

We all had to refresh the article a lot to see the new comments, but it was fun.  Especially as the evening wore on and some of us got a bit tipsy. (All from the safety of our homes, I point out. Virtual online parties: no one drives home!)

Anyway, in the course of one such evening, the “poem” below popped out of my mind. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN was just beginning its testing, and the “it’ll destroy us all” fervor was at its peak.

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