February 3, 2016
I started my career as a theoretical physicist working on the problem of quark confinement and related matters. I still try to keep my general interest up and nowadays there are a number of excellent semi-popular resources for this.
Quanta is one of them. Here’s a really impressive pictorial overview of the current ideas and theories in our fundamental understanding of the universe – a very slick web site!
The map provides concise descriptions of highly complex theories; learn more by exploring the links to dozens of articles and videos, and vote for the ideas you find most elegant or promising. Finally, the map is extensive, but hardly exhaustive; proposed additions are welcome below.
October 20, 2015
From the Princeton University Press:
“Some people say, ‘How can you live without knowing?’ I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing. That is easy. How you get to know is what I want to know.”—Richard P. Feynman
Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard P. Feynman (1918–88) was that rarest of creatures—a towering scientific genius who could make himself understood by anyone and who became as famous for the wit and wisdom of his popular lectures and writings as for his fundamental contributions to science. The Quotable Feynman is a treasure-trove of this revered and beloved scientist’s most profound, provocative, humorous, and memorable quotations on a wide range of subjects.
It sounds an interesting read, especially if you’re a Feynman fan.
I’ve written a few posts on Feynman that might be of interest, including:
I started my career as a theoretical physicist and during this period I co-organised the last physics meeting that he attended, held on the small German island of Wangerooge.
Feynman at the Workshop held at Wangerooge (he’s in the middle, just to the right)
The interesting and unusual island of Wangerooge (off the German coast)
November 9, 2014
In this context it’s also invaluable to remember that:
“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” – Albert Einstein
Doing the latter is actually not common or easy as people often take lots of things for granted eg jargon. This is related to the so-called ‘curse of knowledge‘.
See also a previous post on the role of collaborative conversation in education.
Topic first spotted on the blog of Nick Milton.
Picture credit here.
November 3, 2014
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” – Richard P. Feynman
I wonder how many times a teacher or lecturer says that, or something similar, in class!
Of course it’s necessary to try to follow and understand the accepted way but there’s no harm and probably a lot of enlightenment in trying to think about things differently or originally as well.
Here are some other Feynman quotes to think about (click to enlarge):
You might also be interested in:
Feynman Day At The Bloomsbury
Feynman And His Multifaceted Communication Skills
Picture credit here.
October 22, 2014
Sean Carroll is a research physicist at the California Institute of Technology specialising in general relativity and cosmology. He’s written a number of well-received popular books on the subject (eg The Particle at the End of the Universe) and is certainly media savvy.
In an interesting development, he’s currently trying to raise private funding for interdisciplinary research projects in his areas of expertise.
Your contributions will support Dr. Carroll’s research as he investigates fundamental challenges in theoretical physics. Funding will allow him to bring together researchers to tackle interdisciplinary questions that are not funded by traditional funding sources, and pioneer new and risky approaches to big questions. All contributions are useful – a few thousand dollars would support graduate students, while hundreds of thousands could fund postdoctoral researchers at a crucial stage in their career.
It’ll be interesting to see if this type of approach takes off as it may lead to viable new ways of carrying out leading edge scientific research.
Again, from Benefunder:
Benefunder is a marketplace that allows donors to find, fund, and follow researchers and other university initiatives in a simple, efficient way.
Benefunder partners with top universities to gain access to top researchers and initiatives across all disciplines to ensure that your donations go to the intended use. Researchers create and manage their profiles on our site, which must be approved internally prior to getting published. This way you always get the most up to date information regarding their work and can rest assured knowing that all our causes are in fact vetted.
See also Ten Things About Time You May Not Know.
September 12, 2014
Interesting article by Ben McNeil in Ars Technica on creativity, age profiles and funding systems including:
Although unconventional and risky research can be pursued at any age, it seems to come much easier to younger scientists. That may be because they have more time to allocate to one idea and are less susceptible to the “curse of knowledge”—the cognitive bias that tends to make experience stifle one’s ability to come up with or accept new, unconventional, or creative ideas.
The 30- to 40-year-old period has often been described as “the golden years” for creative discovery, a perfect mix of time, enthusiasm, naivety, and just enough experience to produce optimal creativity.
Whether the age correlation is widely true or not, I like the list of ingredients, especially the inclusion of the word ‘naivety’. It’s probably true that after a certain age, cynicism and a ‘been there/seen it’ attitude all too easily creep in and innocence and naivety make a rapid exit.
However, as mentioned in the quote above, the continual ability to learn and change is also an important factor – not to mention luck of course!
On a related theme, there’s a discussion of ‘lean periods’ in research here.
Picture credit here.
July 3, 2014
The red squares represent the area that would be enough for solar power plants to produce a quantity of electricity consumed by the world today, in Europe (EU-25) and Germany (De).
Amazing fact/quote: ‘in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes in a year.’
From Wikipedia (which gives the history of the associated project plus it’s pros and cons as well as the remarkable graphic above):
“The DESERTEC concept was originated with Dr Gerhard Knies, a German particle physicist and founder of the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) network of researchers. In 1986, in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he was searching for a potential alternative source of clean energy and arrived at the following remarkable conclusion: in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes in a year.
The DESERTEC concept was developed further by Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) – an international network of scientists, experts and politicians from the field of renewable energies – founded in 2003 by the Club of Rome and the National Energy Research Center Jordan. One of the most famous members was Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. In 2009, TREC emerged to the non-profit DESERTEC Foundation.”
Official site, for additional info: DESERTEC Foundation.