Hugo Winners

The Principles proprietor is currently at WorldCon where the Hugo awards are given out. This year’s winners are available (among many other places, I’m sure) at Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s blog. I wasn’t a huge fan of Rainbows End myself. I did like “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Doctor Who episode. The writer, […]

Arithmetic and Music

Taking a break from all this physics, I thought I’d talk a little about music and some related mathematical coincidences. One of the fundamental concepts of music is that of consonance and dissonance. Consonant things sound nice when played together and dissonant things do not. For example, if you play two Cs together on a […]

“It’s a monstrosity,” Brown said.

A little while ago, intrepid reporters from the Baltimore Sun dropped by my lab to investigate the newsworthiness of a paper (also on the ArXiv) that had just been published, about which I might talk a little bit before Chad gets back. Surprisingly, the article actually got published, complete with photo and great quotes. I’m […]

Sky, Full of Stars

If you’re on the west coast tonight and are willing to stay up late or wake up early, you have the chance to see the Aurigid meteor shower. This shower is fairly unique because it arises from a comet with a period of around 900 years. Some people have even claimed that there’s a chance […]

Software for experimentalists

A long time ago, all you needed to think about and record the data you were interested in was a pen and some vellum, and maybe a few candles and a trusty manservant. Somewhere along the line, the chart recorder got invented, and when combined with the oscilloscope and those awful scope cameras, a whole […]

In case you were happy

I’m here to depress you a little. First off, we have the upcoming anniversary of Katrina, about which Jane Dark has a tough tale to tell: The abandonment of a great city to time and tide is indeed both symptom and mark of empire on its downhill slide; it bears noting as well that pathetic, […]

Bill Gibson is cooler than you

But he’s not cooler than me. Which is one of the things I thought of several times while reading Spook Country, his new novel. If you don’t want the long version, here’s the gist: it’s decent, he’s still pretty good, buy it in hardcover, move to Vancouver, buy a Powerbook, learn Mandarin, get hooked on […]

The Dao of Grothendieck

I remember back when I was in high school and came across lists of the greatest mathematicians ever. They almost always included Archimedes, Newton and Gauss. Sometimes Euler made it in. I knew who these guys were, but every once in a while, there was this guy I had never heard of, Alexander Grothendieck. I […]

What is String Theory?

The title of this post is a famous question (posed, for example, by Joe Polchinski) which is modeled after an even more famous question by Ken Wilson, “What is Quantum Field Theory?”. I certainly can’t answer the first question, but Wilson’s question now does have a widely agreed upon answer (which is sadly not well […]