“Gen Ed” Relativity: Pondering Books

This coming fall term, I’ll be teaching Astronomy 052, “Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars,” because the guy who has traditionally taught it (a radio astronomer who studies active galactic nuclei) has to do other courses instead. But I said “Well, hell, I’ve written a popular audience book explaining relativity. I can teach that.” And since […]

Dark Energy, Faster-Than-Light Travel, and Fine Structure Bombs

Last week’s talks were using sci-fi space travel as a hook to talk about relativity, and my original idea for the talk was to explain how faster-than-light travel ultimately ends up violating causality. Some observers will see effects happening before the events that cause them, and that’s just weird. In How to Teach Relativity to […]

Space Travel, Einstein, and GPS

Below you’ll find the slides from my Physics Day presentations at Space Center Houston, embedded via SlideShare. I was doing the TED-style minimal text thing, so they’re probably not all that comprehensible on their own. The event was supposed to have a pop-culture connection, so I decided to use space travel and extrasolar planets as […]

SteelyKid Demonstrates Relativity

Before going to the playground Saturday to investigate non-intertial frames, SteelyKid and I went over to campus to do some experiments in relativity. Galileian relativity, that is: What you see here is SteelyKid sitting on a rolling lab cart with a camera bolted to it. She throws a ball up in the air a couple […]

Cosmos F*$&ing Loves Science

The fourth episode of the Cosmos reboot aired last night, and as I said on Twitter it was a beautiful demonstration of why I’m finding this show intensely frustrating. There were flashes of brilliance, but also quite a few bits that left me shaking my head. Thus fitting the pattern of the previous episodes— I […]

Old Thesis Club: Experiments on Gravitation by Earle Milton Bigsbee, 1932

One of the interesting things about the pile of old theses we found in the basement is the opportunity to look at things that nobody believes any more. Past installments of the Old Thesis Club have shown people fumbling toward an understanding of quantum physics via electron scattering and spectroscopy, but in both of those […]