The Real Point of Zero Point

While Kenneth Ford’s 101 Quantum Questions was generally good, there was one really regrettable bit, in Question 23: What is a “state of motion?” When giving examples of states, Ford defines the ground state as the lowest-energy state of a nucleus, then notes that its energy is not zero. He then writes: An object brought […]

Why So Many Theorists?

When I was looking over the Great Discoveries series titles for writing yesterday’s Quantum Man review, I was struck again by how the Rutherford biography by Richard Reeves is an oddity. Not only is Rutherford a relatively happy fellow– the book is really lacking in the salacious gossip that is usually a staple of biography, […]

Quantum Man by Lawrence Krauss

While I’ve got a few more review copies backlogged around here, the next book review post is one that I actually paid for myself, Lawrence Krauss’s Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science, part of Norton’s Great Discoveries series of scientific biographies. I’m a fan of the series– past entries reviewed here include Richard Reeves’s […]

What Counts as “Quantum Physics?”

In comments to yesterday’s post about precision measurements, Bjoern objected to the use of “quantum mechanics” as a term encompassing QED: IMO, one should say “quantum theory” here instead of “quantum mechanics”. After all, what is usually known as quantum mechanics (the stuff one learns in basic courses) is essentially the quantization of classical mechanics, […]

Bouncing Neutrons for Fun and Science: “Realization of a gravity-resonance-spectroscopy technique”

Several people blogged about a new measurement of gravitational states of neutrons done by physicists using ultracold neutrons from the Institut Laue-Langevin in France. I had to resort to Twitter to get access to the paper (we don’t get Nature Physics here, and it’s way faster than Inter-Library Loan), but this is a nice topic […]

Quantum Mechanics vs. Relativity: It Depends on What “Understand” Means

Sean Carroll and Brad DeLong have each recently asserted that relativity is easier to understand than quantum mechanics. Both quote Feynman saying that nobody understands quantum mechanics, but Sean gives more detail: “Hardness” is not a property that inheres in a theory itself; it’s a statement about the relationship between the theory and the human […]

Heavy Heavy Water

I make an effort to say nice things about pop-science books that I read, whether for book research or blog reviews. Every now and then, though, I hit a book that has enough problems that I have a hard time taking anything positive from it. I got David Bodanis’s E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s […]

What Counts As Successful Outreach?

Part of this past weekend’s meeting of the Committee on Informing the Public was to evaluate 100+ proposals for “mini-grants” of up to $10,000 for new outreach activities. It wouldn’t be appropriate to go into detail about any of the proposals or what we decided (the PI’s of the proposals we decided to fund will […]

Massive by Ian Sample

The physics book generating the most bloggy buzz in the latter part of 2010 would have to be Ian Sample’s Massive: The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science, about the as yet undetected particle known as the Higgs boson. Detecting the Hiigs is the most immediate goal of the Large Hadron Collider, […]

Possibly Stupid Question: Why All These Extra Particles?

I’ve reached a point in the book-in-progress where I find myself needing to talk a little about particle physics. As this is very much not my field, this quickly led to a situation where the dog asked a question I can’t answer. But, hey, that’s why I have a blog with lots of smart readers… […]