Aitch-Bar

Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say


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Something About Wall Art and a Ficus

I wrote a physics PhD dissertation. I am attempting to describe the experience in any number of words, but I am failing, like a cat attempting to long-jump from a slippery surface. If the Reader is familiar with the process of long practical writing, or with feline acrobatics, then the Reader hears me. If not, then I am unsure as to what common ground there is to go from. At that point I would doff my cap, shove my hands deep in my pockets, and turn away.

The act of generating a 300-page technical document left my creative homunculus “roont,” to borrow a word that Stephen King has left seared in my head. My tale since I last rapped poetic has been not unlike that of Moses, or the guy from Dune, except without suffering or followers or purpose. I moved, and I moved well, to a place where laundry does not require human sacrifice, and the fridge grows only the mold that I explicitly tell it to grow. I purchased a couch with a giant comfortable tumor, or “chaise,” which is French for couch-tumor. I purchased a dry bar, by which I mean I bought a cheap small bookcase and my girlfriend attached a wine rack to it and loaded it up with liqueurs both fantastic and gross. Fireball and Grand Marnier live side by side, which I believe was prophesized in Revelations somewhere. I don’t know where. 5:3? That might have been the ratio of Kahlua to vodka for something which was not Bible-related.

I have Wall Art, a phrase which GS once told me made his skin crawl. I agree, vaguely, with somewhat small magnitude on my agreement vector. Something called “Wall Art” seems like a filler where something more purposeful ought to be. I have a shit-tonne of it. It accumulated when my creative rage-font ran dry, and long swaths of bare paint began to disturb my sleep. There is nothing about Wall Art that is going to trick the homunculus into spending effort on the creative writing process again. The homunculus gives me the finger when it lays its beady eyes on my four framed pictures of the Moon above a small ficus which I can only at this point describe as undead. “Nope,” says it, for we used to party when I had precisely no weird shit like that. Expunging the solid buildup that accumulated in the word-faucet is now purely an exercise in bearing down and grunting.

I also wrangled me up a Costco membership. I have mostly purchased a year’s worth of field study on barely-contained rage. It seems to pervade the store. I am not sure where this comes from, though I posit the XXL shopping carts play a role. This is the opposite of what I expected for a place constructed out of discounts and volume, two things which drive us as a people. But haters can hate; my new membership came with a free rotisserie chicken and apple pie, which makes me one of the Devoted.


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Eponymity in Physics

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote on my old blog, Topography of Ignorance, back in 2007. It’s a list I compiled of the types of things you could get named after you that come in the form [Name][Type of thing], as in the word “Law” from “Moore’s Law.” There are the obvious ones like “equation” but the unusual terms are more interesting because there might be only a single example. The title is itself an adaptation of an obscure word, eponym, which I loosely interpreted to mean “anything named after someone.” I don’t think it’s a real word, and using it probably confused readers (it also could have confused them that it’s basically just a massive list with very little prose). To preserve the classic 2007 “feel” of the original post, I’m keeping the poorly-chosen title and format.  Plus, lists are now back in a big way! (What with your Buzzfeeds et al.) So it seemed like an appropriate time to bring it back. Will animate with Jennifer Lawrence GIFs as soon as I’m able…

~~~~~

A physicist wanting to make an impact on the field most often imagines his or her name attached to an Equation, or a Theory. Or even, if they really want to move mountains, a Law. I have no idea what mathematicians think about, but I would assume that they are hoping to come up with Theorems and Conjectures. Of course, not everyone is an Einstein or a Kepler, able to remake a subject and declare a Law. But if you carve out a niche for yourself, or invent a novel way of dealing with a certain topic, you’re virtually assured of getting something. For an elegant discovery, you could have an Angle named after you, or a Number. Or in a more bizarre direction, a Sea or Paradox. de Sitter has an entire Universe! Me? If I could become the first person since Isaac Newton with an eponymous Bucket I would consider myself a success. There are so many strange things you could find named in your honor that I have compiled an extensive list of them with some examples namesakes on the right-hand side.

First, some of the most common:

Equation  
Formula
 
Law
 
Theorem
 
Theory
 
Hypothesis
 
[A Unit] Newton, Gauss, Joule
[A Constant] Planck, Boltzmann
Function Riemann-Zeta, Bessel
Effect Mössbauer, Stark, Bohr,
Gunn-Peterson, etc.

And then of course, there are rarer terms. These trend very roughly from less to more obscure.

Field Fermionic, Bosonic, Higgs
Matrix Kobayashi, Cabibbo
Relation Heisenberg, Tully-Fisher
Principle Copernican, Pauli Exclusion
Model Schwinger, Bohr
Method Schrödinger
Postulate Planck, Weyl
Approximation Born
Space
Minkowski, Fock, Hilbert
Metric Friedmann-Robertson-Walker,
Minkowski
Distribution Wigner, Bose-Einstein, Fermi-Dirac
___-on Fermi, Bose
___-ian Laplace, Hamilton, Riemann
Notation Dirac
Potential Coulomb, Yukawa
Action Stueckelberg, Proca
Inequality Minkowski, Bell
Limit Chandrasekhar
Tensor Riemann
Scalar Ricci
Gauge Newtonian
Diagram Feynman
Radiation Cherenkov, Hawking
Cycle Carnot, Born
Interpretation Bohm, Copenhagen
Paradox Einstein-Podolski-Rosen,
Olber, Fermi
Problem Rabi, Fermi
Experiment Milikan Oil Drop
Spectrum Mössbauer
Conjecture Witten
Interaction Yakawa
Amplitude Feynman
Operator d’Alembert
Particle Higgs, Planck
Neutrino Majorana, Dirac
Motion Brownian
Length Jeans
Number Avogadro, Chandrasekhar, Euler
Surface Fermi
Condensate Bose-Einstein
Radius Schwartzschild, Bohr
Convention Einstein Summation
Transform Forier, Laplace
Series Balmer, Lyman
Line Lyman, Balmer
Rules Slater
Scattering Compton, Rayleigh, Thompson
Variable Cepheid, RR Lyrae
Diffusion Bohm
Diffraction
Bragg
Junction Josephson
Expansion Taylor
Manifold Riemann
Topology Picard
Mechanism Higgs
Peak Wein
Test Tolman surface brightness
Repulsion Coulomb
Epoch Planck
Parameter Hubble
[An Element]
Einstein, Fermi, Curie, Mendeleev, Lawrence, Nobel
Time/Mass/Energy/Temperature
/Density
/Power/Current/Length
Planck
Energy/Level/Hole/Velocity
/Temperature
Fermi
Wavelength de Broglie
Boson Higgs
Profile Hernquist
Criterion Landau
Rigidity Born
Cross-section Thompson
Zone Brillouin, (also see, List of Zones)
State Hartle-Hawking
Angle Weinberg
Universe de Sitter, Lemaître
Sea Dirac, Fermi
Magneton
Bohr
Splitting Zeeman
Forest Lyman-alpha
Blob Lyman-alpha
Swindle Jeans
Trough Gunn-Peterson
Window Gamow
Cage Faraday
Engine Carnot
Bucket Newton
Tuning Fork
Hubble
Golden Rule Fermi
Pancake Zel’dovich
Brain Boltzmann
Demon Maxwell
Cat
Schrödinger


If anyone else is able to repeat that last one, I will be highly impressed. I would also like to point out that the Higgs boson may be the only phenomenon or concept that has two namesakes, since the term boson originally comes from Satyendra Bose! If you can think of anything else let me know and I’ll add it.

 

Update:

Pairs       . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Cooper

Focus      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Cassegrain, Nasmyth


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In which I answer the evolution questions of hopeless people living without access to the internet

Buzzfeed has a collection of “questions”/smirking ignorance from people who consider themselves creationists. Since these are all such pat, easily-answerable questions I can’t resist taking a break between doing science, and helping teach science to people who are interested in learning it, to throw up a few answers to the questions of people who aren’t. None of the actual science ones ought to take a minimally interested person more than 30 seconds to find online, but since I can do each in 5 sec or less, let’s all save some time together! (Spelling mistakes faithfully transcribed!) (Smirkiness levels matched!)

1. “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”
I’m not him, but yes he is.

2. “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”
No

3. “Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? I.e. trees created with rings… Adam created as an adult…”
Yes.

4. “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove Evolution?”
No.

5. “How do you explain a sunset if their is no God?”
Earth’s rotation.

6. If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?”
They don’t.

7. “WHAT ABOUT NOETICS?”
I’ll try anything once.

8. “Where do you derive objective meaning in life?”
From being right about science.

9. “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By Chance?”
By natural processes. Also, ‘chance’, given millions of years and the right conditions, guarantees such a thing occurring. Also also, not fully understanding an event doesn’t imply that God did it.

10. “I believe in the Big Bang Theory… God said it and BANG it happened!”
OK

11. “Why do evolutionists/secularists/huminists/non-God believing people reject the idea of their being a creator Gob but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens of other extra-terestrial sources?”
They don’t, you’re thinking of the film Prometheus.

12. “There is no in between… the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds neccessary for an ‘official proof’.”
The non-existence of “transitional” fossils is a myth. There are thousands of pre-human fossils. I will forward your objection to the Official Proof Commission.

13. “Does metamorphosis help support evolution?”
The Metamorphosis is a surrealistic short-story by Franz Kafka. Published in 1915, this German novella depicts the unexplained transformation of salesman Gregor Samsa into a horrific cockroach-like insect and his efforts to deal with his mysterious and terrifying condition.

14. “If Evolution is a Theory (like creationism or the Bible) why is Evolution taught as fact.”
‘Theory’ and ‘fact’ are not mutually incompatible concepts. Also, the Bible is a book, not a theory.

15. “Because science by definition is a ‘theory’— not testable, observable, nor repeatable’ why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?”
See #14. Theories are all of those things and evolution has been tested and observed in a myriad of ways.

16. “What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?”
Not an expert here but I’d venture the existence of forms of life with less complex genetic code. Also, if this is a reference to entropy, it only has to increase overall within an environment, not within every organism.

17. “What purpose do you think you are for if you do not believe in salvation?”
I’m pretty decent at parallel parking.

18. “Why have we found only 1 ‘Lucy’, when we have found more than 1 of everything else?”
There are literally thousands of other hominid fossils.

19. “Can you believe in ‘the big bang’ without ‘faith’?”
I do. But I ‘believe’ in it because there is evidence that it happened. If new evidence showed that it didn’t, I would change my mind.

20. “How can you look at the world and not believe Someone Created/thought of it? It’s Amazing!!!”
Cool story.

21. “Relating to the big bang theory…. Where did the exploding star come from?”
The big bang was a star exploding? I don’t even…

OK, these have been rough. Just one more left. Hopefully it’s not a super-dumb misunderstanding of one of science’s most important and beautiful theories that anyone can understand if they bother to take a couple seconds on the internet or ask a grown-up.

22. “If we come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”
Gosh, that’s a good one. That really sounds like a thoughtful new angle on this whole issue that biologists surely haven’t considered. I haven’t lost patience with this exercise or anything.
Cactus
You know what? This cactus here is like, really old and wise and stuff. He says he’s been around hundreds of millions of years and he’s seen pretty much all of human history so why don’t you just get really close to his knowledge port and he can whisper it to you. Don’t be shy. Yeah, right in there…


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David Tennant’s Doctor Who, Adrift in Time?

Well, I found the 10th Doctor, adrift in history—specifically the history of whaling in Nantucket.

George Myrick Tennant

George Myrick Tennant

The familiar visage supposedly belongs to a “George Myrick Jr.,” ship owner and merchant, found while wandering the Nantucket Whaling Museum. A better image of the portrait and some of the cover story the good doctor made up to live as a whaling entrepreneur in the 19th century is here. Still looking for evidence of a sonic harpoon.

See also: “Doctor Who Theme for Ukulele


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It can do about warp 9.5 downhill

NCC-1701-D Car

Virginity: the final frontier.

These are the voyages of someone’s used Subaru 4×4. It’s continuing mission: to seek out new Magic: The Gathering™ tournaments and new replica Cylon figurines, to explore strange new worlds of beard grooming, to boldly go where no one else from his high school A/V club has gone before!

 

[In case it isn't clear, we are both fairly rabid ST fans. Take no offense bearded Trekkers, you and I are of a kind. In different reality, I could have called you to talk about how JJ Abrams is ruining everything]


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Geoguessr

Want some bread?

Midway Island, where the airport is named after Chicago

Does Switzerland have Google Streetview ? Do they ever use KPH on street signs in the United States, or is MPH like, federally dictated? Even in Oregon? Is there any good way to tell the difference between highways in South Africa versus Australia?

These are the kind of questions raised by Geoguessr, an excellent new distraction from the whiz kids who brought us ‘heroin.’ Well, not really, but it’s almost as addictive but with few of the negative side effects. The basic idea is that it randomly drops you somewhere in the world in Google Streetview but with no map. The goal is to figure out where you are. You can move around, but going too far is tedious because you only have the little clicky arrows, and can’t drag your yellow person to somewhere else—so you’re really forced to rely on your wits. Street signs, area codes on ads, anything out of the ordinary.

Midway Posers

Midway Posers, posing in the weirdest place on Earth

It gives you a good sense of how most places in the world look essentially the same, and then just a general idea of what distant places are actually like. The best place I’ve gotten so far though was Midway Atoll, (where Google evidently sent a camera a few years ago in some kind of “look at the weird places you can use Streetview! A submarine? No way!). Midway is completely covered in seabirds (there are hundreds in every direction), has no regular cars (only golf carts), pre-fab housing and satellite dishes everywhere, and about 40 Midwayans posed for the camera in a group—staring through the GoogleMaps page like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

You gradually get a sense of certain things about the parts of the world that currently have streetview images. Canada and the Western US are universally annoying, because it is usually possible to get them…but only after scrolling down the highway for 5 minutes until you see a sign. As are the empty parts of South Africa and Australia….and they look similar and both drive on the wrong side of the road, so if you guess on one that you think is one of those, it is always the other. Japan and Russia are completely unsolvable—only by landing next to a monument to some Soviet general was I able to locate myself in Russia. I popped up near a tourist attraction in Japan once…and still got it wrong. You need real letters, not those squiggly ones they use in those places. Also, there are a lot of places in Brazil, and they are always full of people. Isn’t geography fun? In any case, well done Geoguessr, you have so much to teach us.


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The Original Photobomb?

Sneaky little bastard...

Hey! Hey you there! What do you think you’re doing?

I was scanning some of my mother’s old photos for her recently and came across this one. My great-grandmother and her brother, both immigrants from one of those countries Americans used to think was all foreign and different but that we’ve all gotten used to now, are standing in the middle looking all old-fashioned, while that unidentified guy seems to have snuck into the corner, all sneaky-like. Judging from the clothing and her apparent age this is probably from the 1920s or early 30s. I’m sure someone has some kind of Civil War photobomb or something, but this isn’t so bad either.

What are you up to sneaky guy?

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