Category Archives: physics

Two tweets

by Matthew Cobb Readers are invited to explain the first one, which involves calculus of some kind, I believe. When the shortest path is not the shortest path — Matt Lieberman (@social_brains) March 21, 2017 And this might amuse you Aliens is a reasonable idea… — David Bressan (@David_Bressan) March 21, 2017

Aeon: A physicist claims that materialism is dead because it can’t explain consciousness

Quantum mechanics is deeply weird, and I can’t grasp it in the sense of trying to understand how it works using my own experience as a reference. But of course that’s true for physicists as well, and I think it’s what Feynman meant when he said “Nobody understands quantum mechanics” (see the short video below): That is, […]

Sean Carroll on “The Life Scientific”

You can listen for free to this 27-minute BBC podcast (and download it)  in which Jim Al-Khalili interviews Sean Carroll on cosmology. There’s no direct link, but go to the page by clicking on the screenshot, while you’ll find it at the top. (Note: the second reader’s comment below gives a link to the direct download.) […]

Lawrence Krauss’s new book on the history of modern physics

Physicist Lawrence Krauss made quite a stir with his previous book, A Universe From Nothing. He took a lot of flak for defining “nothing” as a quantum vacuum, which of course could indeed produce a universe through the appearance of particles that pop into and out of existence, yielding the Big Bang. Theologians and philosophers, affronted, quibbled about […]

Sean Caroll’s keynote talk at LogiCal

Last night, Sean Carroll (a cosmologist at CalTech and the Official Website Physicist™), gave the keynote address at the LogiCal meetings. As he told me at dinner beforehand, he was trying to condense all five of his Gifford Lectures (given in Glasgow last year) into a single hour. It was, like his Gifford Lectures, a […]

Google Doodle honors first measurement of the speed of light

Somehow I missed this anniversary, and the Google Doodle shown below isn’t visible from the U.S. Here’s the skinny from CNet: While my car has trouble going over 65 mph, the speed of light is much faster — approximately 186,282 miles per second. How do we know that? Well, we can all thank Danish astronomer […]

Sean Carroll’s Gifford Lectures

The Gifford Lectures, first given in 1898, were established by a bequest of Lord Adam Gifford, and were intended to “promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God.” In other words, they were supposed to use evidence from nature to give […]

Does science imply God? Harvard astronomer raises fine-tuning argument in Washington Post, suggesting a theistic explanation for human intelligence

Howard Smith is a lecturer in Harvard’s Department of Astronomy as well as an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He’s also a religious Jew who spends his time reconciling science with the mystical tenets of the Kaballah. The website for Smith’s 2006 book, Let There Be Light: Modern Cosmology and Kaballah: A New Conversation […]

Freeman Dyson’s natural theology: The human brain can’t be explained by evolution, ergo we’re “a miracle of some sort”

Most of you have probably heard of Freeman Dyson (born 1923), a mathematician and physicist of considerable accomplishment, who worked for decades at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.  He’s also a bit of a polymath, having published on biology and, unfortunately, on metaphysics. For, as he’s admitted, Dyson is a “nondenominational Christian”, something I didn’t know until […]

Do cats understand the laws of physics?

Betteridge’s law of headlines would suggest that the answer is “no”, but the authors of a new paper in Animal Cognition beg to disagree. This short report (reference and free pdf below) tests the idea that cats can identify a rattling sound in a box as denoting an object in the box, and then, when the […]