Category Archives: physics

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 […]

Physics explains it all

Reader Pliny the In Between has a new cartoon, “Time Dilation,” on his/her site Evolving Perspectives (click to enlarge): Making these cartoons is no easy job; in another new post, Pliny explains the work behind creating the characters and making the panels. It’s far more complicated and laborious than you’d imagine!

Krauss on Horgan

Lawrence Krauss, Michael Shermer, and Steve Pinker have written responses to John Horgan’s splenetic Scientific American blog post arguing that skeptics are criticizing the Wrong Things. Lay off Bigfoot, homeopathy, global warming, and GMOs, he says; we should be going after physics, medicine, and—war! (Horgan seems to have overlooked pervasive skepticism of physics and medicine.) One of […]

An unenlightening disquisition on consciousness

Several readers sent me Galen Strawson’s new piece in the New York Times‘s philosophy section, “The Stone.” In his op-ed, “Consciousness isn’t a mystery. It’s matter“, respected philosopher of mind Strawson makes three contentions. I find the most important two to be uncontroversial, while the third is puzzling. The basic premise is that consciousness is […]

Does the beauty and effectiveness of math in understanding the world prove anything?

One of the disadvantages of shopping for food early Sunday morning is that Krista Tippett’s “On Being” program is on National Public Radio at 7 a.m. And, of course, I have to listen, cursing to myself for an entire hour. Why do I do it, you ask? I could say that I need to keep […]