Two Views on Gravity Part 2: Geometry

Two Views on Gravity Part 2: Geometry

Sometimes analogies just feel right. For instance, “as hard to find as a needle in a hay stack” is often a good way to describe trying to find a needed quote in a half-remembered book. The mental image and the actual task just fit. In physics, I sometimes feel like the hardest part is finding the perfect analogy that will make it possible for everyone in the class to visualize the concept I’m trying to explain. In the case of gravity, Einstein kindly provided the needed analogy. He said the way we need to think of gravity is as a divot in the 4-dimensional space-time reality, where orbiting objects simply roll around the inside of the well, like bicylcists racing around the sides of a velodrome. Ok, so maybe that analogy is a bit more...

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Monday Must Haves 1: Must Haves for the Rabid Traveler

Monday Must Haves 1: Must Haves for the Rabid Traveler

Okay, so this is a bit off topic, but … There are a series of questions I keep getting, “How do you stay connected while you travel?” “What is your recording set up?” “What books do you…?” “How do you…?” So, I’m going to (in a desperate attempt to force myself to blog better) work on launching “Monday Must Haves” posts centered on answering these questions. I travel a lot. In 2009 it was over 100,000 miles (sadly not all on one airline), and in 2008 it was about 50,000 miles (also, not all on the the same airline). With my time split between short 2-day dashes somewhere random in America, and longer trips to more distant destinations, I’ve developed a survival schema that...

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An academic life punctuated by bullets, part 2

An academic life punctuated by bullets, part 2

There are some titles that should never be reused. This is part 2 of this post I wrote in 2007. This older post is better than this one. Please read the older post here. Earlier this evening I got an IM from a friend alerting me that this afternoon there had been a shooting at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Details are sketchy, but it looks like a faculty member who was recently denied tenure went into the biology faculty meeting and shot 6 people, killing 3 of the 6. On twitter I’ve seen people express mystification at how this could happen. Like I said a few years ago, about another school shooting, what really surprises me is how rarely it happens. Academia as a system is deeply flawed in a lot of ways. One of the ways it is flawed is how the...

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Come here & hear Steve Squyres at SIUE?

Come here & hear Steve Squyres at SIUE?

If you’re like me, you’ve been following NASA’s desperate attempt to free Spirit, and the ongoing roving of the rugged little Opportunity. These two rovers, with Captain Jack like habits of not dying, are in part the creation of Steven Squyres. Next week, on Wednesday night, Squyres will be giving a talk here at SIUE. Come give him a listen? Here are the details: Steven Squyres “Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet” Wednesday, February 17, 7:30 p.m. Meridian Ballroom, Morris University Center Sponsored by the Shaw Memorial Fund Steve Squyres is the man responsible for taking us to the Red Planet and igniting a new firestorm of interest in space exploration. “Spirit and Opportunity” have...

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Two views on gravity Part 1: Particle Zoo

Two views on gravity Part 1: Particle Zoo

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy teaching particle physics to two very different populations. First I work with working with little kids through the Davidson Institute, going over the ins and outs of making atoms. Then I took on particles again with my physics for poets class at SIUE. Between the two, its forced me to do a lot of thinking, and has reminded me how annoying gravity can be. Here’s the problem: Einstein taught us that gravity is a manifestation of the geometry of space and particle physics says gravity comes from the exchange of bosons called gravitons that communicate the force of gravity, which is related to mass which is mediated by the hitherto undiscovered Higgs. These particles couple particles force us to stare at two...

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