Tag Archives: physics

Trips to Uranus! Roundworms with the munchies! And much more! :) (What I find interesting in math and science, May 2023)

I continue to find interesting things in the area of astronomy, math, physics and more. Here are some of the best of them. I hope you like them! (Yes, there will be stoned earthworms, and something about Uranus. :))

Space missions and exploration: I am excited to see so many different countries sending space missions to a wide range of areas and planning more. Europe has sent the mission  Juice to go explore Jupiter.  And yes, NASA wants to explore Uranus. (Although here’s why that won’t happen until the 2040s. Hey, it’s far.)  Japan is trying to get in the game, though their rocket had some recent failure.

Venus is a tough place to explore, though not impossible. Here’s a good piece on how it could be explored using  balloons. In the meantime, NASA is using data from  Magellan to reveal volcanic activity on that hot planet. The more knowledge, the more likely a future visit will be successful.

As for other countries, I am glad that Russia will continue to use the international space station for some time. Let’s hope that doesn’t stop. As for my home country, Canada is working on it’s first ever canadian lunar rover! (see below)

Elsewhere in space: while we humans go out into space, space also comes to us. For example:  Asteroid 2023 BU is a space rock that passes closer to us than some satellites. Yikes.

And it’s not the only rock. Above is a photo of another large asteroid passing by.

As for other space objects, here’s two good pieces on black holes:  scientists discover ultramassive black hole 30bn times the mass of the sun plus this typing black holes and dark matter.

This is cool: you can be an amateur astronomer and help the pros. Check it out. Also cool is this piece on how John Glenns basic camera forced NASA to rethink space missions. Plus, here’s a good piece on using  AI in astronomy.

Mind blowing physics: If you are interested in quantum physics, read this: four common misconceptions about quantum physics. This is a good reminder that everything in physics is made up, and that’s ok. Oh, and physicists are starting to think space and time are illusions.

Math: What do you get when you cross math with the AI? Some excellent illustrations, like the one at the top of this post! More here! This is also excellent: Ideas of Calculus in Islam and India. I enjoyed finding out that you can use the lagrangian function in managerial economics. Neat! If you want to learn more math, I highly recommend these No bullshit guides.

Can non-mathematicians learn and appreciate math? This piece looks at some books on  math education that try to do that. The jury is out, though I think it’s possible.

Finally: this is a good reminder that I don’t think we  really understand the nervous system, if you can have memories without brains. Speaking of lower lifeforms:  Roundworms on weed get the muchines.

I hope more people read this on Chien-Shiung Wu and the little known origin story behind the 2022 nobel prize in physics. 

And what’s this?

Just an introduction to the TV show, The National. Back then letters like that indicated The Future. I had to find a place to show them on my blog! 🙂


All the exciting things happening in space in 2023. Read this and mark your calendar!

If you interested in space as I am, then get out your calendar and mark down 2023’s top astronomical events so you don’t miss any of them. As WaPo says, “With opportunities to wish upon shooting stars, and to see a Super Blue Moon and the Ring of Fire eclipse, 2023 is bursting” with things to keep an eye out for.

One thing in particular is lunar exploration. First up is, NASA’s Artemis mission. As the Verge explains, an Orion spacecraft that is part of that mission has recently returned and safely splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after a recent trip. A good start! And Artemis promises great things in the future. Not only is it part of NASA’s plan to return visits to the Moon, it’s part of NASA’s plan to never leave. The dream of space colonization could become a reality.

And it’s not just the Americans that are interested in going and staying on the moon. The Chinese are too. Who knows what will take place in the next 10-20 years? It’s all very promising.

With all this space travel, this should keep not just government agencies busy, but private companies too. Case in point: After doubling launch record in 2022, can SpaceX take another step up in 2023?

Heck, even you can get involved. Don’t believe me? Then read this: NASA Wants You to Help Study Planets Around Other Stars.

Meanwhile back on Earth, there’s a lot of interest in tracking asteroids coming close to us. NASA and others are getting a handle on tracking the big ones. The smaller ones are much harder. Here’s a piece on one such asteroid 2023bu that recently blew by us. (See the arrow in the photo above pointing to it.)

For my last space piece I want to highlight, this is a worthwhile read on why some people have an issue with the latest space telescope being named after James Webb. You can find many such pieces arguing back and forth on the matter. I think both sides have worthwhile points. I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Not space related, but fun is this piece on how bees actually play — yes play! — with little wooden balls!

Finally, for people interested in physics, this is a good piece discussing where it is headed. One such. direction is the study of dark matter and dark energy.  Here’s a good piece on a dark energy experiment that recently won a big prize. We need more such experiments if we are ever to solve the mystery of dark energy and matter.

Love and rockets (things I find interesting in math and science, Dec. 2022)

In the last few months my math and science reading has mostly been about space, with some smattering of other things. NASA in particular has been the focus. First up is a piece on the DART Mission which smashed into an asteroid and altered it’s path. No small feat, that. In other big feats, they are still in the planning stages of a a balloon mission to Venus . Given that landing on Venus results in a spacecraft being destroyed, a visit that stays in that planet’s atmosphere may be the only way for it to succeed.

One such mission that should definitely succeed is Artemis, NASA’s project to visit (revisit?) the moon, Here is the NYTimes on it. Relatedly, here’s the Atlantic with a piece on the the 50th anniversary of Apollo. We are clearly due for a return trip. I wonder if it will affect the new astronauts as much as it did William Shatner after his quick trip into space with Jeff Bezos? I suspect they will be more prepared than the TV astronaut was.

Speaking of space, here’s cosmologist Katie Mack talking about scenarios for the end of the universe. I got her book last Christmas and loved it. Another book on physics I want to read is by Sabine Hossenfelder . She’s a no nonsense type of scientist, which I think is good. For while I agree that when it comes to science and especially physics, there is no escaping metaphysics, I also agree with those who say that physicists sometimes get carried away with some of their loftier or wild ideas.

Then again, some of those ideas resulted in this year’s The Nobel Prize . And it had led to physicists creating “the Smallest Crummiest Wormhole You Can Imagine”. These wild ideas really makes you think. If you think too hard, though, you will likely get tired. The Guardian has a good explanation on why thinking tires your brain .

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about physics, I recommend you check out the web site DrPhysicsA. It’s good stuff. And you want to learn more about math, you can visit the blog of one of the best mathematicians in the world. Here is is writing on odds. Also good!

On sleeping spiders, Marie Curie’s scandalous affairs, and other things I find interesting in math and science, Oct. 2022

I haven’t been doing as much reading in math and science these days, but what I have found and listed here I thought interesting or worthwhile:

How math can help you flip burgers (or what I find interesting in math and sciences, July 2022)

Last week  was a big one for math, with the Fields Medals being announced. As The New York Times explained:

Four mathematicians whose research covers areas like prime numbers and the packing of eight-dimensional spheres are the latest recipients of the Fields Medals, which are given out once every four years to some of the most accomplished mathematicians under the age of 40.

That piece in the Times goes in depth on each of the winners and is worthwhile.

On a lighter side, here’s a story on how Mathematics can help solve this conundrum:

Should you flip a burger once or lots of times? A mathematician has calculated an answer.

. If you love math and burgers, it’s a must read. 🙂

Other good things I’ve been reading / checking out:

On Godel and Game Theory (what I find interesting in math and sciences, May 2022)

Math education: here’s some good pieces on that topic. First up, Susan Fowler (now Rigetti) on how you can learn more math. One way to learn is to see how others do it. Here’s Fields medalist Tim Gowers working through math problems on YouTube. Also this is a good resource on YouTube: math channel.

Speaking of learning math, here’s a piece on how to fix math class.

Math theory: For fans of game theory: Game theory and Cuban Missile crisis. Here’s two more good theory pieces, one on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems and one on Fermat’s last theorem.

Philosophy: Here’s two good pieces on math and philosophy: How Julia Robinson helped define the limits of mathematical knowledge and another on how math and philosophy need each other.

Physics and space: this is cool, Visualizing Black Holes with General Relativistic Ray Tracing. So is this: SpaceX’s Starship and NASA’s SLS Could Supercharge Space Science. This is odd,  NASA Will Test Gigantic Centrifuge for Hurling Objects Into Space. This is fun, measuring the earth using the traceroute command! This is fascinating, what I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists.

Brain: here’s two good pieces on the brain. First, Your brain expands and shrinks over time. Second, Deep sleep drives brain fluid oscillations.

On Emmy Noether

Recently the Perimeter Institute held a contest called “Physics Frenzy – Battle of the Equations Championship”. I was sure James Maxwell and his equations were going to win. It turns out he lost (in the final, mind you) to Emmy Noether and her theorem!

Afterwards I wondered if people knew much about her. Besides being arguably the greatest woman mathematician, she was a significant contributor to math and physics in the 20th century. You can read a bio of her here.

Fun aside, the good people at the Perimeter Institute have a series of initiatives centered around Emmy Noether. They also have material where you could learn more about her.  Read about them, here.


What I find interesting in math and sciences, March 2022

Here are two pieces on physics that really are also about philosophy. First, in the realm of the very small: On quantum theory and reality. Second, in the realm of the very large: On space and time.

Of all the sciences, those having to do with space are the ones I enjoy reading about the most. I got interested in Lagrange points due to the James Webb Telescope. Here’s something on them: Lagrange points.

I thought this was a good reminder to me of any images we get regarding black holes (something I find fascinating): The Images of Black Holes are Not Photos.

COVID has made me think more and more about biology these days. That’s a good thing. It has me reading things like this: Disease moves like ripples on a pond.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that we don’t think with our brains but that we think with our entire bodies. This makes me interested in anything that makes that connection. This is such a piece: Our nervous system is connected to our organs and shapes our thoughts and our memories.

There was some discussion on racism in mathematics over the last while. I think this is a good discussion to have. Here are two pieces on the topic: Racism in our curriculums isn’t limited to history. It’s in math too and Opinion: Is math racist? Wrong question.

I continue to learn math in an amateurish way. I enjoyed these sources of information on it: Guide to Tensors and The Best Math Books and Statistics Books.

(Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash)

When a scientific experiment is beautiful

Can a scientific experiment be beautiful? Milena Ivanova makes the case that it can, here: When is a scientific experiment like a beautiful work of art?

I’m glad she mentioned the Michelson Morley experiment because I think it is a fine example of elegance and beauty. You might not think it, looking at it in the image above. Read the article: you might be convinced after reading that it is.


What I find interesting: physics

Last week I talked about not learning music being a regret of mine. The other regret I have is not learning physics. I dabble in it, but it’s a struggle.

If you are interested in learning physics, read this piece from my friend Susan. I got to know her because of it: So You Want to Learn Physics… — Susan Fowler. She now has a new version of it at a new site! You can find it here.

Other friends I have who do know physics tell me the thing to learn is Lagrangian mechanics. Here’s a good guide to it: Lagrangian Mechanics For Dummies: An Intuitive Introduction – Profound Physics

Another way to learn physics is via Youtube. This guy has an amazing YouTube channel on Physics: DrPhysicsA – YouTube Worthwhile.

Of course you can also read text books on it. I think Dover Books are among the best for this. For example, this: Classical Mechanics: 2nd Edition: Corben, H.C., Stehle, Philip: 9780486680637: Gateway – Amazon.ca

Still another way is via experimentation. For example:  build your own particle detector | symmetry magazine

(Speaking of experimentation, here’s a great piece on how the LIGO Observatory detects gravitational waves)

A problem I have always had with physics is how did physics get to where it got to, and why are certain areas more prominent than others. To better understand that, it’s good to look backwards at how physics was done in previous time. For example, this article on Ole Roemer: Ole Roemer Profile: First to Measure the Speed of Light | AMNH. We all know light has a specific speed but back then some thought light was instantaneous. But Roemer came up with a method to show light had an actual speed and it could be measured. Likewise, here is the great physicist James Maxwell with a book on how scientists developed their idea of what heat is and how it works: Theory of Heat – James Clerk Maxwell – Google Books.

Finally, a good way to learn physics is read good articles on it. Here’s a collection of some:

(Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash)


How to learn physics, via Susan Fowler

Susan is famous now (for good reason!), but before she was famous, she wrote this excellent blog post:  If Susan Can Learn Physics, So Can You — Susan Fowler.

I came across it because I was trying to learn physics again. (I started off taking physics ages ago but dropped it because, well, long story, but I ended up in Computer Science and Mathematics and went on to have a career at IBM so it worked out.) I followed a lot of Susan’s advice, and while I am not good at physics yet, I highly recommend this to anyone serious about it. (Just stay away from programs that want to weed out most of the class because they want small class sizes.)

(Image via Susan’s blog)

A fine appreciation for Stephen Hawking can be found…

… here: Stephen Hawking Is Still Underrated – The Atlantic. 

I like this piece because it takes you into his science and what makes his work great without having you be an expert in the field yourself. You might still struggle with it, but it is a worthwhile struggle.

Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. You may be gone, but the work you did lives on and will lead to more great work being done by other scientists that come after you.

All three volumes of the Feynman Lectures on Physics online

Yes, it’s true. The great Feynman Lectures on Physics are now online. Volumes one, two and three, cover everything from mechanics to quantum mechanics. A must for anyone interested in physics.

I’d also recommend it to anyone looking to write pieces on how to explain something technical.