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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
… 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.
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.