The mad ramblings of a scientist
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Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Last, Great American Accelerator

Yesterday the Tevatron, once the pride of the physics community, was turned off for the last time, after 28 years of service. Now, for the first time since accelerators were invented in this country in the 1930s, the United States no longer supports a single high-energy accelerator facility. Instead, the remnants of the experimental high-energy physics community in this country are forced to travel overseas for their experiments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sensationalism Makes a Better Story

One of the bigger stories circulating on the internet today is a report from CERN of neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. The Associated Press titled their report "Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged", with quotes from physicists discussing how the news could shatter the foundations of modern physics.

Is this the big discovery of the decade? Do we now believe it is possible to exceed the speed of light and build fantastic interstellar spaceships and time traveling machines? Well… no.

I am sure the scientists involved are searching for a systematic error in their measurement, and are publicizing their results in the hope that someone might figure out what exactly is wrong with their calculations (which, by the way, rely on a very accurate estimate of the distance between the instrument and accelerator, among other things). The scientists on the experiment are probably cringing at the tenor of AP’s story.

Posted at: 9:47 PM
Categories: Physics in the news

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A 50 year Anniversary
Sputnik

An important anniversary passed on Sunday. Fifty years ago, the launching of Sputnik spawned a national crisis in the United States that many say was directly responsible for spurring large increases in government funding on basic science research and education.

I was thus overcome with a great sense of irony when I read today, just two days later, about a decline in government funding of basic research at Stanford. Apparently, this is first time that federal funding of science at Stanford University has fallen in 25 years. And the problem isn't just isolated to Stanford. Nationwide, government funding in university research and development has failed to out pace inflation.

It makes you wonder if we have learned anything.

Posted at: 9:53 PM (Edited: September 15, 2011, 8:16 PM)
Categories: Physics in the news, Science and Policy

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do I really want to stay up to 3 AM?

I don't think so, although it is tempting.

Posted at: 6:49 PM
Categories: Diary, Physics in the news

Friday, September 22, 2006

There is no such thing as a "relativity drive"

Here is a really bad article in the New Scientist, pointed out by slashdot, which describes a thrust free drive.

Here is the scoop. Relatively theory does not allow you to violate conservation of momentum in any form. Thus, without even seeing the design or reading the paper, I know from first principles that this engine simply can not work. End of story.

I feel sorry for the inventor, who appears to really think he discovered something novel, and has spent a lot of time and effort on it. Presumably there is an effect he does not understand that is influencing tests of his prototype. For example, some force being transfered from his power source, or some resonant force being applied to something in the laboratory environment. Unfortunately, there is nothing to press against in deep space, and so this engine will simply fail if installed in a space craft.

Posted at: 11:33 PM
Categories: Physics in the news