Scientists and Engineers in Congress

Posted on March 9, 2008 2 Comments

A list of Congressmen with science PhDs: Vernon Ehlers, Michigan, physics PhD; Rush Holt, New Jersey, physics PhD; John Olver, Massachusetts, chemistry PhD; Brian Baird, Washington, psychology PhD; and now Bill Foster, Illinois, physics PhD. Other scientists, engineers and mathematicians include: Ron Paul, Texas, biology BS, MD; Jerry McNerney, California, math PhD; Dan Lipinski, Illinois, mechanical engineering BS, engineering-economic systems MS; Nancy Boyda, Kansas, chemistry BS; Cliff Stearns, Florida, electrical engineering BS; Joe Barton, Texas, industrial engineering BS. Please comment with additions.

Another Scientist in Congress!

He is not just any old particle physicist, but quite an accomplished one, having been a co-inventor of Fermilab’s antiproton Recycler Ring. Once you’ve mastered antiprotons, the Washington political process should be child’s play. Congratulations!

Related: China’s Technology Savvy LeadershipScientists and PoliticsWhy Congress Needs More ScientistsAt Last, a Politician Who Knows Quantum Mechanics

Vernon Ehlers – “After three years of studying at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Ehlers transferred and received his undergraduate degree in physics and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. After six years teaching and research at Berkeley, he moved back to Grand Rapids to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department. During his tenure at Calvin, Ehlers also served as a volunteer science advisor to then-Congressman Gerald R. Ford.”

Russ Holt – Rep. Holt earned his B.A. in Physics from Carleton College in Minnesota and completed his Master’s and Ph.D. at NYU. He has held positions as a teacher, Congressional Science Fellow, and arms control expert at the U.S. State Department where he monitored the nuclear programs of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union. From 1989 until he launched his 1998 congressional campaign, Holt was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University and the largest center for research in alternative energy in New Jersey. He has conducted extensive research on alternative energy and has his own patent for a solar energy device. Holt was also a five-time winner of the game show “Jeopardy.”
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Posted on November 22, 2007 2 Comments

The god of small things:

While working on the conundrum, Higgs came up with an elegant mechanism to solve the problem. It showed that at the very beginning of the universe, the smallest building blocks of nature were truly weightless, but became heavy a fraction of a second later, when the fireball of the big bang cooled. His theory was a breakthrough in itself, but something more profound dropped out of his calculations.

Higgs’s theory showed that mass was produced by a new type of field that clings to particles wherever they are, dragging on them and making the heavy. Some particles find the field more sticky than others. Particles of light are oblivious to it. Others have to wade through it like an elephant in tar. So, in theory, particles can weigh nothing, but as soon as they are in the field, they get heavy.

Scientists now know that Higgs’s extraordinary field, or something very similar to it, played a key role in the formation of the universe. Without it, the cosmos would not have exploded into the rich, infinite galaxies we see today. The spinning disc of cosmic dust that collapsed 4.5 billion years ago to form our solar system would never have been. No planets would have formed, nor a sun to warm them. Life would not have stood a chance.

In late summer 1964, two years before he would give his Princeton lecture, Higgs rushed out a succinct letter, packed with mathematical formulae that backed his discovery and sent it to a leading physics journal run from Cern, the European nuclear research organisation in Geneva. The paper was published almost immediately, but went largely unnoticed.

Related: CERN Prepares for LHC OperationsQuantum Mechanics Made Relatively SimpleTime may not Exist

2006 Posts

Posted on August 25, 2007 No Comments

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Detailed Monthly Archive


Posted on July 27, 2007 3 Comments

Newsflash: Time May Not Exist

Planck time—the smallest unit of time that has any physical meaning—is 10-43 second, less than a trillionth of a trillionth of an attosecond. Beyond that? Tempus incognito. At least for now. Efforts to understand time below the Planck scale have led to an exceedingly strange juncture in physics. The problem, in brief, is that time may not exist at the most fundamental level of physical reality.

Einstein’s theories also opened a rift in physics because the rules of general relativity (which describe gravity and the large-scale structure of the cosmos) seem incompatible with those of quantum physics (which govern the realm of the tiny). Some four decades ago, the renowned physicist John Wheeler, then at Princeton, and the late Bryce DeWitt, then at the University of North Carolina, developed an extraordinary equation that provides a possible framework for unifying relativity and quantum mechanics. But the Wheeler-­DeWitt equation has always been controversial, in part because it adds yet another, even more baffling twist to our understanding of time.

“One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,” says Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. “It is an issue that many theorists have puzzled about. It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time—that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.”

Interesting. As usual, quantum actions seem bizarre. Related: Quantum Mechanics Made Relatively Simple PodcastsPhysicists Observe New Property of MatterParticles and WavesQuantum Theory Fails Reality ChecksPhysics Concepts in 60 Seconds

Home Experiments: Quantum Erasing

Posted on April 29, 2007 4 Comments

Do your own experiment on quantum erasing – Quantum Erasing in the Home (for instructions). From the accompanying article, A Do-It-Yourself Quantum Eraser:

The light patterns that you will see if you conduct the experiment successfully can be accounted for by considering the light to be a classical wave, with no quantum mechanics involved. So in that respect the experiment is a cheat and falls short of fully demonstrating the quantum nature of the effect.

Nevertheless, the individual photons that make up the light wave are indeed doing the full quantum dance with all its weirdness intact, although you could only truly prove that by sending the photons through the apparatus and detecting them one at a time. Such a procedure, unfortunately, remains beyond the average home experimenter.

Related: Science Toys You Can Make With Your KidsParticles and Waves

Particles and Waves

Posted on March 13, 2007 1 Comment

Science team shows light is made of particles and waves:

Work completed by a visiting research professor at Rowan University, physics professors and a student from the institution shows that light is made of particles and waves, a finding that refutes a common belief held for about 80 years.

Shahriar S. Afshar, the visiting professor who is currently at Boston’s Institute for Radiation-Induced Mass Studies (IRIMS), led a team, including Rowan physics professors Drs. Eduardo Flores and Ernst Knoesel and student Keith McDonald, that proved Afshar’s original claims, which were based on a series of experiments he had conducted several years ago.

An article on the work titled “Paradox in Wave-Particle Duality” recently published in “Foundations of Physics,” a prestigious, refereed academic journal, supports Albert Einstein’s long-debated belief that quantum physics is incomplete. For eight decades the scientific community generally had supported Niels Bohr’s ideas commonly known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

“The important new contribution is that light carries both wave and particle aspects at all times, and future experiments will further clarify the nature of each component.” Afshar said.

Related: Einstein, Bohr and the Nature of Light (PBS podcast) – Paradox in Wave-Particle Duality

Physicists Observe New Property of Matter

Posted on November 5, 2006 No Comments

Physicists Observe New Property of Matter by Kim McDonald

Physicists at UC San Diego have for the first time observed the spontaneous production of coherence within “excitons,” the bound pairs of electrons and holes that enable semiconductors to function as novel electronic devices.

Scientists working in the emerging field of nanotechnology, which is finding commercial applications for ultra-small material objects, believe that this newly discovered property could eventually help the development of novel computing devices and provide them with new insights into the quirky quantum properties of matter.

“What is coherence and why is it so important?” said Butov. “To start with, modern physics was born by the discovery that all particles in nature are also waves. Coherence means that such waves are all ‘in sync.’ The spontaneous coherence of the matter waves is the reason behind some of the most exciting phenomena in nature such as superconductivity and lasing.”

Related: 5th State of MatterQuantum Mechanics Made Relatively Simple Webcasts

Science and Engineering Webcasts

Posted on September 30, 2006 5 Comments

Science and Engineering blog > Science Links > Science and Engineering Webcasts and Podcasts

Scholarships and Fellowships Resourcesscience and engineering blogsscience bookseducation blog directoryrobotic leagues, events…science fairscafé scientifique directory

our posts on webcast

Our Favorite Science and Engineering Webcast Libraries

  • MIT World – a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT.
  • provides a wide variety of excellent talks by scientists, engineers and others – engineering channelscience channel
  • UC-Berkeley Course Videos – full course video collections including: Physics for Future Presidents (26 lectures); Electrical Engineering and Applied Science & Technology (31 lectures) and Bio Engineering (25 lectures). Also videos from conferences and College of Engineering Presentations. Video – great
  • TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks – videos from the annual conference including: Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Dawkins and Larry Brilliant. Video
  • VideoLectures.Net – open access to lectures by distinguished scholars and scientists at conferences, summer schools and workshops.
  • InfoQ – webcasts of presentations on software development.
  • Engineering TV – by engineers for engineers! Focused on technical B2B engineering and design engineering topics.
  • BBC (UK)
  • Science and the City from the New York Academy of Science every Friday.
  • PBS (USA)
    • NOVA is the highest rated science series on television (in the USA) – includes resources for teachers.
    • Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda. Special online features and resources for teachers. 15 years of TV shows.
  • SciVee – By the Public Library of Science. Great promise. Video
  • Google Technology Talks – videos of presentation at Google including: The Next Fifty Years of Science by Kevin Kelly, Winning The DARPA Grand Challenge, Building Large Systems at Google and Human Computation. Video – great
  • This Week in Science – audio podcasts of weekly radio program with an irreverent flavor
  • doFlick – user-generated educational, technical and instructional videos on science and engineering. The videos are are largely tips on lab or engineering techniques, edited labs or short lessons.
  • Stanford Linear Accelerator Centervideo lectures including: Whispers of the Big Bang; Profiling the Invisible: Quantum Mechanics and the Unseen Universe; and Our Lopsided Universe: The Matter with Anti-Matter. Videos
  • Science Studio, Arizona State University – life science podcasts with professors.
  • Honeywell – Nobel Initiative: videos and podcasts by Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Physics
  • ScienceLive video archivevideo lectures from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Engines of Our Ingenuity by John Lienhard – audio podcasts of weekly radio show
  • Science Hack – links to lots of science videos by category

Related posts: Google Tech TalksTech Talks #3

20 Scientists Who Have Helped Shape Our World

Posted on August 16, 2006 2 Comments

20 Scientists Who Have Helped Shape Our World (pdf document) from the National Science Resources Center

Norman Borlaug, Plant Scientist”–Father of the Green Revolution”

The results of Dr. Borlaug’s work are encouraging: India, for example, harvests six times more wheat today than it did only 40 years ago. This increase in wheat production in poor countries has been called the “Green Revolution.” It has been written about Dr. Borlaug that he has saved more lives than anyone else who ever lived.

For his scientific achievements, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Today, at age 90, Dr. Borlaug remains active in science as a distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University

Others include:

  • Tim Berners-Lee, Computer Scientist—Inventor of the World Wide Web
  • George Washington Carver, Inventor/Chemist (1861−1943)—Saving Agriculture in the South
  • Ayanna Howard, Engineer—Robotics Pioneer, and
  • Read more

    Van Gogh Painted Perfect Turbulence

    Posted on August 13, 2006 4 Comments

    Photo by John Hunter of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

    Van Gogh seems to be the only painter able to render turbulence with such mathematical precision. “We have examined other apparently turbulent paintings of several artists and find no evidence of Kolmogorov scaling,” says Aragon.

    Partially this article, Van Gogh painted perfect turbulence, discusses some interesting science:

    Scientists have struggled for centuries to describe turbulent flow — some are said to have considered the problem harder than quantum mechanics. It is still unsolved, but one of the foundations of the modern theory of turbulence was laid by the Soviet scientist Andrei Kolmogorov in the 1940s.

    He predicted a particular mathematical relationship between the fluctuations in a flow’s speed and the rate at which it dissipates energy as friction. Kolmogorov’s work led to equations describing the probability of finding a particular velocity difference between any two points in the fluid. These relationships are called Kolmogorov scaling.

    But really it just gave me an excuse to post the photo I took of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night on a recent trip to New York City. More photos of Vincent van Gogh paintings: Van Gogh self portrait (Musee d’Orsay)Irises (the Met, NYC) . NYC travel photos: (the photos from the most recent trip are not posted yet): Metropolitan Museum of ArtCentral ParkBrooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Children’s Museum