Saturday, February 21, 2009

Physics Quote of the Day (Feb 15 - Feb 21)

Here are the Physics Quotes of the Day for last week. As I want to do this on a regular basis, I decided to quote a physicist which has an event related to the day. In that way, I have good hope to last for a whole year. These (sometimes abridged) quotes are published daily on my Twitter timeline. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @materion. You may also find them by the appropriate hashtag #pqotd Twitter search. All these quotes are also on Wikiquote.

"We do not aim at « mathematical rigour » of exposition, which in theoretical physics often amounts to self-deception." Lev Davidovich Landau and Evgenii Lifshitz, born 21 February 1915.

"Who sees the future? Let us have free scope for all directions of research; away with dogmatism, either atomistic or anti-atomistic!" Ludwig Boltzmann, born 20 February 1844.

"Mathematics is written for mathematicians." Nicolaus Copernicus, born 19 February 1473.

"All this, the positive and physical essence of mechanics, which makes its chief and highest interest for a student of nature, is in existing treatises completely buried and concealed beneath a mass of technical considerations." Ernst Mach, born 18 February 1838.

"Shall we do it?" "Well, then let's go, we shall do it!" Otto Stern (born 17 February 1888) asking, Walther Gerlach answering.

"... it is shameful that there are so few women in science ..." Chien-Shiung Wu, died 16 February 1997.

Bonus for February 16th:
"Erwin with his psi can do
Calculations quite a few.
But one thing has not been seen:
Just what does psi really mean?
Erich Hückel, died 16 February 1980.

"In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." Galileo Galilei, born 15 February 1564.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Physics Quote of the Day (Feb 8 - Feb 14)

Here are the Physics Quotes of the Day for last week. All these quotes are now also on Wikiquote.

Feb 14 "As we can not give a general definition of energy, the principle of the conservation of energy signifies simply that there is something which remains constant." Henri Poincaré

Feb 13 "In general, scientific progress calls for no more than the absorption and elaboration of new ideas— and this is a call most scientists are happy to heed." Werner Heisenberg

Feb 12 "I love fools' experiments. I am always making them." Charles Darwin

Feb 11 "One of the principal objects of research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in the greatest simplicity." J.Willard Gibbs born on Feb 11 1839.

Feb 10 "...elementary particles are terribly boring, which is one reason why we're so interested in them." Steven Weinberg

Feb 9 "When you make the finding yourself — even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light — you never forget it." Carl Sagan

Feb 8 "Why did such serious people take so seriously axioms which now seem so arbitrary?" John S. Bell

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Is quantum physics associated with common sense or is it flapdoodle?

I would like to thank those who prompted me on the apparent contradiction between "Common Sense" and "Quantum Physics", calling it an oxymoron.

A few month ago, in a discussion on sci.physics:
"Common Sense" Quantum Physics?
Now THERE is an oxymoron if ever there was one!

And recently, I was prompted by a tweet:
Common sense quantum physics sounds like an oxymoron to me!

Of course, I chose my blogtitle to be suggestive, even a bit provocative. But I wanted it also to be earnest. How is it possible that the most fundamental theoretical framework of nature is not considered as common sense? To me this is sufficient evidence that there is something wrong in our understanding and teaching of Quantum Physics.

My opinion is that our specialized physics education is responsible for that oxymoron. I've got children, one of them who's just got to high school. When they ask me about what I'm doing with my video-clips and I explain to them how quantum systems behave, they grasp it intuitively.

For instance, I'll explain that interference patterns with single particles are obtained because the single particle rides on a wave and that wave directs it at special places on a screen, that's how ordinary particles behave. But I'll never ever explain it through unnecessary hocus pocus quantum flapdoodle.  

All the same, they understand very well that we don't know whether Schrödinger's cat is dead or alive before we've opened the box. I'll never ever tell them that the cat is both dead and alive at the same time. I'll just say that because we don't know whether it is dead or alive, quantum physics has some rules that give odds for each possible result of the observation. That conforms to their perception of reality.

With respect to quantum mechanics, I find classical mechanics concepts like gravity harder to explain. The fact that the sun attracts the earth or that the earth attracts a falling apple is less intuitive than the fundamental quantum principles.

That's what I mean by "ordinary common sense quantum physics" with respect to "educated common sense classical physics".

Physics Quote of the Day (Feb 1 - Feb 7)

Last week, I started to twitter daily a physicists quote of the day (#pqotd), giving the author the next day. A good quote should be either inspiring or identifiable. A good quote inspires in the sense that you could build your reflections or actions on it. Or you may identify yourself or someone else with it: a character is then cast in a few words.

Physicists are nature inquirers, so like philosophers their quotes are meaningful for a broad audience. As long as my source of quotes doesn't dry up, I'll republish them on a weekly basis. Here it follows:

Feb 7 "Physicists are the Peter Pans of the human race. They never grow up and they keep their curiosity.” Isidor Rabi

Feb 6 "All science is either physics or stamp collecting.Ernest Rutherford

Feb 5 "The Real question is whether all your ponderings & analyses will convince you life is worth living. That's what it all comes down to.Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos

Feb 4 "Science may be regarded as a minimal problem consisting of the completest possible presentment of facts with the least possible expenditure of thought.Ernst Mach

Feb 3 "Time is the number of motionAristotle

Feb 2 "All we do is draw little arrows on a piece of paper - that's all!" Richard Feynman

Feb 1 "I think that only bold speculation will enable us to progress and not an accumulation of experiments." Albert Einstein