Monthly Archives: March 2010

Q: How hard would it be to make a list of products of primes that could beat public key encryption?

The complete question was: I’m assuming almost anyone with sufficient computing power could generate big prime numbers (if these are not already published somewhere). Would making a table of all of the products of these prime numbers be so difficult? … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Mathematician, Math, Number Theory | 1 Comment

Q: What are complex numbers used for?

Physicist: If you’ve ever had to do square roots you’ve probably come up against the problem of taking the square root of a negative number.  If you restrict your attention only to real numbers (0,1, -17, , √2, …, any … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Equations, Math, Quantum Theory | 16 Comments

Q: Can one truly create something from nothing? If matter formed from energy (as in the Big Bang expansion), where did the energy come from?

Physicist: That right there is one of the great unsolved questions.  Every experiment that’s ever been done (on this subject) verifies the conservation of mass and energy.  While the amount of mass or the amount of energy may change (they … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Philosophical, Physics, Quantum Theory | 41 Comments

Q: Why does wind make you colder, but re-entry makes you hotter?

The original question was: Why is it that, when you are outdoors and the atmosphere is moving past you at a moderate rate (wind), you get colder; but when the atmosphere is moving past a space shuttle during re-entry, it … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Physics | 2 Comments

Q: Are explosions more or less powerful in space?

Physicist: Brace yourself for a mess of guesses: I’ve heard (anecdotally, and on Mythbusters) that explosions in water are more dangerous that than explosions in the air.  I don’t know if that has more to do with the specific properties … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Physics | 5 Comments

Q: What is infinity? (A brief introduction to infinite sets, infinite limits, and infinite numbers)

Mathematician: To mathematicians, infinity is not a single entity, but rather a label given to a variety of related mathematical objects. What unites these “infinities” is that they are all, in some sense, larger than anything that can be obtained … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Mathematician, Math, Philosophical | 2 Comments