Monthly Archives: August 2011

Burning Man 2011

Before it was a website, Ask A Mathematician / Ask A Physicist was two guys sitting in the desert at Burning Man, presuming to answer (almost) any question that happened to occur to whomever happened to appear at our stand. … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Mathematician, -- By the Physicist | 11 Comments

Q: If light slows down in different materials, then how can it be a universal speed?

Physicist: This bothers a lot of people.  When you’re learning physics, there are several things that you learn in the first couple years.  Among them are: 1) The speed of light is an absolute. 2) Light slows down when it … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Physics, Quantum Theory | 49 Comments

Q: What is mass?

Physicist: Short questions are real killers! “Mass”, like practically everything in physics, is defined in terms of its properties, like: 1) Mass has inertia. 2) Mass creates gravity (energy does this too). 3) Mass travels slower than the speed of … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Philosophical, Physics | 4 Comments

Q: How much of physics can be deduced from previous equations/axioms?

The original question was: I was wondering quite how much of physics (mainly regarding classical mechanics but all branches!) can be deduced from previous equations/axioms. I don’t mean going as far back as what axioms we have to take in … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Philosophical | 12 Comments

Q: If God were all-seeing and all-knowing, the double-slit experiment wouldn’t work, would it? Wouldn’t God’s observation of the location of the photon collapse its probability wave function?

Physicist: Deep… It depends on how entangled God is with the rest of us. If He can make the observation, and then keep a completely straight face forever (never leak any information about the result in any way), then His … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Philosophical, Quantum Theory | 15 Comments

Q: How do those “executive ball clicker” things work?

The original question was: With the game for executives, consisting of several metal balls hanging in a straight, horizontal row (a “Newton’s cradle”), when one ball is lifted and let loose to hit the rest of the row, only one … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Math, Physics | 17 Comments