Monthly Archives: February 2012

Q: Is it possible to objectively quantify the amount of information a sentence contains?

The original question was: It seems to me that it’s impossible to measure the information content of a message without considering the recipient of the message. For example, one might say that a coin toss generates a single bit of … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Entropy/Information | 3 Comments

Q: What would happen if a black hole passed through our solar system?

Astronomer: Most black holes form when a star which is ten times more massive than our Sun runs out of fuel for fusion. This causes the star to collapse, explode as a supernova, and, if enough material is left over … Continue reading

Posted in -- Guest Author, Astronomy, Paranoia, Physics | 77 Comments

Q: If you are talking to a distant alien, how would you tell them which way is left and which way is right?

Physicist: Assuming this question isn’t about interstellar political leanings, the answer is: it’s tricky, but it can be done. This is worth trying out just once in your life.  Try to define left and right for someone using only physical … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Particle Physics, Physics | 20 Comments

Q: Would it be possible in the distant future to directly convert matter into energy?

Physicist: You hear about nuclear devices taking advantage of “E=mc2” to turn matter into energy, so nuclear power seems like it might be a good way to go.  But it so happens that everything that releases energy loses mass in … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Mistake, Particle Physics, Physics | 22 Comments

Q: What’s the difference between anti-matter and negative-matter?

Physicist: Anti-matter is exactly the same as matter, but different.  If you, and everything else on the planet, were suddenly turned into anti-matter, you’d never know the difference.  While the “anti-” of anti-matter may seem to give it an air … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Particle Physics, Physics | 21 Comments