Monthly Archives: September 2012

Q: Why are the days still longer than nights, until a few days after the fall equinox?

Physicist: The issue here is the equinoxes are the two days of the year when the length of the day should be exactly as long as the night.  And yet you’ll find that on the equinox the day is always … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Astronomy, Physics | 1 Comment

Q: What is a Fourier transform? What is it used for?

Physicist: Almost every imaginable signal can be broken down into a combination of simple waves.  This fact is the central philosophy behind Fourier transforms (Fourier was very French, so his name is pronounced a little wonky: “4 E yay”). Fourier … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Equations, Math | 34 Comments

Q: What are singularities? Do they exist in nature?

Physicist: Singularities are just artifacts that fall out of math.  They show up a lot in theory, and (probably) never in nature.  The “singularities” most people have heard of are black hole singularities. In practice, when you’re calculating something in … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Math, Philosophical, Physics | 16 Comments

Q: Is it likely that there are atoms in my body that have traveled from the other side of the planet, solar system, galaxy, or universe?

Physicist: Not just likely, but essentially guaranteed! Technically, every atom in your body has been swirling all around the galaxy for billions of years (although it’s mostly stayed in the same place for the last 5 billion or so).  So … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Astronomy, Physics, Probability | 9 Comments

Q: Is there a number set that is “above” complex numbers?

Physicist: Yes, but they don’t fix problems the way the complex numbers do. The nice thing about real numbers (which includes basically every number you might think of: 0, 1, π, -5/2, …) is that no matter how you add, … Continue reading

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

Q: Are the brain and consciousness quantum mechanical in nature?

Physicist: The extremely short, smart-ass answer to this is: of course!  Ultimately everything in the universe is built out of tiny quantum things and ultimately everything obeys quantum mechanical laws.  But that’s not really the spirit of the question, and … Continue reading

Posted in Biology, Philosophical, Physics, Quantum Theory | 11 Comments