Author Archives: The Physicist

Burning Man 2017

Long ago, Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist was two guys sitting around in the desert talking to strangers about whatever came to mind.  It’s been a while, but we’re heading back to Burning Man for more of the … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist | 7 Comments

Q: How can something be “proven” in science or math?

The original question was: … it confuses me that abstract concepts, such as Banach-Tarski, and other concepts in pure mathematics and theoretical physics, can be considered to have been “proven”.  Is it not the case that one can only prove … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Conventions, Math, Philosophical | 7 Comments

Q: If time is relative, then how can we talk about how old the universe is?

Physicist: One of the most profound insights ever made by peoplekind is that time is relative.  This isn’t some abstract idea, mistake, or mathematical artifact.  If you have two identically functioning clocks, you can start them together, move them to … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Astronomy, Physics, Relativity | 16 Comments

Q: How can carbon dating work on things that were never alive?

Physicist: It doesn’t. Carbon dating is the most famous form of “radiometric dating”.  By measuring the trace amounts of radioactive carbon-14 (so named because it has 6 protons and 8 neutrons) in a dead something and comparing it to the … Continue reading

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

Teleportation! In space!

Physicist: This isn’t a question anybody asked, just an interesting goings-on. A few weeks ago QUESS (QUantum Experiments at Space Scale) began teleporting quantum information to and from the Micius satellite and between ground stations 1200 km apart.  This is … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Entropy/Information, Physics, Quantum Theory | 14 Comments

Q: If the world is a giant magnet, how come we can’t build a repelling magnet that can float?

Physicist: Three big reasons: 1) The Earth’s magnetic field is hella weak 2) it’s so big and roughly uniform that there’s no reason for a magnet to go one direction or the other 3) floating a magnet in a magnetic … Continue reading

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