Category Archives: Philosophical

Q: What does “E=mc2” mean?

Physicist: This famous equation is a little more subtle than it appears.  It does provide a relationship between energy and matter, but importantly it does not say that they’re equivalent. First, it’s worth considering what energy actually is.  Rather than … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Equations, Philosophical, Physics, Relativity | 8 Comments

Q: How do we know that atomic clocks are accurate?

Physicist: It turns out that there is no way, whatsoever, to look at a single clock and tell whether or not it’s accurate.  A good clock isn’t so much accurate as it consistent.  It takes two clocks to demonstrate consistency, … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Experiments, Logic, Philosophical, Physics | 2 Comments

Q: What are “delayed choice experiments”? Can “wave function collapse” be used to send information?

Physicist: There are a lot of big claims made about entanglement, but there are two carved-in-stone facts that help cut through some of the more grandiose claims.  First, (maximally) entangled states always act exactly like a perfectly random state, until … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Entropy/Information, Experiments, Philosophical, Physics, Probability, Quantum Theory, Skepticism | 4 Comments

Q: How do I encrypt/hide/protect my email?

Cryptographer: Lots of people have been asking “how do I encrypt my email” or “how can I hide from NSA surveillance”. It turns out that the answer to the first question is fairly straight forward, while the second is not, … Continue reading

Posted in -- Guest Author, Computer Science, Paranoia | 4 Comments

Q: Are numbers real?

Physicist: This question usually comes in the form of “are complex numbers real?” or “are negative numbers real?” or something along those lines.  Turns out you can answer all of these questions at once (if you make up a nice … Continue reading

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

Q: Do the past and future exist? If they do, is the future determined and what does that mean for quantum randomness?

Physicist: This is a difficult question to even ask, because the word “exist” carries with it some “time-based assumptions”.  For example, if you ask “does the Colossus of Rhodes exist?” the correct answer should be “it did, but it doesn’t … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Philosophical, Physics, Quantum Theory, Relativity | 32 Comments