Natural Sciences

Agents of Dreamland, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Taking a brief break from posts on quantum entanglement — will be back with more on that subject soon! Meanwhile…

Caitlin R. Kiernan is a brilliant writer. This is an indisputable fact.  Several years ago, I blogged about her beautiful, dark and haunting novel The Drowning Girl, a ghost story that I rank as not only a classic of the genre but a classic of literature.  I also was awed by her 2009 novel The Red Tree (which I read but never blogged about, for some reason)....

What is quantum entanglement? Part 4: relativity and entanglement

This is part 4 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here,  Part 2 can be read here, and Part 3 here. 

In the last post, we finally introduced the concept of quantum entanglement.  An example of an entangled state between two quantum particles is given by the decay of a spin-zero pion into a spin-1/2 positron and a spin-1/2 electron, as illustrated below.

This results in a combined...

Coming in 2018: Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics!

I’ve only been hinting at this revelation so far, but I am finally ready to let the cat out of the bag — almost literally!  I have signed a contract with Yale University Press to write my first popular science book, which I have tentatively titled “Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics!”

This book will combine physics and history to tell the surprisingly long story of scientists and engineers studying the remarkable ability of a cat to (almost)...

Creepy cobweb coats New Zealand soccer field

Creepy cobweb coats New Zealand soccer field:

When spiders get together and make a huge web, it’s either a delight or a terror, depending on how you feel about spiders!

...

Bizarre bivalve: first living giant shipworm discovered in Philippines

Bizarre bivalve: first living giant shipworm discovered in Philippines:

Here is a description of a freaky marine creature for you for the day: 

About three feet long and glistening black with a pink, fleshy appendage, it looks like the entrails of an alien from a bad horror film. In fact, it is a giant shipworm.

Discovered in the mud of a shallow lagoon in the Philippines, a living creature of the species has never been described before – even though its existence has been known...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 5: Making it happen

This is part 5 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here,  Part 2 can be read here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

So at this point we have an idea of what entanglement is, and some reassurance that it doesn’t ruin all of physics with its existence!  Now we turn to a very important question: how, in practice, do we produce entangled quantum particles?

In our discussions so...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 3: Entanglement, at last

This is part 3 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

Here, in part 3, we will at long last introduce entanglement! But, before we do, we need to be sure we really understand what the wave properties of a quantum particle imply about its behavior.

So, by the late 1920s, physicists knew that discrete bits of matter — electrons, for example —...

What is quantum entanglement? Part 2: Randomness and measurement

This is part 2 in a lengthy series of posts attempting to explain the idea of quantum entanglement to a non-physics audience.  Part 1 can be read here.

So, by the mid 1920s, physicists had made significant progress in developing the new quantum theory.  It had been shown that light and matter each possess a dual nature as waves and particles, and Schrödinger had derived a mathematical equation that accurately described how the wave part of matter evolves in space and...

What is Quantum Entanglement? Part 1: Waves and particles

If you follow science, or science fiction, to any degree, great or small, you’ve probably heard the term “quantum entanglement” before.  You may also have heard it referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” and understand that it somehow involves a weird connection between separated quantum particles that can “communicate,” in a sense, over long distances instantaneously.  You may have read that quantum entanglement...

The Southern Reach trilogy, by Jeff VanderMeer

I’m not entirely sure why it took me three years to read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.  One of his earlier novels, Finch, is on a very short list of “best books I’ve ever read.”  I suspect that I simply read the name “Southern Reach” and it somehow evoked images of the Southern United States in a weird way that didn’t appeal to me, and I just never got around to looking at the books.  Until, that is, I read the...

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