Tag Archives: language

Black Hole Bonanza

Another stunning discovery hits the astronomic news: Seems there are big black holes in galaxies all over. This opens a new chapter in the quest to understand the role of black holes in our universe. But its significance may run even deeper: a step toward unraveling the mystery of dark matter. Last year I reviewed […]

Einstein’s Funhouse Mirror

Physics beat out chemistry to become the Senior Science in the second physics revolution starting around 1900. A hundred years ago this revolution held huge promise. Now historians of science call it the Unfinished Revolution. What went wrong? It is a strange but, in the end, illuminating five-part story. Part One: In 1851 mathematician Bernhard […]

The Terrorism Ecosystem

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of reports of terrorism. Yet we all can do something to stop it. This is especially true of those who work (as I do) at journalism: writing news and editing and publishing. Do journalists have a special duty when terrorism becomes news? It’s widely thought that journalists […]

Debt Stream

It is, or should be, of concern to every author to acknowledge other people’s contributions to their work. In my writing I try to extend such recognition not only to those I quote but also to those who in some manner influence my thoughts. It seems to me this gives the reader better insight into […]

Get a Little Ether in Your Life

In your spaceship, far from any star, can you tell if you are moving? Do you even know what moving means? Physicists thought about this long before we made our way into near-Earth space. And they tangled it up with a concept called the æther. The word aether was once widely understood. Winston Churchill uses […]

Atoms Are Not A-toms

So, nat’ralists observe, a flea Hath smaller fleas that on him prey, And these have smaller still to bite ’em And so proceed ad infinitum. Jonathan Swift (1733) Once upon a time the world had a conversation about an idea called the atom. Greek philosopher Democritus kicked off the conversation around 400 BCE, saying matter’s […]

At the Same Time . . .

Sir Isaac Newton was a serious two timer long before that term took on its modern meaning. In 1687 he spoke of two kinds of time: Absolute, true, and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature flows equably without relation to anything external, and by another name is called duration; [and] relative, apparent […]

Global Warming Losing Heat?

The message of Dr. Bernard Forscher’s brick allegory is that data can obstruct the search for scientific explanation. Today we check a story about missing heat (recent fodder for climate-change denial). On the way to explanation we’ll see data being tweaked to say more than they should. (Data in my book is plural and datum […]

Facts and Explanations

Some fifty years ago a physician at the Mayo Clinic, Bernard Forscher, wrote an allegoric letter to the editor of Science on a theme that Science Seen also explores (why science, and especially physics, is in trouble). His message―that data can block basic understanding―was pointed then. It is urgent now. Chaos in the Brickyard Once […]