Tag Archives: Sundance Bilson-Thompson

Twist and Shout: Topology In Action

As Chubby Checker sang and showed a 1960s generation, “Let’s do the twist.” Twist is not only an important thing. It is the only thing. Look around; all that you can see is made of twist. How so? The explanation starts with atoms and takes us through topology and Solitaire to the final fate of […]

The Massive Question The Higgs Boson Has No Answer

What is mass? An apple has it. Put one on a supermarket scale: Earth’s gravity guarantees you pay in precise proportion. In 1684 Isaac Newton does the math for mass and gravity. In 1915 Albert Einstein cleans it up. But a deep problem remains untouched: Up close and personal, neither Isaac nor Albert nor anyone […]

Could the Universe Have Only Two Dimensions?

It’s strange but true: Physics is now studying the universe as if it is a two-dimensional hologram. How did this come to be? And what does it mean? The 3D/2D duality is known as the holographic principle. Two decades ago American theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind described it this way: ‘In a certain sense the world […]

How Can a Universe Begin?

Of all questions the most fundamental is: What was the initial condition of the universe? It is fundamental for philosophy and religion. It is even more fundamental for physics. Unfortunately it is a realm where physics fears to tread. Yet we may need to tread this realm to find the much-sought Theory of Everything or […]

Making Space

Precise measurements say the universe is expanding. The measurements don’t show new matter. They show new space. This leaves those who think of space as empty with a conceptual puzzle. As cosmologist Marcus Chown once said, ‘How can nothing expand?’ Muralidharan Thiyagarajan, who is a systems engineer with Infosys in Chennai, has another way to […]

In Search of the Physics of Causation

Does the world work on cause and effect or is this a world of random chaos? This question needs exploration at the universe’s smallest scale, far smaller than that of the atom. We are coming to see the answer is: neither and both! Long ago, physicists as well as philosophers wrestled with this question. Albert […]

The Shifting Shape

Reader Stevo asks a deep question: ‘If space is granular and Planck size is the shortest “length” then what geometric “shape” is a single Planck “thingie”?’ Geometry studies size and shape. Last week we saw Bernhard Riemann in 1856 divining how to do geometry in either of two different kinds of space: continuous space and […]