“Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.” –Dream Hampton Perhaps no word in the English language generates as much misunderstanding as the word theory. In scientific circles, this word has a very specific meaning that’s different from everyday use, and — as a theoretical … Read moreAsk Ethan #17: The Burden of Proof
“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?” –Carl Sagan It’s a challenging thing, … Read moreWeekend Diversion: Homeschoolers Anonymous
“I wouldn’t know a spacetime continuum or a warp core breach if they got into bed with me.” –Patrick Stewart It’s the end of the week once again, and so it’s time for another Ask Ethan segment! There have been scores of good questions to choose from that were submitted this month alone (and you … Read moreAsk Ethan #11: Why does gravity get weaker with distance?
“My idea of perfect happiness is a healthy family, peace between nations, and all the critics die.” –David Mamet As a theorist in physics, most of my research time is spent looking for errors in painstaking calculations, writing and running simulation code, and trying desperately to connect some very abstract concepts to potential observables in … Read moreWeekend Diversion: One for the Experimenters
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” –Oscar Wilde As many of you know, last weekend I launched a suggestion box here on the site, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response: about fifty of you have sent something in to … Read moreAsk Ethan #1: Back-to-school advice
“[S]cience is not a consumption good to be expanded in good times and restricted in bad times. The doing of science as well as the supporting of science is an expression of faith in the future. It would have been possible to have told Newton and Faraday, Maxwell and Einstein, Bohr and Heisenberg that, given … Read moreWhy does Particle Physics matter?
“One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people’s minds.” –Frank Zappa One of the most difficult things to talk about, for any self-respecting scientist, is politics. Like all of you, I have my preferences, my opinions, and my … Read moreYou NEED more science in your politics! (Yes, YOU!)
“From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: one, those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and two, those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.” –Isaac Asimov You’d never know it unless you were one of about six people in the entire world, but today is … Read moreThe 4 Jobs of a Referee in Peer Review
“Talent hits the target no one else can hit; genius hits the target no one else can see.” –Arthur Schopenhauer You’ve probably heard the story, by now, of Kiera Wilmot, the 16-year-old girl who performed a mildly dangerous chemistry experiment on school grounds, mixing together household cleaner and aluminum inside a sealed container. You can … Read moreWhy Science Is Anything But A Crime
“All our sweetest hours fly the fastest.” –Virgil If you’ve been around the block once or twice, you know that the speed of light in a vacuum — 299,792,458 meters-per-second — is the absolute maximum speed that any form of energy in the Universe can travel at. In shorthand, this speed is known as c to … Read moreThe Cosmic Speed Limit