Peter M. Schuster on History of Science

The late Dr. Peter M. Schuster was a physicist and historian of science. After a career in industry, he founded a laser technology startup. Recovering from severe illness, he sold his company and became an author, science writer, and historian. He founded echophysics - the European Center for the History of Physics - in Pöllau … Continue reading Peter M. Schuster on History of Science

Poets Who Speak of Jupiter

In the third chapter of the first volume of his legendary physics lectures, Richard Feynman discusses the relation of physics to other sciences. He says that astronomy got physics started, and its most remarkable discovery is that stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth. He adds this famous … Continue reading Poets Who Speak of Jupiter

Dirac’s Belt Trick

Is classical physics boring? In his preface to Volume 1 of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman worries about students' enthusiasm: ... They have heard a lot about how interesting and exciting physics is—the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other modern ideas. By the end of two years of our previous course, many … Continue reading Dirac’s Belt Trick

Motivational Function

complex-exp-1-z2

Deadly mutants are after us. What can give us hope? This innocuous-looking function is a sublime light in the dark. It proves you can always recover. If your perseverance is infinite. $latex e^{\left(-\frac{1}{x^{2}}\right)}&s=3 $ As x tends to zero, the exponent tends to minus infinity. The function's value at zero tends to zero. It is … Continue reading Motivational Function

Enthalpy

When you move from fundamental principles (in physics)  to calculating something 'useful' (in engineering), you seem to move from energy to enthalpy. Enthalpy is measured in Joule, as well as energy. It is assigned to a 'system', a part of the physical world separated from other parts by interfaces. The canonical example is a vessel … Continue reading Enthalpy

Statistical Independence and Logarithms

In classical mechanics you want to understand the motion of all constituents of a system in detail. The trajectory of each 'particle' can be calculated from the forces between them and initial positions and velocities. In statistical mechanics you try to work out what can still be said about a system even though - or … Continue reading Statistical Independence and Logarithms

Integrating The Delta Function (Again and Again) – Penrose Version

I quoted Nobel prize winner Paul Dirac's book, now I will quote this year's physics Nobel prize winner Roger Penrose. In his book The Road to Reality Penrose discusses not-so-well-behaved functions like the Delta Function: They belong in the category of  Hyperfunctions. A Hyperfunction is the difference of two complex functions: Each of the complex … Continue reading Integrating The Delta Function (Again and Again) – Penrose Version

Integrating the Delta Function (Again) – Dirac Version

The Delta Function is, roughly speaking, shaped like an infinitely tall and infinitely thin needle. It's discovery - or invention - is commonly attributed to Paul Dirac[*]. Dirac needed a function like this to work with integrals that are common on quantum mechanics, a generalization of a matrix that has 1's in the diagonal and … Continue reading Integrating the Delta Function (Again) – Dirac Version

The Improper Function and the Poetry of Proofs

Later the Delta Function was named after their founder. Dirac himself called it an improper function. This time, the poem is not from repurposed snippets of his prose. These are just my own words to describe a proof: ~ In the limit the Lorentzian becomes the improper function. In the limit of tiny epsilons it … Continue reading The Improper Function and the Poetry of Proofs