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

Computers, Science, and History Thereof

I am reading three online resources in parallel - on the history and the basics of computing, computer science, software engineering, and the related culture and 'philosophy'. An accidental combination I find most enjoyable. Joel on Software: Joel Spolsky's blog - a collection of classic essays. What every developer needs to know about Unicode. New terms … Continue reading Computers, Science, and History Thereof

Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Peter von Rittinger's biography reads like a success story created by a Victorian novelist, and his invention was a text-book example of innovation triggered by scarcity ( Bio DE / EN). Born 1811, he was poor and became an orphan early. Yet he was able to study mathematics and physics as his secondary education had … Continue reading Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Lest We Forget the Pioneer: Ottokar Tumlirz and His Early Demo of the Coriolis Effect

Two years ago I wrote an article about The Myth of the Toilet Flush, comparing the angular rotation caused by the earth's rotation to the typical rotation in experiments with garden hoses that make it easy to observe the Coriolis effect. There are several orders of magnitude in difference, and the effect can only be … Continue reading Lest We Forget the Pioneer: Ottokar Tumlirz and His Early Demo of the Coriolis Effect

A Sublime Transition

Don't expect anything philosophical or career-change-related. I am talking about water and its phase transition to ice because ... ...the fact that a process so common and important as water freezing is not fully resolved and understood, is astonishing. (Source) There are more spectacular ways of triggering this transition than just letting a tank of water … Continue reading A Sublime Transition

Carl Sagan’s Glorious Dawn: The Promise of Cosmos

This is a reblogged post:

Trying to catch up I am wading through social media streams and notifications. I am delighted to discover a post that echoes EXACTLY what I feel / have once felt as a teenager and high school student who had just decided to become a physicist. In his reflections Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Samir Chopra said it better than I would have been able to do. Quote: “I react the way I do to “A Glorious Dawn” because when I watch it I am reminded of a kind of naiveté, one that infected a part of life with a very distinct sense of possibility; I am reminded indeed, of an older personality, an older way of looking at the world. You could call this simple nostalgia for childhood; I think you’d be partially right. This nostalgia has many components, of course. Then, science, its methods and its knowledge, seemed sacrosanct; its history the most glorious record of human achievement, rising above its sordid record in other domains. It seemed to document a long struggle against many forms of intellectual and political tyranny. Because I was a student of science then–if only in school–I felt myself tapping into a long and glorious tradition, becoming part of a distinguished stream of humans possessed of epistemic and moral rectitude. And because I felt myself to be have just barely begun my studies, I sensed a long, colorful, adventure–perhaps as dramatic as those that I had seen depicted in Cosmos‘ many episodes–lay ahead of me.”

Samir Chopra

The YouTube video titled “A Glorious Dawn” starring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking (their voices run through Auto-Tune ), and snippets from Sagan’s epic  Cosmos , has now racked up almost nine million views and twenty-seven thousand comments since it was first put up sometime back in 2009. (Mysteriously, in addition to its seventy-seven thousand ‘Likes’ it has also attracted over a thousand thumbs-downs. There’s no pleasing some people.)

To that count of nine million views I have made several dozen contributions. And cheesily enough, on each occasion, I have detected a swelling, a lump in my throat, and sometimes even, most embarrassingly, a slight moistening of the eyes. I am a grown man, supposedly well above such trite sentimentality. What gives?

Like many of those that write those glowing comments on YouTube, I too watched Cosmos as a youngster. I learned a great deal of astronomy and the history…

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This Year in Books: Biographies, Science, Essays.

I hardly review books on this blog, but I mull upon specific questions - to which books may have answers. This is my pick of books I enjoyed reading in 2013 - and the related questions! Biographies I have a penchant for physicists' lives in the first half of the 20th century. How did scientists … Continue reading This Year in Books: Biographies, Science, Essays.

Fragile Technology? (Confessions of a Luddite Disguised as Tech Enthusiast)

I warn you - I am in the mood for random long-winded philosophical ramblings. I have graduated recently again, denying cap-and-gown costume as I detest artificial Astroturf traditions such as re-importing academic rituals from the USA to Europe. A Subversive El(k)ement fond of uniforms would not be worth the name. However, other than that I … Continue reading Fragile Technology? (Confessions of a Luddite Disguised as Tech Enthusiast)

May the Force Field Be with You: Primer on Quantum Mechanics and Why We Need Quantum Field Theory

As Feynman explains so eloquently - and yet in a refreshingly down-to-earth way - understanding and learning physics works like this: There are no true axioms, you can start from anywhere. Your physics knowledge is like a messy landscape, built from different interconnected islands of insights. You will not memorize them all, but you need … Continue reading May the Force Field Be with You: Primer on Quantum Mechanics and Why We Need Quantum Field Theory

The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush

If you have wrapped your head around why and how the U-shaped tube in the flow meter (described in my previous post) is twisted by the Coriolis force - here is a video of a simple experiment brought to my attention by the author of the quoted article on gyroscope physics: You could also test it … Continue reading The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush