Posts Tagged ‘Einstein’

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twitter, thanks to the OPERA experiment working out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

The blogosphere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detected neutrinos traveling faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest science news of the century, overturning one of the most fundamental concepts in physics.  There is obviously much skepticism amongst scientists.  For a typically insightful explanation, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light travel discovered? Slow down, folks

The Twitter fun began when a discussion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavassalis (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k Maybe we need to counterbalance the HEP blogohedron with a Twitter meme? e.g., #mundaneneutrinoexplanations

Then he spun out a few funny examples of more mundane explanations for the unusual neutrino measurement:

  • #CERN physicists did arithmetic on old Pentium computers
  • #CERN physicists let undergrads near the experiment
  • Calculations done by visiting Americans who still don’t get the metric system.

…  all with the #mundaneneutrinoexplanations hashtag appended.

I think I was the first one to follow his lead with:

  • Forgot to carry the one
  • Confused neutrino with one sent later
  • Study published by Wakefield et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and others joined in (even astophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twitterverse was alive with funny explanations, some of which may be as likely as superluminal neutrinos.  I ended up spitting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweeted, in reverse chronological order (so start from the bottom).  Enjoy!


#mundaneneutrinoexplanations Science Comedian Interview

Someone I met via TwitterDelia the Artist – just interviewed me for  Current has a shorter, edited version of the interview but Delia is hosting the full interview on her own site.

And, oh look!  Here comes the full version now…

Where does science meet comedy?
Somewhere in Brian Malow’s universe.

From museums to comedy clubs, Earth’s Premier Science Comedian brings the funny to the hilarious 5th installment of Science is Speaking!

Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the sky blue?

Once, when I was maybe ten years old, I asked my dad, “Why is the sky blue?”

A pretty reasonable question for a little ten-year-old scientist. But he wasn’t in the mood.

He said, “Go ask your mother.”

And I thought: Great, she knows.

I turned from my dad, and headed toward the kitchen, knowing I was one step closer to having my answer.

And as I rounded the corner, I was experiencing the thrill of the Scientific Method. I was following in the footsteps of Galileo and Isaac Newton.

And, to a certain degree, I was correct. I was, indeed, one step closer to my answer. Not the answer, but an answer.

There she stood. I took a deep breath, and asked her, “Mom, why is the sky blue?”

And I’ll never forget her response:

“Because I said so.”

At first, I was in awe of my mother. Later, I learned not to trust her in matters of science.

(The real reason the sky is blue has to do with light scattering by oxygen and nitrogen molecules. The Usenet Physics FAQ of UC Riverside has a good explanation – including the role Albert Einstein played in proving it was the air molecules themselves that were responsible and not particles of dust or droplets of water vapor suspended in the air)