Random thoughts about random subjects… From science to literature and between manga and watercolours, passing by data science and rugby; including film, physics and fiction, programming, pictures and puns.
Earlier this week I attended a talk by Sir Roger Penrose FRS in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein´s General Theory of Relativity. The talk was entitled Einstein’s Amazing Theory of Gravity and it was sponsored by the London Mathematical Society (of which I am a proud member) and held at the Science Museum as part of the November Lates events. It also coincided with the 150th anniversary of the LMS!
Not only was the LMS and the Science Museum commemorating the centenary of the birth of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity but other outlets were too. It may be difficult to put an actual date to Einstein’s work, but we know that on November 25th, 1915 Einstein presented the “final” form of his theory to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. You can find a full translation of the paper “The Field Equations of Gravitation” here. It is interesting to note that he refers to a couple of earlier papers in that work, but the one we are referring to presents the theory in full.
During his talk, Penrose indeed talked about Relativity and I would have preferred that he concentrated on the theory per se at a more introductory level, after all it was part of a public talk in the Science Museum. He talked about black holes and did not shy talking about conformal geometries for example (bravo!). He finished his talk by presenting some of his own work regarding eons and cyclical cosmology. You can get a flavour of what he talked about in this recording of a lecture he gave in 2010.
This time is not really a question that has arrived to the Quantum Tunnel mailbox, it is rather an observation and some cheers. Let’s take a look:
Dear Quantum Tunnel,
I have listened to all the available Quantum Tunnel podcasts in Spanish, the content is great and the news are cool. I am interested in understanding more about quantum theory and in my experience there is no a lot of information at my level that does not make it all sounds like philosophy or even a bad example. In most cases the explanations start up assuming that one does understand the “quantum concepts”. With those limitations, I am afraid to admit that I actually fail to see the genius of Einstein. Having said that I refuse to think that after I am unable to understand ideas that are thought in universities. Surely some explanations do not start with “time is relative”. If thousands can understand it, so can I.
Hello again Pablo, I agree with you that there is a lot of information out there that either assumes too much, or simply exploits the concepts for non-scientific purposes. You are right, I am sure you can understand the intricacies of quantum-mechanical phenomena, but bear in mind the words of Richard Feynman “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics”. I would not expect someone to become a quantum physicist without the appropriate training, in the same way we cannot all perform a heart transplant without studying medicine and practicing. That doesn’t mean we can’t change careers though!
If you want to learn quantum theory in ten minutes, take a look at the blog post that the Quantum Pontiff blog posted a few years back. Yes, there are ducks and turkeys, but then again they promised to explain in 10 minutes. There are nonetheless a few things that can serve as building blocks to achieve your goal:
Learn about classical physics (yes, the courses on mechanics that you probably took in high school, exactly those). A good understanding of this will highlight those non-intuitive results from the quantum world.
Understand how to describe the behaviour of particles and of waves (I guess this is part of number 1 above, so just stressing the point!)
Make sure you are well versed in the use of probability (yes, I am saying that you need to revise some mathematics!)
It all that works, perhaps consider enrolling at your local University to read physics, you never know you make the next discovery in physics. Incidentally, within your revision make sure you understand that relativity theory (general or special) is completely decoupled from quantum theory. As a matter of fact, joining the two is one of the biggest challenges in physics today.
If you want to ask a question to Quantum Tunnel use the form here.
Have you ever wondered how Albert Einstein sounded? Well here you have an opportunity to find out. In the link above there is a recording of Einstein reading an essay (in English) called “The Common Language of Science”.