Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The eclipse of gravity

Last week, the night before the solar eclipse, I gave a public talk about an eclipse many years earlier, on May 29, 1919. That was when Eddington and his team measured the bending of light by the sun, and concluded that the value agreed with the predictions of Einstein's new general theory of relativity (it was only four years old) -- and in the process made the theory, and its creator, world famous.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

On knowledge, Truth, electric chairs, and quasi-local mass

My last few blog posts have been inspired by a recent fascination with the filmmaker Errol Morris. That all started with the new Stephen Hawking movie, which in turn reminded me of Morris's 1992 film A Brief History of Time. Since then I've watched numerous interviews and discussions with Morris, and several more of his films, including Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, and his most recent, The Unknown known, and read a number of his New York Times columns, notably the excellent series of five articles on Thomas Kuhn and the dubious notion of incommensurability. I cannot recommend them highly enough. To discuss an obscure philosophical concept in a major mainstream newspaper is quite a feat; to make it entertaining, and at times even hilarious, is pure genius [1].

But the Morris moment that really dug into me, and started all of this, came from a discussion I found on YouTube. The discussion is about the current state of journalism, although we will see that its concerns range much further.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


I apologize: this blog post is currently empty.

Each week I manage to squeeze a minuscule amount of time away from my otherwise hectic schedule of fashioning for myself an increasingly rarefied understanding of abstruse physical phenomena, and devote it to writing this blog. In the last two weeks I have used those precious minutes to compose a little story. The result is my submission for an anthology of fiction and non-fiction inspired by Einstein's general theory of relativity, on the occasion of its 100th birthday. The details of the competition are here. It seemed like a fun lark.

The story's fate will be decided by the end of May. Should it be (quite understandably) rejected, then I will place it right here, to take up its belated role as this blog post. And should it go on to glory -- then you can buy the damn book!

In the mean time, if you're curious about the story, I can assure you that no-one falls into a black hole. That's a lame idea that has already been done to death. I prefer lame ideas that can still be beaten a few more times.