Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Irrational men, women, and everyone in between

Revisiting climate change and Clive James, with guest appearances from Woody Allen and Galileo's Middle Finger.

I take a dim view of most faiths, but faith in human nature is the worst of all, because I can’t seem to shake it off. My only consolation is that there is always a plentiful supply of indisputable evidence to nudge me away from delusion, at least for another few hours, like a diabetic taking a regular shot of insulin.

More correctly, it is my instinctive faith in the human intellect that needs -- and always gets -- a regular clobbering. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Is spacetime really curved?

(Spoiler: probably)

In the interests of my relativist’s street cred, I want to expand on my one-line explanation of distortions in spacetime. It is possible that the result will be quite the reverse — I will only reveal my ignorance and attract the scorn of my colleagues. A typical day at the office, really.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Why bother trying to explain gravitational waves? My answer (with explanation)

Hot on the heels of the announcement on February 11th of the detection of gravitational waves, came a second monumental observation: no-one understands them.

As a member of that august collection of worthy minds, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, I was very very excited by the first discovery. As someone who has repeatedly ridiculed attempts to explain complex scientific ideas to non-experts, with special reference to Einstein's curved spacetime, you might expect that I also took smug pleasure in the second. Up until a week before the announcement, I would have expected it, too.

But something had changed.

Here's what happened -- and at the end, inevitably, is one more attempt at an explanation.