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Conjuring a Neutron Star from a Nanowire
Using tiny mechanical devices to create accelerations equivalent to 100 million times the Earth’s gravitational field—mimicking the arena of quantum gravity in the lab.
This month’s podcast is jam-packed, thanks to all the huge physics announcements made in July.
So, Brendan and I begin with a news round up, discussing the Pluto flyby (with some help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen), the creation of the pentaquark at the LHC, and the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, Kepler 452b.
Then we’re back to our usual in-depth interviews. A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with Frank Drake, one of the pioneers of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), in the run-up to the launch of a $100 million project to hunt for alien communications. I wrote an article for Nature about the project, which you can read here. But in our podcast interview, I had the chance to ask Drake more about his long-running history with SETI, why he sticks with it despite the lack of success, and his work on the Drake equation for estimating the number of technological civilisations on other worlds. He also talks about why he’s scared that the aliens might be sending us information encoded as holograms. And in the extended podcast interview, he tells us about new job opportunities in SETI.
Pluto, pentaquarks & Earth 2.0; Frank Drake talks about the new 100 million dollar hunt for alien life; conjuring a neutron star from a nanowire; & "Edge of the Sky" talks physics without the jargon.
The project is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. What do you think? If you had $100 million to spend on one question in science, what would choose?
Next up, FQXi member Keith Schwab talks about his quest to mimic the gravitational effects on the surface of a neutron star, by accelerating a nanowire. Reporter Carinne Piekema wrote about Schwab’s experiments for us here, and now you can listen to him discuss how they could help those who want to learn more about quantum gravity.
And finally, a “radical experiment in science communication” — which is what cosmologist Roberto Trotta of Imperial College London calls his new book, “The Edge of the Sky.” In it, he attempts to junk jargon by describing the workings of the universe using only the 1000 most common words in the English language, as he explains to Sophie Hebden.
This past winter, FQXi announced it's fifth Large Grant program, on the topic of The Physics of What Happens – a call for proposals for research and outreach projects on "Events". I am happy to announce that from an initial group of almost 250 proposals, we now have the list of 20 grantees. You may view the list here. These grants will give the research teams funding for the next two years, starting September 2015.
The total amount given out comes to $1.85M. This is a relatively tiny amount in the world of physics, especially considering that this is an international grant program. This fact means that, while our review panel ultimately preferred these 20, many of the other proposals were excellent, worthy projects, which we would gladly support if we had the funds.
For the sake of discussion, I’d like to mention a few research themes that showed up in multiple applications, possibly suggesting the directions that many researchers are looking these days. These hot topics include:
1. Nonlocality (i.e. Is an event defined by what happens in multiple locations?).
2. The Nature of Causality in a quatum world.
3. Noncontextuality, possibly as the prime indicator of quantum-ness (above the previous favorite, entanglement).
We again congratulate our new grantees. We also thank everyone who applied, especially those who were invited to submit full proposals, which took a great deal of time and resources to prepare. We wish to offer another round of grants in the near future, and we wish everyone will take a chance to apply.
The podcast features attendees at the New Directions in the Foundations of Physics meeting, held annually in Washington, DC. This meeting is one of the only recurring meetings that brings together physicists and philosophers in the same room to discuss the state of the art in their fields.
How do we communicate foundational physics to the public? Panel discussion with physicists and communicators Sabine Hossenfelder, Matt Leifer, Dagomir Kaszlikowski & Brendan Foster, from the New Directions meeting in Washington, DC.
Following Sabine, Matt, and Dag, the group at large turned to Star Trek, tiny books, physics slogans, and more. On the recording, you’ll hear from Michael Fisher, Alexei Grinbaum, Jos Uffink, Alex Wilce, David Wallace, Melissa Jacquert, and Mile Gu.
Visit the podcast page to listen and find links to much more, including Sabine and Matt’s blogs.
Just to let you know that after a couple of special podcast editions from the quantum foundations meeting in Erice, Italy, Brendan and I are back with the regular podcast.
In this month's podcast, we're celebrating poetry about physics and maths. In April, I visited Penn State University, where I met with Emily Grosholz, a poet and philosopher of math and science, who works at the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, which is headed up by FQXi’s Abhay Ashtekar. Grosholz shares three of her poems with us on the podcast: In Praise of Fractals, The Dissolution of the Rainbow, and Among Cosmologists. (Evelyn Lamb, who blogs over at Scientific American, has a nice review up of one of Groshloz’s anthologies here.)
Physics poetry; curving spacetime in the lab; & searching for undecidable problems.
At the COST quantum foundations meeting in Erice, Italy, that I attended back in March, I met with FQXi’s Sorin Paraoanu. You’ll know about his new research building an artificial space-time from superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs), from Nicola Jones’ recent article for us. In an extended interview on the site, Paraonu talks a bit more about the progress of the experiment, as well as his recent publication in the New Journal of Physics, about testing the Landau-Zener formula for the transition probabilities between states of a qubit.
And finally, reporter Sophie Hebden talks to FQXi’s Jen Eisert about his quest to find undecidable problems in quantum mechanics. Again, you’ll be familiar with some this if you read Sophie’s article, “Searching for the Impossible” — but listen to he podcast piece for more details and to learn about Eisert’s unusual skill for dating architecture.
The Reality of the Wavefunction By ZEEYA MERALI
[picture]A couple of months ago we spoke with quantum physicists Martin Ringbauer and Alessandro Fedrizzi of the University of Queensland, in Australia, on the podcast, about their experiment looking into the nature of the wavefunction. Their results...
Collapsing Physics, Celebrating Ghirardi By ZEEYA MERALI
[picture]Yesterday afternoon at the quantum foundations meeting in Erice (supported by COST) we celebrated the 80th birthday (somewhat in advance) of GianCarlo Ghirardi who famously worked on collapse models, in an attempt to deal with the quantum...
Detecting Dark Matter Using Space-Based Quantum... By ZEEYA MERALI
[picture]I’m lucky enough to be attending a COST Action workshop on quantum foundations currently taking place in Erice, Italy, with lots of FQXi folk in attendance. (Thank you to the organisers, FQXi’s Angelo Bassi, Catalina Oana Curceanu and...
A mathematical philosophy - a digital view By JOSELLE KEHOE
I’ve become fascinated with Gregory Chaitin’s exploration of randomness in computing and his impulse to bring these observations to bear on physical, mathematical, and biological theories. His work inevitably addresses epistemological questions...
2014: Paradoxical Cats and the Physics Year in... By ZEEYA MERALI
[picture]It's become a bit of a tradition for quantum physicist and FQXi member Ian Durham to join us on the podcast each December to choose his favourite physics stories of the year. As always, Ian's gone for an unconventional top pick. I'd be...
Trick or Truth? — Essay Contest 2015 By BRENDAN FOSTER
Physics and mathematics -- It seems impossible to imagine the history of either one without the other. For gravity theory alone, we see so many examples of this -- from Newton creating calculus, to Einstein mining differential geometry.