Links for Wednesday

To provide a pretense of added value, I will be dividing today’s list of interesting blag posts into categories. First, here are a few items in the “let’s just learn about science!” folder, listed roughly in order of increasing sophistication and presumed background knowledge:

  • Abbie Smith teaches us about gag (that’s “group specific antigen”) and the protein pieces which make up viruses.
  • Skulls in the Stars presents a gallery of failed models of the atom — eight different proposals for what goes inside an atom, published between 1900 and 1913.
  • Dmitry Podolsky finds a lengthy interview with theoretical physicist Alexander Polyakov, whose name is all over basic ideas in string theory and elsewhere. Polyakov got his start back in a day when statistical mechanics was not yet conjoined with quantum field theory; as he says, “I remember telling someone that I wanted to learn about elementary particles by studying boiling water, and getting a strange look.”

These next are filed under “controversy fuel.”

And, finally, entertainment:

3 thoughts on “Links for Wednesday”

  1. “I remember telling someone that I wanted to learn about elementary particles by studying boiling water, and getting a strange look.”

    Well, maybe, he deserved that look :), since boiling is first order phase transition, while QFT describes nicely condensed matter systems in the vicinity of second order phase transition when correlation length goes to infinity.
    Cheers,

  2. Yeah. But if you follow the liquid-vapor coexistence curve up to the critical point (647 K, 218 atmospheres), then you get a second-order phase transition with divergent correlation length; does that fall into the category of “boiling water”? Maybe in informal speech it might.

    Anyway, I thought it was a funny line. (-;

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