Physics is a subject that escapes me more often than not, sad to say. For no good reason, I was not required to study it in high school or colleague, so I didn’t (for no good reason).
Luckily, over the past 30 years I’ve been able to learn about physics from leading experts in the field, at scientific conferences and symposia and in the scientific and popular media. Yet I’m always running to keep up.
That‘s why, once a month, when I see my new issue of Physics Today in my pile of daily mail, my heart goes pitter patter.
I LOVE Physics Today. Really. Even though much of the content flies over my head (at supersonic speed – like the articles about “binary black hole mergers” and “dynamic similarity, the dimensionless science”). Why? Because the content that I can actually absorb is almost always fascinating….
In the January issue I learned about “Slow slip: a new kind of earthquake.” The authors, professors of earth and space science at the University of Washington, explain what goes on in “the intermediate realm of intermittent slipping and rumbling” between “the shallow region of sudden, infrequent earthquakes and the deeper home [of] continuous viscous motion.” (Ooh, I want to go there….) Thanks to a sidebar in this article, I now understand the respective actions of subduction zones, mid-ocean ridges, and transform boundaries. Talk about a “living planet”!
Also in this issue, physicist David Mermin reviews a book by fellow physicist Philip W. Anderson, More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon. Here are a couple of quotes from Anderson that Mermin says give the book its “special charm”:
“When we are all done, it will turn out that there is no exotic form of ‘dark matter,’ merely a comedy of errors in a field where it is practically de rigeur to underestimate one’s limits of error.” (Hah, I knew it….)
“Consciousness” – one of my favorites subjects! – is “one of the major deep problems…which may take most of the 21st century to solve.” (If ever, I say…) “The greatest puzzle of all [is] the emergence of consciousness.” Yep.
And there’s more. In today’s news at Physics Today.org, I read about how “diamonds travel to Earth’s surface on fizz” – that is, “frothing kimberlite lava.” Look it up.
In the November issue of the magazine is a fascinating review of what we now know about Saturn’s moon, “Watery Enceladus.” Also in that issue is an intriguing article about subtle gender-based biases embedded in undergraduate physics textbooks – one in an ongoing stream of articles in the magazine about how to improve physics education.
The history articles in the magazine are always worth reading. If you don’t have time to read Isaacson’s biography of Einstein, look up a couple of articles about him in Physics Today instead – guaranteed interesting!
Physics Today is published by the American Institute of Physics. Thanks, AIP!