Showing posts with label Physics news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Physics news. Show all posts

Feynman's Letter To Deceased Wife Breaks Stereotype

richard feynman letter to dead wife physics science

It is said that men cannot express themselves well enough. Building upon this notion, often times TV shows tend to portray that male scientists [or as they say geeks] cannot convey feelings of love and usually get awkward in social situations.

However, there was one outspoken physicist by the name Richard Feynman who not only broke this stereotype but went beyond. Feynman was a great teacher, artist and lover.

Feynman's love for his wife knew no bounds. He wrote about it in a book titled What do you care what other people think? [a phrase his wife Arline taught him]. The book was later on adapted into a movie starring Matthew Broderick as Richard Feynman and Patricia Arquette as Arline Greenbaum in 1996.

Arline was struck by tuberculosis and was bed ridden for the latter part of her short lived life. Feynman used to commute from work to the hospital every day, a place which became their home in the last few years. He brought her presents and flowers and promised to stay by her side until her last breath. Feynman stood by his word.

When Arline passed away, every other thing reminded Feynman of the time he had spent with her. A cute dress by the window of a shop brought tears to his eyes, as Feynman imagined how his departed wife Arline would look in it.

Following is a letter that Feynman wrote 16 months after Arline had passed away. He just could not get over her for a really long time as this letter shows...

October 17, 1946


I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.


When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.


PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.


Anne L'Huillier Becomes Fifth Woman To Win Physics Nobel Prize

physics nobel prize 2023 Anne L'Huillier

After Madame Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963), Donna Strickland (2018), Andrea Ghez (2020), now Anne L'Huillier has become the fifth woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics (2023). She shared the prize with Pierre Agostini and Ferenc Krausz.

According to the official Nobel Prize website, the three scientists are "being recognized for their experiments, which have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules".

Anne L'Huillier is a French-Swedish physicist who leads an attosecond physics group at Lund University which studies the movements of electrons in real time using extremely short pulses of light.

What is attosecond?

An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second or 1 attosecond equals 0.000000000000000001 second - an unimaginably short amount of time.

This year's laureates’ experiments have produced pulses of light so short that they are measured in attoseconds. These pulses can be used to capture pictures of atoms and molecules.

In simple words, the three scientists have created a very high-shutter-speed camera. If a normal camera is used to film a racing car, the picture will be blurry. But high shutter speed camera can "freeze" motion and capture a good image.

Why is this important?

Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for physics has said: “We can now open the door to the world of electrons. Attosecond physics gives us the opportunity to understand mechanisms that are governed by electrons."

This technology will also help in inventing slick and more efficient electronic gadgets. Another possible application is to study molecular level changes in the blood that lead to diseases.

About Anne L'Huillier

Anne was born 1958 in Paris, France. She got her Masters degree in mathematics but switched to experimental physics for her PhD. Anne completed her doctorate in 1986 from Pierre and Marie Curie University. In 1994 she moved to Sweden and joined Lund University.

Three scientists share Nobel Prize in physics for quantum mechanics

nobel prize 2022 winners quantum mechanics physics

Swedish inventor and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel donated 94% of his wealth for the establishment of the Nobel Prize in 1895. He believed that people are capable of helping to improve society through knowledge, science and humanism.

The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901 and has since been given 609 times. In 2022, the Nobel Prize for physics was won by French physicist Alain Aspect, American physicist John Clauser and Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger.

Members of the Nobel committee for physics announced the 2022 winners on Tuesday at 11.45 CEST saying that this year's prize is about the power of quantum mechanics.

The Nobel prize for scientists is similar to the Olympics for athletes and the Oscar for actors. Each recipient of the Nobel Prize receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a monetary award of approximately 1 million USD.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science, the Royal Swedish academy of sciences said.

Quantum mechanics is a mathematical description of the motion and interaction of subatomic particles, incorporating concepts like quantization of energy, wave–particle duality, the uncertainty principle, etc.

Many modern devices such as integrated circuits, MRI, laser, electron microscope, etc. are designed using quantum mechanics. The 2022 physics laureates’ development of experimental tools has laid the foundation for a new era of quantum technology.

Physicist John Clauser built an apparatus that emitted two entangled photons. Quantum entanglement or spooky action at a distance, as Einstein famously called it, is the idea that two particles are linked to each other, even if separated by long distances.

Physicist Alain Aspect developed a system capable of switching the measurement settings after an entangled pair had left its source, so the setting that existed when they were emitted could not affect the result.

Physicist Anton Zeilinger researched the entangled quantum states. His team has demonstrated a phenomenon called quantum teleportation in 1997. He also won the inaugural Isaac Newton medal in 2008 for pioneering work in quantum physics.

The trio has paved the way for new technology based upon quantum information. Their contribution will help to construct quantum computers, improve measurements, set up quantum networks and establish secure quantum encrypted communication.

Why We Can Never Build The Time Machine

how to build a time machine impossible physics science

It has been a long, unfulfilled dream of humankind to obtain control over the passage of time. One cannot help but fantasize about bending time backwards, pause its eternal flow and dodge the inevitable death if technologically possible.

Clearly, time is a captivating phenomenon. That is why, a common theme in all science fiction is time travel. However, is building the time machine so trivial as depicted in the movies, like Back to the future? Is it theoretically as well as practically allowed?

What we gather about time travel from fiction is that it is either going back to a bygone era or jumping forward in the future. Time travel is a trip not in space which has three dimensions, but it is a journey in the fourth time dimension, the one we do not understand fully.

Theory of relativity

In non-relativistic physics, time was absolute, independent of the observer and same throughout the universe. This was proposed by English scientist Sir Isaac Newton when he thought that time progressed at consistent pace for everyone everywhere.

But in relativity, as theorized by German physicist Albert Einstein, time is no longer an absolute concept.

Firstly, time is treated like an alternate dimension to spatial dimensions of length, width and height. In other words, time is a new corridor to pass through.

Secondly, time is not the same for everyone everywhere as Newton had assumed. Time slows down as you travel faster, for example.

In fact, when subatomic particles are accelerated to nearly the speed of light, their lifetimes expand dramatically. They would usually decay faster, but when moving at relativistic speed inside the particle accelerator, they experience time more slowly (relative to other particles) and live longer.

Furthermore, from general theory of relativity, an upgraded version of special relativity, it is known that time passes more slowly for objects in strong gravitational fields, than for those objects which stay far from such fields.

As a result, if there were twin brothers and one of the twins orbited a black hole while the other around the earth, can you guess which of the twins would be older?

is time travel possible why time machine is impossible

Coming back to the question: Is time travel as shown in the movies like Looper or Back to the future practical? Many scientists agree that the idea of time travel at the push of a button is not possible as it would violate the law of causality.

The paradox

Time's flow is like a river as it speeds up, meanders and slows down. Time can also have whirlpools and fork into two or more rivers, says American physicist and futurist Michio Kaku.

As soon as the button of the time machine is pressed, it may be possible for one to go backwards in a parallel world. Therefore, deprived of the opportunity to change the turn of events in the reality one came from. A new reality would be built from scratch, avoiding the grandfather paradox.

This idea of time travel was proposed by British physicist David Deutsch who used the terminology of multiple universes to solve the widely debated grandfather paradox.

The paradox comes from the idea that if a person travels to a time before their grandfather had children, and kills him, it would make their own birth impossible.

Deutschian time travel solves the paradox only theoretically. The time traveler emerges in an alternate universe, but very similar to his own. Can such universes pop in and out of existence merely on the whim of the time traveler? The idea sounds good on paper but its practical possibility is highly doubtful.

What is possible

As per most scientists and engineers, time travel is impossible as you have seen in the movies. The late English astrophysicist Stephen Hawking once joked: "I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible." Hawking hosted a party for time travelers in 2010, but no one came.

Yet, we have observed that time slows down and does not always run at the same pace everywhere, which can help to travel forward in time, at least, relative to another. As shown in the realistic movies like Interstellar (2014).

Also, when we observe the universe, we are looking back in time. Our own Sun’s light, for instance, takes about 8 minutes to reach on earth. We see the Sun the way it was 8 minutes ago; so if the Sun disappeared this instant, we wouldn't know.

You will be surprised to know that NASA's James Webb telescope can study light that was emitted by the most ancient galaxies 10 billion years ago. This means, we can peek at the birth of the universe, more or less, if we design an even larger, better telescope.

Summing up

Time travel at the push of a button is out of the question. To construct such a machine violates not only the laws of physics but also common sense. It is much like building a perpetual motion machine, a hypothetical machine that can do work infinitely without an external energy source.

Lastly, reiterating that time travel is far more impossible technically than it is theoretically. There may still be undiscovered physics that allows construction of a time machine. It might be possible but would involve vast amounts of energy and money.

4 Unsolved Mysteries About The Higgs Boson

higgs boson god particle 10 years higgs LHC cern

On July 4, 2012 the Higgs Boson particle was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider that is operated by CERN, the European organization for nuclear research. It took 60 years to first detect the elusive particle and there is still a lot to learn about it, scientists say.

CERN closed the largest particle accelerator for maintenance work that was extended due to delays caused by the pandemic. In 2022, scientists celebrated the 10th anniversary of Higgs Boson discovery. They now hope to uncover more as LHC has gotten back in action after 3-year hiatus.

1. Is the Higgs connected to dark matter?

Since dark matter makes up about 30% of the universe's mass and considering Higgs boson's relation to mass, scientists want to find if the two are connected somehow. They may explore, for example, whether or not the Higgs boson particle decays into a dark matter particle.

As of current understanding, scientists know that the Higgs boson particle can decay into boson, fermion and muon. The goal is to see which other kind of mysterious particle the Higgs boson particle can decay into. So far no unusual particles have been detected in collider experiments.

2. Does the Higgs boson interact with itself?

Matter particles (such as electron) move through the Higgs field and acquire their characteristic mass. More interaction means more the mass attained by the particle. Scientists hope to run experiments to find if the Higgs boson particle interacts with itself as predicted by the standard model.

This is the main question about the Higgs particle right now, say scientists working at the council for nuclear research. According to the standard model, when the Higgs particle self-interacts, it would create pairs or triplets of Higgs bosons, that are yet to be detected in the experiments.

3. Are there other Higgs particles?

The Higgs boson is an excitation of the all-pervading Higgs field that helps other particles pass through it and acquire mass. For this reason, it was nicknamed the God particle by the media, although some scientists refer to it as the Goddamn particle as it took so long and multi-billion dollars to find it.

The particle which was found in 2012 has zero spin and no electric charge. Theories alternate to the standard model predict the presence of more than one kind of God particle. Detection of additional Higgs particles in the collider experiments would mean that there must be new physics out there.

4. How does the Higgs interact with matter?

One thing scientists know for sure is that the more massive a given particle, the greater its interaction with the Higgs field must be. The nuances of this are yet to be understood even though the measurements thus far match the predictions of the standard model, the precision of these measurements isn’t great enough.

Models other than the standard model propose the existence of one kind of Higgs particle that interacts only with heavy particles and another that interacts with only lighter particles. Similar exciting challenges in particle physics await scientists working at the large hadron collider.

Deepak Dhar First Indian To Win Boltzmann Medal

indian physicist deepak dhar boltzmann medal

Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906) who is well known for presenting the logarithmic connection between entropy and probability in his kinetic theory of gases, was never properly recognized during his lifetime.

In celebration of his ground-breaking work, Boltzmann medal is awarded once every three years by IUPAP in the field of statistical mechanics. In 2022, Deepak Dhar became the first Indian physicist to win the Boltzmann medal, sharing it with American physicist John Hopfield.

Deepak Dhar is famous among his students as a loveable science teacher. He was also a teaching assistant to Nobel laureate Richard Feynman when he completed his PhD from Caltech in 1978.

Deepak was born in Oct, 1951 to an average Indian household in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and showed proficiency in mathematics from an early age. He completed his bachelor degree from the prestigious Allahabad University in 1970.

Deepak moved to the US after getting master's degree in physics from IIT-Kanpur in 1972. He returned to India the same year he completed his PhD from Caltech, where he held Richard Feynman fellowship. This shows his undying love for the motherland and a desire to teach in India.

Deepak became a full-time research fellow at TIFR, Mumbai where he was later promoted as an associate professor in 1991. He also served as visiting professor at the University of Paris during this time.

Post retirement, Deepak Dhar is a distinguished visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. After winning Boltzmann medal, Deepak said: It is always nice to win but the award was never the driving force.

Quoting Isaac Newton, Dhar added: I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Dhar was previously honored with Satyendra Nath Bose medal by the government in 2001. He feels that much work can still be done in statistical mechanics, a field pioneered by Bose in India. Science needs to be loved, Dhar feels, and not something students are afraid of.

Deepak is known for his research on stochastic processes or random systems, that are part and parcel of day to day life. Examples include stock market, blood pressure, movement of a gas molecule, etc.

Deepak Dhar feels that physics has a lot new opportunities that are screaming for attention. But we are short-changing younger generation with low quality education, he says. Why would students pursue career in physics if their interest is killed at early stage?

Big Breakthrough In Fusion Energy - The Power of Sun

Nuclear fusion energy how soon Einstein

UK-based JET laboratory created a world record when they generated 22 megajoules of fusion energy in 1997. Now nearly 25 years later JET have more than doubled the previous record by creating 59 megajoules of fusion energy over five seconds.

While 5 seconds may not sound impressive on ordinary timescale but on a nuclear timescale it is a very long time indeed. The achievement by JET also restores faith in human research and endeavor into replicating the power of Sun on earth.

Practically, this much fusion energy can only run a 32 inch LED TV for 15 days but it's a great beginning towards clean energy future. Nuclear fusion is the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon and low-radiation energy.

Dr Joe Milnes, head of operations at the JET lab said: We have demonstrated that it is possible to create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds, which really takes us into a new realm.

In a nuclear fusion, two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus. The process releases energy because mass of the resulting nucleus is less than total mass of the two original nuclei. The leftover mass gets converted into energy by Einstein's energy-mass equivalence.
In the Sun's core, fusion is possible at around 10 million degrees Celsius. However, at the much lower pressures that are on Earth, the temperature required to produce nuclear fusion need to be above 100 million degrees!

And there is not a single material on earth that can withstand direct contact with that amount of heat. Which is why, to achieve fusion in a laboratory scientists use thousands of tons of magnet to hold in place super heated gas, or plasma.

JET labs CEO Professor Ian Chapman said: These experiments just had to work because if they didn't then we'd have real concerns about whether ITER could meet its goals.

breakthrough in nuclear fusion ITER in france
ITER construction in 2018

ITER in Southern France is the largest nuclear fusion reactor with 10 times more plasma than any other fusion reactors today. Over 30 countries are participating in this long term project of generating clean electricity. ITER will power 200,000 homes once it becomes operational.

Because controlled nuclear fusion releases nearly four million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas, it might be possible to even reverse climate change if we can switch to carbon-free energy. How soon it will be no one can say but the future sure looks promising.

Google Honors Stephen Hawking With New Doodle

stephen hawking happy birthday google doodle stephen hawking quotes

Renowned astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking was nicknamed Einstein at school because he did fairly well in scientific subjects. He was inspired by his maths teacher Dikran Tahta to pursue a degree in mathematics.

However, Hawking's father Frank (who was a medical researcher) advised his son to study medicine instead, as jobs were very few for maths graduates. Stephen showed no interest in biology and so he found a middle ground...
Hawking graduated with a bachelor degree in physics from Oxford University in 1962. This feat was overshadowed by the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease, a condition in which motor neurons get damaged leading to paralysis.

The crippling disease did not dishearten Stephen Hawking for long – not when he completed his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University, 1966. Or when later in life he went on a zero gravity flight:

stephen hawking quotes happy birthday stephen hawking google doodle stephen hawking zero gravity flight

Hawking authored several best-selling books on physics and astronomy. His most successful written work A brief history of time sold more than 25 million copies, making him an international celebrity. In 2014, a film depicting hawking's battle with the Lou Gehrig's disease was also released.
Hawking said: The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.

Because of his excellent sense of humor, Hawking starred on such TV shows as Futurama, The Simpsons and The big bang theory as himself. Hawking said: Humor is what keeps me going, and life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.

In 2022, on Hawking's 80th birthday, Google has honored the legendary astrophysicist with a doodle on their homepage and a heartwarming video to top it off.

stephen hawking 80th birthday google doodle stephen hawking best quotes

The doctor had given Stephen just a few years to live in his twenties credit to the life threatening disease. Not only did Hawking beat the odds but also revolutionized physics for next half a century.

His work with mathematician Roger Penrose about the universe's origins and the theorems on black holes made Hawking an undeniable force in the field of physics.
Following are 5 motivational Stephen Hawking quotes:

  1. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

  2. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.

  3. One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.

  4. We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.

  5. It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space and philosophy of our existence. I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.

When Stephen Hawking abruptly passed away in 2018, he left a many in tears... an aching void in the scientific world that still needs to be filled. Because, Hawking was the most beloved scientist of this generation, rightly on par with Einstein.

Einstein's letter sold for $1.2 million at auction

Einstein's handwritten letter with E=mc² fetches 1.2 million at auction

Set up at a base price of $400,000, the letter containing Einstein's most well known formula has sold for $1.2 million at an auction conducted by RR Auction.

The letter is said to be one of the three written records of Einstein's famous equation. It was sent to Polish-American physicist Ludwik Silberstein in 1946.

In this equation, energy is equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. It shows that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa.

For example: In an atomic bomb, uranium is transformed into krypton and barium. Their combined mass is slightly less than the mass of the original uranium. Though the difference is small, by virtue of speed of light, the energy which is released is enormous.

During the Second World War, Einstein feared that Germans might develop an atomic weapon based upon his groundbreaking discovery.

So, despite being a long-time pacifist, Einstein wrote a letter to Franklin Roosevelt, the then President of the United States, to urge him to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans.

Thus, today, the equation is dear to not only physicists but also to history lovers. Auction of the letter began on 13 May and its rarity set off a bidding war among five parties.

Sold for more than $1.2 million, the letter has garnered about three times more money than it was expected to get.
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