In what has to be one of most poorly kept secrets of modern science, on 11 February 2016 a team of over 1000 scientists working on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project announced that they had indeed detected gravitational waves, as predicted 100 years ago as a consequence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
The LIGO project
The LIGO project is a large physics experiment to detect gravitational waves, namely ripples in space that are generated by distant cataclysmic events such as the explosive merger of two black holes. LIGO was founded by famed physicist Kip Thorne (who consulted
Continue reading Gravitational waves detected, as predicted by Einstein’s mathematics
Frauds in scientific research
From time to time, the scientific community is rocked by cases of scientific fraud. Needless to say, such incidents do not help instill confidence in the public mind that is already predisposed to be skeptical of inconvenient scientific findings. Some notable cases include: (a) a series of papers in nanoelectronics by a Bell Labs researcher, (b) two papers claiming that electromagnetic fields from cell phones can cause DNA damage, and several dozen articles by Netherlands social scientist Derek Stapel.
How could such frauds have happened? Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara explains that
Continue reading How likely is it that scientists are engaged in a conspiracy?
These are exciting times for the field of physics. In 2012, researchers announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a discovery four decades in the making, costing billions of dollars (and euros, pounds, yen and yuan) and involving some of the best minds on the planet. And in December 2015, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe reported that two separate experiments have reported possible traces of a new particle, one that might lie outside the Standard Model, although much more data and scrutiny will be required before anything definite can be said.
Yet behind the scenes a
Continue reading Data vs theory: the mathematical battle for the soul of physics
The present authors never cease to be amazed at the amount of material on mathematics in general, and mentions of Pi in particular, that have been appearing in the popular media in recent years. We hope this is evidence of a resurgence in both interest in and knowledge of mathematics, although only time will tell if this has any lasting impact.
Mathematics in the movies
A remarkable number of recent movies have dealt with mathematics and mathematicians. The 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind featured the life of mathematician John Nash. In the 2005 movie Proof, Gwyneth Paltrow plays the daughter
Continue reading More mathematics (and Pi) in the media
The latest mass shooting in the USA emphasises that this form of violence is not just a gun issue or a mental health problem but is tightly linked to radicalisation by the extreme right-wing and conspiracy movements. In this piece we highlight the disconcerting ubiquity of conspiracy movements. The two current authors are unfortunate enough to have extended first hand experience with this underbelly of the internet.
The Oregon college shootings
When we first hear there has been another college shooting in Oregon, we make the assumption, perhaps unjustly, that the gunman will be a young, male conspiracy theorist.
Continue reading Antisocial Networking Kills, Again
Andrea Rossi, Sven-Kullander and Hanno-Essen
As we explained in earlier Math Drudge blogs (MD#1 and MD#2) and Huffington Post articles (HP#1) and HP#2), a revolution of sorts is brewing in the clean energy field, with the emergence of fusion and “low energy nuclear reaction” (LENR) energy. These processes, unlike fission reactions used in conventional nuclear reactors, need not emit dangerous radiation, nor do they produce radioactive byproducts. The fuel is plentiful and free — they key ingredient, hydrogen, is the most abundant element in the universe.
Scientists at universities and large government laboratories have been feverishly working for
Continue reading Interview with Andrea Rossi, LENR energy pioneer
From David Broadhurst, October 5, 2015.
In honour of the memory of Richard Crandall (1947-2012), I have devised a puzzle on prime numbers obtained from moments of Bessel functions:
I commend this puzzle to Richard’s many colleagues, noting that “hand-to-hand combat with thousand-digit integrals” may be insufficient to solve it, without using brain as well as brawn. I have prepared a solution, together with a heuristic analysis that I think Richard would have liked. This will be released at the end of the year. Until then, happy puzzling.
Here is the mathematical description of the puzzle:
Continue reading A prime puzzle in honor of Richard Crandall
For those readers anxiously awaiting the publication of The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics, the day has come. The book can be purchased either from Princeton University Press or Amazon.com. It is a companion to the prize-winning volume Princeton Companion to Mathematics, edited by Timothy Gowers, June Barrow-Green and Imre Leader, which was reviewed by one of us for Siam Review, November 2009.
This book is decidedly not an easy read for a weekend at the cabin. For one thing, at 994 pages and 2.3 kg (5.0 pounds), it is a hefty volume to carry around. It also is not
Continue reading The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics is out at last
As we noted in previous Math Drudge blogs (#1 and #2), and in Huffington Post articles (#1 and #2), the world faces a grim future if we do not immediately rein in consumption of fossil fuels. Risks include rising sea levels, more frequent extreme temperatures, flooding, drought and conflicts among human societies. An eventual sea level rise of 6 meters now seems pretty much assured. Additionally, July 2015 is now officially the hottest single month in recorded history.
In spite of these truly sobering developments, some are seeing rays of hope. Prices of solar photovoltaic panels have dropped considerably.
Continue reading Cold fusion heats up: Fusion energy and LENR update
It is widely believed that modern society is in sharp decline. Crime, especially, is widely considered to be steadily soaring out of control. American politicians frequently join the fray, using the crime issue to assert various political points. For example,
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is an advocate of the death penalty, but hopes to address an “unacceptable” increase in incarceration. In 2007, Republican Jeb Bush declared, “The simple fact is we are not safe. Not in our homes. Not anywhere.” More recently, according to the New York Times, he supports reforming the criminal justice system, fearing that incarceration can
Continue reading Is US crime soaring? Do gun controls encourage crime? The science of crime statistics