Thursday, November 12, 2009

10 Weirdest Physics "Facts"

I suppose this is OK for a popular media and for mass consumption for the public. The Telegraph has a rather amusing description of what the writer thinks as the 10 weirdest physics "facts". Of course, all the usual suspects are there: entanglement, superposition, speed of light, etc..

Still, can you nitpick a few rather inaccurate statements in there? I'm sure you can. I'm not going to bother because, really, it won't matter for those who don't understand physics, because the subtleties won't make a difference. Nevertheless, I wish that last part on "relativistic mass" didn't appear, because it will only propagate the same misconception that we are trying to eradicate (see here and here, for example).



Bradley said...

I once worked with an engineer who'd been reading up on special relativity. He told me that, as objects get closer to the speed of light, they get BIGGER. He figured out that they have to get bigger; how else would they hold all that growing mass?

But the whole "10 Weirdest" article is rife with this sort of thing. One of my pet peeves is the thing about how light can travel slower than the speed of light. I've spent a lot of time over the years explaining to people the difference between [i]c[/i] as an asymptotic limit and the stochastic propagation of radiation in a dense medium.

Alan Alvillar said...

I have no words left for the analogy of the sun made out of Bananas... I think articles like these, from popular sources (not necessarily scientific), that a lot of people have access to, are what make people think they have acquired new knowledge which in change is garbage. It is a stupid analogy that could have been made with other "materials" that would make it sound at least more serious. Good thing they added a sub index explaining fusion reaction... it made it less stupid.

On what Bradley said, I recently finished some research on Relativity and I do not remember anything about objects close to the speed of light getting bigger. Although it does make sense that in order to hold the growing mass the size must grow too, I don't think this is how it works. If you or anyone have any back up on proving or disproving this, i would appreciate it.

Alan Alvillar