Monday, November 26, 2018

It Does NOT Defy 156-Year-Old Law of Physics!

Often times, popular accounts of physics and physics discoveries/advancements are dramatized and sensationalized to catch the eyes of the public. I'm all for catching their attention in this day and age, but really, many of these are highly misleading and tend to over-dramatize certain things.

This is one such example. It started off with an eye-catching title:

"Energy Efficiency Breakthrough Defies 156-Year-Old Law of Physics"

Really? Do we have a Nobel Prize already lined up for these people? After all, what could be more astounding and impactful than a discovery that "defies" an old and established law of physics?

Turns out, as I suspected, that it is a new solution to the well-known Maxwell equation that had never been discovered before. But even if you don't know anything about Maxwell equation and what the discovery is all about, if you pay attention to what they wrote, you would have noticed something contradictory to what the title claimed:

The first several efforts were unsuccessful until the team conceived of using an electrical conductor in movement. They proceeded to solve Maxwell’s equations analytically in order to demonstrate that not only could reciprocity be broken but that coupling could also be made maximally asymmetric.

Notice that they USED Maxwell's equations (i.e. the 156-year-old law of physics) and found new solutions that hadn't been thought to be possible. So how could they be defying it when they actually used it? They may have defined previous notion that there are no solutions of that type, but they did not defy Maxwell equations, not in the least bit!

Sussex University press office needs to get their act together and not go for such cheap thrills. And I'm surprised that the researchers involved in this actually let a title like that go through.

Edit 11/29/2018: THIS is how this discovery should have been reported, as done by Physics World. Notice that nowhere in there was there any claim of any laws of physics that has been violated!


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