Physics & Metaphysics

The Cyclotron Notebooks

The Cyclotron Notebooks is a collection of essays on physics (“How does the world work?”) and metaphysics (“Why does it work that way?”). Great reading. If you hit some jargon you don’t understand, it was introduced in a previous essay. I’ll add them all here eventually, but you don’t have to wait for me.

• #4: Causality

Nudge a coffee cup over the edge of a table, and it shatters. Would you say that the nudge caused the shatter?

Why not say the shatter brought about the nudge? We’re trained scientists, wary of misattributing cause. What in physics can help us reestablish the nudge as the cause? If we answer, “Because it happened first,” we apparently have some explaining to do.

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

From the essay:

There is a story about two friends, who were classmates in high school, talking about their jobs. One of them became a statistician and was working on population trends. He showed a reprint to his former classmate. The reprint started, as usual, with the Gaussian distribution and the statistician explained to his former classmate the meaning of the symbols for the actual population, for the average population, and so on. His classmate was a bit incredulous and was not quite sure whether the statistician was pulling his leg. “How can you know that?” was his query. “And what is this symbol here?” “Oh,” said the statistician, “this is pi.” “What is that?” “The ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.” “Well, now you are pushing your joke too far,” said the classmate, “surely the population has nothing to do with the circumference of the circle.”

How is it that an abstract human construct like mathematics can predict the actual operation of the universe with such extraordinary accuracy and precision? Is it possible that there are non-mathematical physical theories that could make even better predictions? The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences explores these questions.

Blogs

Ran Prieur

Ran Prieur is a reporter peeking into every post-civilization system of thought you were ever curious about.

One great essay among many is his How to Drop Out, and addendum:

2. “Drop out” is a bad metaphor, because it implies you are either in or out. In reality, no one has ever been in or out — everyone is somewhere in between. The most pathetic office drone still has forbidden dreams, and the most extreme mountain man still has commerce with society. Your mission is to find a niche, somewhere in this range, where you’re not held over a barrel by a system that gives you no participation in power…

Mr. Hossner is a friend and colleague in rural Alaskan education.

Here’s an excerpt from a day at fish camp.

Fishing today was special for a lot of reasons. I have written already about the moratorium that went on over last week, and have been hearing reports out of the village this week of troopers coming by and cutting nets and taking fish from families — I agree wholeheartedly with AnnAnn that these are evil acts. So it was special to be fishing AT ALL, even if we had to still be using chum nets and not King nets…

Art

Duane Schnur’s Accordion Page

Duane Schnur’s accordion page is an extensive, free resource for the beginning or intermediate piano accordion student. He’s got 90+ audio lessons, each with accompanying diagrams and sheet music scanned from an old accordion book.

When I began with the accordion, I had some really basic questions about the bass buttons. Duane goes over every step in explicit detail, beginning with reading music and using the keyboard side. The lessons build proficiencies smoothly. This guy is going to leave a huge legacy.