Posted tagged ‘beer’

Episode 5: Ted gets himself in a blur (the uncertainty principle)

April 28, 2010

Episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I was surprised and happy this week to get a twitter mention from proper science  journalist Alok Jha, saying he was enjoying following Ted’s adventures. But it’s just as important to me that non-sciencey types enjoy and hopefully understand what I’m getting at. Thanks especially to Joe Adams and Ian Box for messages of support… much appreciated!

So far Ted’s exploits have touched upon

Probability- the idea that individual events are unpredictable, but taking enough events into account, trends are very predictable if you know the probabilities. So light bouncing off or passing through glass is unpredictable at the single particle level, but with a lot of light it’s very predictable.

“Quantisation” of light: i.e. light comes in lumps which can’t be broken down into any smaller constituent parts.

Superposition of states: it’s impossible to find out about quantum objects without affecting the result. Until you do some test, quantum objects seem to be in two states at the same time.

Quantum nonsense: just because there are strange ideas at the quantum level, doesn’t mean you can extrapolate into other areas of philosophy!

Ted’s story continues after meeting his bearded friend Mike in a pub, having had a frustrating conversation with someone who believed that quantum mechanics explains (it doesn’t) how homeopathy works (it doesn’t).

———-

“How do you explain to someone that their worldview is wrong without sounding like a git?” Ted asked his friend after the homeopathy fan had left.

“Dunno, why does it matter?”

“Because we spend so much time and effort as a species to understand…

“Hang on.”

Mike left Ted steaming in his own frustration while he went to the bar, before returning with two pints and two shot glasses.

“Hang on.”

He returned from his second trip with two slices of lemon and a salt shaker. An unknown number of tequila chasers later Ted found himself standing with some difficulty in another bar, or maybe nightclub… (more…)

Episode 4: Ted and the quantum healer

April 21, 2010

Click here to read from part 1

Ted hadn’t planned for the answerphone. He’d been so worried about rejection that he hadn’t considered the possibility that he might not even get the chance to be rejected.

“So, er, maybe you know give me a call or something sometime if you want… see you… bye”. Ted hung up and sat cringing for a moment. What was about asking a girl out that turned him into a gibbering fool? Standing up to head into the kitchen, he tossed the phone back onto the sofa, only for it to light up and vibrate just as it hit the cushion. (more…)

Explaining quantum mechanics to girls in bars

February 9, 2010

It’s a common problem, but one not often discussed by science blogs… A good-looking and talented scientist/blogger is in a bar, about to order a drink. It’s taking some time to get served so said blogger starts a conversation with a girl at the bar.

They make eye-contact, she smiles, they make a subtle connection until, ever so delicately, they step into the minefield as she asks, “so what do you do?”.

At this point, the scientist/blogger knows he can lose this most fragile shard of an opportunity if he doesn’t tread carefully.  Option one is to invent an exotic career; taxidermy is pretty unusual, and he may be able to work in a chat up line about stuffing Castor canadensis.

(more…)


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