Monthly Archives: June 2007

To help, miss cite reb. ‘eretics? Simple! Hot!

My simple physics ideas have become hot despite their heretical source. These last few days I’ve discovered that I’d missed three more citations of my stuff in the paper hard copy published peer-reviewed physics literature ( “so-there” to snobs who say that “anything” can be published on arXiv). This gives me a total of five citations, written by a total of five authors. Uh, only one of which is a card-carrying Einstein-denying, fellow traveller.

I feel kind of guilty for pulling off this stunt, but I really don’t have a complete theory of mass, it’s not easy for amateurs to get published (or even onto arXiv), and it’s a lot more fun to do physics (and write blog posts) than it is to hassle with editors. And anyway, I’m reading a biography of Gell-Mann and he’s way worse than me for failing to publish stuff. He managed to procrastinate his Nobel Prize lecture write-up so long it didn’t make it into the book at all. Let’s see, that was an admission of guilt, a promise to fix it later, a claim of difficulty, an appeal to the joy of amateurs, and a redirection by pointing out a greater sinner.

Of course all this calls for a blog party, with puns, palindromic comments, and other excesssses, but first the citations. Most of these are available on the web for free. The ones you have to pay for, I’ve copied a few lines one way or another.
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Just One Heresy is Never Enough.

Physics is an unusual science. In most of the rest of science, one is exposed to explanations that make intuitive sense to the initiate. In contrast, understanding the foundations of physics requires a certain suspension of disbelief. Most of the standard heresies of physics come, one way or another, from refusing to suspend disbelief.
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AGASA, Yakutsk and UHECR anomalies.

The name of this blog is “Mass”, but I really haven’t made many posts on the subject of physics. The reason is that I do not yet understand mass, and don’t have a great desire to explain pieces of things that I think I know but that are not well motivated to the reader. But a recent post on Backreaction on the subject of the GZK cutoff has motivated me to write on some of the anomalies seen in ultra high energy cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are events in the atmosphere that are caused when a very high energy “primary particle” leaves the vastness of empty space and collides with the crowded environment of our planet’s atmosphere. A series of collisions turn the primary particle into a shower of debris. Primary particles with very high energies are extremely rare and so only experiments that examine very large regions of the atmosphere can hope to be lucky enough to see them.

Such an experiment must cover hundreds of square kilometers, it is not possible for the experiment to see the primary particle. The primary particle disintegrates at high altitude, it is only the shower of debris that the experiments can measure. For this reason, there is some question as to the nature of the primary particles.
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Book Review: The Search for Eldorado, John Hemming

I’ve wanted to get back to the topic of the history of San Antonio, but the next step was the conquistadors. I put off writing anything up because I had an unread book on my shelf, The Search for Eldorado”, by John Hemming. This originally came out in 1978, but I have the $21.95 paperback from Phoenix Press in 2001. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Half Price Books, probably for under $5.
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Book review: 五輪書, “The Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi

Cover to The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto Musashi, or Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin was a famous swordsman in Japan in the 1600s, the Edo or Tokugawa era. He was born in 1584 when the samurai were the elite of society. At age 13 he killed his first man, the renowned samurai Arima Kihei, a practioner of Shinto Ryu.

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Why does DNA only use 4 nucleotides?

A few days ago Kea wrote post #66 in her long and fascinating series of M-theory posts. Seems like she’s giving away the text to a book here. She wrote:

I was quite intrigued when a mathematical biologist at a conference told me recently that no one really knew why DNA had four bases rather than two. Apparently it isn’t clear why self-replicating molecules fail to adopt a binary code in X and Y.

The context of the problem needs some explaining. DNA is a long chain molecule that is built from a series of nucleotides. The strange things is that exactly four nucleotides are used. This is strange because there are at least a dozen different nucleotides, why use just four?

[edit Feb 8, 2009]This question is discussed in the scientific literature. For example, I just now found the article: Why Are There Four Letters in the Genetic Alphabet?, which describes the question generally, but I think the reader will find the chemical and information content argument given here to be more precise.[/edit]
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Spontaneous and Stimulated Emission of Gravitons

Recently, Stefan on Backreaction put together a beautiful and informative post on some experiments involving Schroedinger’s equation for neutrons in a situation where the gravitational field could be modeled as in Newton’s equations, that is, as mgz where z is height, and g is the acceleration of gravity at earth’s surface.
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