Archive for July 27th, 2006

Bible, age of earth and God’s mistakes!

July 27, 2006

A famous physicist, Abbe Lemaitre, who was also a Catholic priest, gave a talk on the determination of the age of the earth by means of radioactive elements. … Abbe Lemaitre told us that such investigations revealed that the earth was about 4.5 billion years old.

When we were sitting with Lemaitre after his talk, someone asked him whether he believed in the Bible. He said, “Yes, every word is true.” But, we continued, how could he tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old, if the Bible says that it is about 5,800 years old? He said, I suppose with tongue in cheek, “That is no contradiction.” “How come?” we nearly shouted. He explained that God made the earth 5,800 years ago with all the radioactive substances, the fossils, and other indications of an older age. He did this to tempt humankind and to test its belief in the Bible. Then we asked, “Why are you so interested in finding out the age of the earth if it is not the actual age?” And he answered, “Just to convince myself that God did not make a single mistake.”

–The joy of insight: passions of a physicist, Victor Weisskopf

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Quantum tunneling and group delay!

July 27, 2006

Via Digg, I learn that a decaddes long paradox in quantum tunneling is resolved:

The question:

As if the concept of quantum tunneling —where atoms pass through barriers—isn’t confusing enough, one of the vexing questions within that area of physics is why particles seem to travel faster than the speed of light when passing through a barrier, but not when they travel through empty space. Also puzzling is why the time spent by the particle in the barrier does not seem to increase as the barrier is made longer and longer.

The Resolution:

Here is how group delay works in quantum tunneling: imagine two tour buses, one with 100 passengers and the other with 10 passengers. The buses are heading toward the same restaurant across town. They arrive together, but the bus with 10 people empties more quickly so those diners get to eat first. If you define the arrival time as the average time at which a passenger arrives at the dinner table, then this time is shorter for the bus with fewer passengers. This also explains why the so-called group delay is the same no matter the distance traveled.

Take a look at this short and extremely readable article!

Lee, Sen and Wiki!

July 27, 2006

All the links below are via A&L daily: the first is a review of the unofficial biography of Lee, the second is a profile based on aninterview with Amartya Sen about his latest book, and the third is about Wikipedia. All three are worth a look!
Biography as fiction — Mocking bird: a portrait of Harper Lee.

Robustly plural identities and individual choices — Identity and violence of Amartya Sen.

Truth and expertise — Wikipedia.

Novel time!

July 27, 2006

Sean at cosmic variance has some recommendations:

So here’s my list — five novels that haven’t ascended into the literary canon (and are unlikely to do so), yet had me gasping with delight or shuddering with (a pleasant kind of) horror. My own personal cutoff for being obscure enough to count as an interesting recommendation was “less well known than Flaubert’s Parrot,” which otherwise might have made the list.

Take a look!

Tributes to Raja Rao — IV!

July 27, 2006

Via Literaray saloon, I learn of a few more obituaries to Raja Rao: Guardian, Telegraph and Times and NY Times. And, this obituary starts with a quote from Raja Rao:

I alone know I am incapable of writing what people say I have written.
— Raja Rao

Best two sentences I read yesterday!

July 27, 2006

The basic characteristics of any good investigator are a plodding nature and infinite patience. Society has inadvertently been grooming women to this end for years.

-Sue Grafton in ‘A’ is for Alibi

Well, in grad school circles, both men and women are trained advertently to this end by thesis advisers, and the process is known as graduation 😉