Feynman's van: a symbol of the free spirit of physics
And happy official 10th birthday, Higgs boson!
Greetings to all readers and subscribers, and special greetings to the paid subscribers!
Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first:
You are invited to attend the Terasem Space Day Colloquium on July 20, from 10am ET to 1pm ET, via Zoom.
I look forward to seeing you on July 20 at the Terasem Space Day! See previous newsletters for more info about the speakers.
Zoom access coordinates:
CLICK HERE to join the Zoom meeting
Meeting ID: 824 4597 9923
And speaking of spaceflight:
Elon Musk tweets: “Humanity will reach Mars in your lifetime.”
Elon adds that “Without a common goal, humanity will fight itself. Moon brought us together in ‘69, Mars can do that in the future.” Actually Apollo did NOT bring us together in 1969 - there was *almost* as much opposition to spaceflight at that time as today, and for the same reasons - but it appears that little difference made a big difference. If we win just a relatively small number of vocal supporters to spaceflight and space expansion, good things will happen.
The focus of “Black Sky Nexus” includes spaceflight and space expansion. The pilot issue includes the chapter “Interstellar” of my book “Futurist spaceflight meditations” and my recent essay on the Fermi paradox.
“The landmark discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider exactly ten years ago, and the progress made since then to determine its properties, have allowed physicists to make tremendous steps forward in our understanding of the universe,” reads a CERN press release issued on July 4.
If you are interested in the Higgs field/boson and quantum field theory you should read the recently published book “Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass” by Frank Close.
The book’s description reads:
“This revelatory book is 'not so much a biography of the man but of the boson named after him'. It brilliantly traces the course of much of twentieth-century physics from the inception of quantum field theory to the completion of the 'standard model' of particles and forces, and the pivotal role of Higgs's idea in this evolution…”
I think Close’s previous book “The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe” (published in 2011 before the CERN LHC announcement) is one of the clearest popular science books about quantum field theory.
I’m reading the new book, which seems an excellent update written for the general public in Close’s clear, crisp, no-nonsense, insightful style. Besides Higgs the field/boson, Close portrays Higgs the man. The book should be read as a Higgs-themed update to “The Infinity Puzzle.”
Speaking of quantum field theory, it’s always good and useful to remember the insights of the previous generation of scientists who started it, and in particular everyone’s favorite physicist: the great, great Richard Feynman. One of best scientific biographies of Feynman is “Richard Feynman: A Life in Science” by John Gribbin.
The last chapter of Gribbin’s book describes Feynman’s van (picture below) as “a symbol of Feynman’s free spirit, a vehicle of exploration and discovery of the everyday world, while the diagrams symbolize his exploration and enjoyment of the world of physics.”
Feynman essentially rebuilt the foundations of quantum physics with no reverence for sacred cows and no unquestionable dogma except one: the predictions of physical theories must not contradict experimental facts, or the theories are wrong. Everything else can and should be discussed. We need more scientists that, like Feynman, freely question currently fashionable and politically correct dogmas. Not everyone can be a Feynman - he was kind of unique - but we can all let our spirit travel freely on his van.