My Photo


  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

    "Explains physics to the layperson and specialist alike with abundant historical and cultural references."
    -- Exploratorium ("10 Cool Sites")

    "... polished and humorous..."
    -- Physics World

    "Takes 1 part pop culture, 1 part science, and mixes vigorously with a shakerful of passion."
    -- Typepad (Featured Blog)

    "In this elegantly written blog, stories about science and technology come to life as effortlessly as everyday chatter about politics, celebrities, and vacations."
    -- Fast Company ("The Top 10 Websites You've Never Heard Of")
Blog powered by Typepad
Bookmark and Share

« along came a spider | Main | the mimetics of math »


"Element 118" might not be a good stage name for an actor, but gosh darn it, I think it could be a good name for a band. You know, maybe a Tom Lehrer/Pink Floyd cover group, or something like that?

not 1 in 10,000 - 1 in 100,000
"Detector noise and other random events that could possibly mislead the researchers are very unlikely—less than one part in 100,000—Nancy Stoyer noted. "I would say we’re very confident.' "

Jennifer, the Buffy book sounds great. I would love to her about your adventures in book publishing.

Since "dark energy" doesn't exist, is that a case of wishful thinking on the poart of experimenters?

Astronomy magazine has an article:

In addition to the shell structure magic numbers, it is supposedly impossible to get to element number 137 for theoretical reasons: the short range attractive strong force between nucleons will be exactly balanced by the long-range electromagnetic repulsion of 137 protons!

This assumes that the strong force coupling for inter-nucleon forces is indeed exactly 137. The whole reason for radioactivity of heavy elements is linked to the increasing difficulty the strong force has in offsetting electromagnetism as you get towards 137 protons, accounting for the shorter half-lives. So here is a derivation of the 137 number in the context of strong nuclear force mediated by pions:

Heisenberg's uncertainty says p*d = h/(2.Pi), if p is uncertainty in momentum, d is uncertainty in distance.

This comes from the resolving power of Heisenberg's imaginary gamma ray microscope, and is usually written as a minimum (instead of with "=" as above), since there will be other sources of uncertainty in the measurement process. The factor of 2 would be a factor of 4 if we consider the uncertainty in one direction about the expected position (because the uncertainty applies to both directions, it becomes a factor of 2 here).

For light wave momentum p = mc, pd = (mc)(ct) = Et where E is uncertainty in energy (E=mc^2), and t is uncertainty in time. OK, we are dealing with massive pions, not light, but this is close enough since they are relativistic:

Et = h/(2*Pi)

t = d/c = h/(2*Pi*E)

E = hc/(2*Pi*d).

Hence we have related distance to energy: this result is the formula used even in popular texts used to show that a 80 GeV energy W+/- gauge boson will have a range of 10^-17 m. So it's OK to do this (ie, it is OK to take uncertainties of distance and energy to be real energy and range of gauge bosons which cause fundamental forces).

Now, the work equation E = F*d (a vector equation: "work is product of force and the distance acted against the force in the direction of the force"), where again E is uncertainty in energy and d is uncertainty in distance, implies:

E = hc/(2*Pi*d) = Fd

F = hc/(2*Pi*d^2)

Notice the inverse square law resulting here!

This force is 137.036 times higher than Coulomb's law for unit fundamental charges! This is the usual value often given for the ratio between the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force (I'm aware the QCD inter quark gluon-mediated force takes different and often smaller values than 137 times the electromagnetism force).

I first read this amazing 137 factor in nuclear stability (limiting the number of elements to a theoretical maximum of below 137) in Glenn Seaborg's article 'Elements beyond 100' (in the Annual Review of Nuclear Science, v18, 1968 by accident after getting the volume to read Harold Brode's article - which was next after Seaborg's - entitled 'Review of Nuclear Weapons Effects').

I just love the fact that elements 99-100 (Einsteinium and Fermium) were discovered in the fallout of the first Teller-type H-bomb test at Eniwetok Atoll in 1952, formed by successive neutron captures in the U-238 pusher, which was within a 25-cm thick steel outer case according to some reports. Many of the neutrons must have been trapped inside the bomb. (Theodore Taylor said that the density of neutrons inside the bomb reached the density of water!)

‘Dr Edward Teller remarked recently that the origin of the earth was somewhat like the explosion of the atomic bomb...’ – Dr Harold C. Urey, The Planets: Their Origin and Development, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1952, p. ix.

‘It seems that similarities do exist between the processes of formation of single particles from nuclear explosions and formation of the solar system from the debris of a supernova explosion. We may be able to learn much more about the origin of the earth, by further investigating the process of radioactive fallout from the nuclear weapons tests.’

– Dr P.K. Kuroda, ‘Radioactive Fallout in Astronomical Settings: Plutonium-244 in the Early Environment of the Solar System,’ Radionuclides in the Environment (Dr Edward C. Freiling, Symposium Chairman), Advances in Chemistry Series No. 93, American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., 1970.

I love the map of isotopes. Where does it come from?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.