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  • 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."
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    -- Physics World

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Comments

Jennifer-

A very well argued and reasoned post. I couldn't agree more, and thank you very much for your kind words about my book. As someone who has appeared a few times as a minor character in recent comic books, I quite agree about art and science BFF.

Wishing a happy and healthy new year to you and your fiance.

Cheers,

Jim

Since you mention Kurt Godel, I'll plug _Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel_ by Rebecca Goldstein as the best science book of the year. Goldstein has produced less of a biography of Godel than an extended musing on his life and accomplishments. Like the justly popular _Godel, Escher, Bach_, _Incompleteness_ allows a deeper understanding of Godel's mathematical accomplishments, but Goldstein's real achievement is to give the reader an idea of what Godel was like and where his ideas came from. Particularly amusing is the contrast she draws between Godel and his contemporary Wittgenstein, who was a puffed-up blowhard compared to the retiring and precise mathematician. Goldstein also sketches the friendship between Einstein and Godel that you allude to above, and suggests that the near simultaneous deaths of Einstein and Godel's wife were what drove him over the precipice.

Thanks again, Jennifer, for a year's worth of entertaining and informative blog postings. I'm happy to say that my middle-aged women's reading group will be tackling _Black Bodies and Quantum Cats_ in February, and most remarkably, I wasn't even the member who suggested we read it.

I have always interpreted C. P. Snow's "two cultures" thing as his way of describing a lamentable state of human affairs, not any deep truth about what is in the final reckoning incompatible. We who have read a little, thought a little and are not so afraid of mathematics can see the gulf between these cultures shrink to an inconsequential puddle not worth mentioning. The best science teachers have all spoken in parables to communicate knowledge, and modern literature is replete with examples of ideas flowing the other way, enriching the written word with what clever folks have discovered about the natural world.

Art and science are human endeavors, tied up with our need to pose questions and test answers. Sometimes, a piece of one seems entirely irrelevant to the other, but we should always remember that it is we who draw the lines dividing the human enterprise into digestible sections, and nothing requires life to conform to our incomplete understanding of it.

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    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.