30 January 2008

Festival of Physics

The Festival of Physics, at which I was a volunteer demonstrator, was covered in the Dispatch (Oct. 21, p. B1). I realize I should have posted this a long time ago.

The Tesla coil was the most visually captivating of the demonstrations I did; it was responsible for some of the "sparking wires" mentioned in the article. Some of the children (and a few adults) were quite amazed by the sparks and by gas tubes that were illuminated by the coil. The tubes were similar to neon lights and filled with different gasses. The energy was transmitted by the coil via electromagnetic radiation with no wires. Some of the younger children did not like it because it was quite loud.

I also did several demonstrations on the "forces between magnets and metal." To me, the most interesting was dropping a strong magnet though a vertical aluminium tube. The eddy currents in the aluminum slowed the decent of the magnet by a surprising amount.

29 January 2008

Thank you, President Bush.

From the State of the Union Address, January 28, 2008:

To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth.
Congress did not follow though, and that negatively affected many programs, including my experiment. I am happy that the President said this; let us now do what we can to ensure Congress follows though this time.

27 January 2008

19 January 2008

Mike Huckabee is a Primate!

Updated on Jan. 24 to respond to a comment.

In a republican debate held in Manchester, NH on May 6, 2007, candidate Mike Huckabee was asked about an earlier debate in which he raised his hand to indicate that he did not believe in evolution. "You're an ordained minister. What do you believe? Is it the story of creation, as it is reported in the Bible or described in the Bible?" The question and his response are in the video clip above. If you cannot see it, the transcript is available from Project Vote Smart.

In his response, I think former Gov. Huckabee made four major logical or linguistic errors.

  1. He presents a false dichotomy between believing in God and accepting evolution. As he puts it, "A person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own." He also said, "the basic question was an unfair question, because it simply asked us in a simplistic manner whether or not we believed, in my view, whether there is a God or not." The question at the debate to which he referes was not about God; it was about science. He seemed to twist the question based on the assumtion that belief in evolution and belief in God are mutually exclusive. My comments here are not about faith or God, they are about the candidates knowledge and use of the field I know best.
  2. I "wasn't there" for the American Revolution, but I have no doubts about who won. One does not need to be an eyewitness to an event in order to make a convincing reconstruction of that event from available evidence.
  3. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, a primate is a "mammal of the order Primates, which includes humans, apes, monkeys, and prosimians" (emphasis mine). All humans, Huckabee's parents included, are primates. He is the descendant of a primate; he is a primate, and so am I.
  4. He would not be writing a science textbook as President, but science is very important in many decisions the President makes. This point has been made by a group calling for a debate on science among the presidential candidates and an editorial in the Jan. 4, 2008 issue of Science magazine. If Gov. Huckabee can dismiss and so profoundly misunderstand this scientific theory, I have doubts about his ability to make a scientifically well informed decision on global warming, nuclear power, alternative energy sources, basic research funding, human embryonic stem cell research, education, and a host of other important political issues. If I know a candidate is wrong or ill-informed in science, which is the are of human endeavor that I know best, how can I trust him or her in any other area?

10 January 2008

Internet Ego Boost

cash advance

Thanks to Echoes in Eternity for the link to this site.

02 January 2008

Happy New Year!

This new year is off to a good start for me. I have spent a few days with friends in Minnesota, and I feel refreshed and ready for 2008. When I develop the pictures from my Holidays, I will post them, but for now I leave you with a picture from a Christian retreat last year. It was at a Boy Scout camp called Camp Miakonda; in their patriotic spirit, the scouts erected a small copy of the Statue of Liberty.

This was the first thing I thought of when I saw the statue; I suppose that reveals much about me.

Practical Benefits of Particle Physics #5

The International Linear Collider (ILC)

The ILC is an accelerator currently being planned by a large segment of the particle physics community. Building it will require many technological innovations and great engineering skill. The direct and indirect benefits of the ILC, including superconducting technologies, microbiological understanding, medical applications, waste treatment, and port security, are summarized in this article in Symmetry.

However, Congress and the President recently enacted a budget for this fiscal year that effectively eliminates this year's funding for the ILC.