The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush

If you have wrapped your head around why and how the U-shaped tube in the flow meter (described in my previous post) is twisted by the Coriolis force – here is a video of a simple experiment brought to my attention by the author of the quoted article on gyroscope physics: You could also test it…

Intuition and the Magic of the Gyroscope – Reloaded

I am baffled by the fact that my article The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics is the top article on this blog so far. So I believe I owe you, dear readers, an update. In the previous article I have summarized the textbook explanation, some more intuitive comments in Feynman’s Physics Lectures, and a new…

Random Thoughts on Temperature and Intuition in Thermodynamics

Recent we felt a disturbance of the force: It has been demonstrated that the absolute temperature of a real system can be pushed to negative values. The interesting underlying question is: What is temperature really? Temperature seems to be an intuitive everyday concept, yet the explanations of ‘negative temperatures’ prove that it is not. Actually, atoms have…

Joule, Thomson, and the birth of big science

Originally posted on carnotcycle:
William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin (left), James Joule and the famous hand-operated pump. The Joule-Thomson effect is named after them, as are the SI units of thermodynamic temperature (kelvin) and energy (joule). Historical background In early May 1852, in the cellar of a house in Acton Square, Salford, Manchester (England), two…

Quantum Field Theory or: It’s More Than a Marble Turned into a Wiggly Line

I had been trained as an experimental physicist which meant I was good at locating vacuum leaks, adjusting lasers and lenses, telling reasonable data from artefacts, and being the only person that ever replenished the paper feed of the X-ray diffractometer (Yes, at that time we used paper records). Exactly because of that I took pride in the…

Are We All Newtonians?

In my most recent posts I showed off: 1) Sandra Bullock killing a computer virus and ordering pizza online, 2) a cartoon making fun of all academic disciplines I refer to this blog, 3) images of cute furry animals – dead and alive. I will not be able to top that. Thus I feel free to bore you…

The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics

If we would set this spinning top into motion, it would not fall, even if its axis would not be oriented perpendicular to the floor. Instead, its axis would change its orientation slowly. The spinning motion seems to stabilize the gyroscope, just as the moving bicycle is sort of stabilized by its turning wheels. This sounds…

Sniffing the Path (On the Fascination of Classical Mechanics)

Newton’s law has been superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics, and our universe is strange and compelling from a philosophical perspective. Classical Mechanics is dull. I do not believe that. The fundamentals of Newtonian Mechanics can be represented in a way that is different from well-known Force = Mass Times Acceleration – being mathematically equivalent,…

Stupid Questions and So-Called Intuition

At the beginning of my career, I organized a meeting of a research project team. I was still an undergraduate student. The project was concerned with the development of thin superconducting films for microwave circuits, and my task in the project was the optimization of those films. But I was not an expert in waveguides…

Real Physicists Do Not Read Popular Science Books

At least this is what I believed for quite a while. Now I think I was wrong – not only for the reason that also real scientists might enjoy light entertainment or stay informed about their colleagues’ science outreach activities. First of all, I am not even sure if I still qualify as a real…