Category: nature

Ask Ethan: Are The Smallest Particles Of All T…

Ask Ethan: Are The Smallest Particles Of All Truly Fundamental?

“Is there theoretical or experimental evidence which unambiguously establishes the existence of fundamental particles?”

When we talk about the Standard Model, including the quarks, leptons, their antiparticles, and the bosons that make up the Universe, we implicitly assume that these are fundamental particles. When we say fundamental, we often imply that these are the smallest possible, indivisible structural components of all that exists. Yet there’s a limit as far as how well we actually know this goes. Our experimental reach is limited in terms of energy; better deep inelastic scattering experiments might yet reveal a composite structure to the particles that we presently think are fundamental. There might be a more fundamental structure that makes up these particles, and those structures may not be particles. Dark matter and dark energy may not be particles at all, and space and time might be continuous or discrete, quantum or not, and either fundamental or emergent.

Are the smallest building blocks of reality truly fundamental, and are they particles at all? Join the exploration on this edition of Ask Ethan!

Ask Ethan: Are Quantum Fields Real? “I would …

Ask Ethan: Are Quantum Fields Real?

“I would be very interested in a post about quantum fields. Are they generally/universally believed to be real and the most fundamental aspect of our universe or just a mathematical construct? I’ve read that there are 24 fundamental quantum fields: 12 fields for fermions and 12 for bosons. But I’ve also read about quantum fields for atoms, molecules, etc. How does that work? Does everything emerge from these 24 fields and their interactions?”

When you think about the Universe, you probably think about it in a very particular fashion. There’s spacetime: the backdrop upon which the matter in the Universe exists, and then there are particles and antiparticles, which make up everything we can conceive of in the cosmos. Only, the quantum nature of reality is very different from this intuitive picture, and quantum field theory goes a few steps farther than even the unintuitive pictures we have in our heads. What if Heisenberg uncertainty, the Pauli exclusion principle, wave-particle duality and more were all just manifestations of something very basic: quantum fields themselves?

Quantum fields, believe it or not, are the most real thing we know of in the Universe. Here’s the science of how they make up our Universe.

Scientific Proof Is A Myth“Proofs are mathemat…

Scientific Proof Is A Myth

“Proofs are mathematical entities: you start with a set of postulates, things that you begin with as givens. From those postulates, you take simple, straightforward steps, obeying the laws and rules of the system that you began with. As you progress, you can build up more and more complex rules, tease out intricate behavior, and axiomatically prove what will and won’t happen.

In science, at its best, the process is very similar, but with a caveat: you never know when your postulates, rules, or logical steps will suddenly cease to describe the Universe. You never know when your assumptions will suddenly become invalid. And you never know whether the rules you successfully applied for situations A, B, and C will successfully apply for situation D.”

Science gives us a great and powerful way to learn so much about the world. We can test things out, find a range of validity to our theories, make predictions and verify them, and increase our understanding of nature, the world, and the Universe, exactly as it is. We often say that science has “proven” a great many things — I say it too

— but it isn’t true. All science can do is validate, confirm, and provide evidence that something is consistent with an idea or hypothesis being correct. But proof is another matter entirely, and something forever beyond what science is capable of. You can always prove that something is true given a framework and a set of rules, but you can never know when the rules you assumed will fail to apply to the situation you’ve newly encountered. However, don’t make the mistake of saying that just because there’s no such thing as scientific proof, we can’t know anything.

On the contrary, science is the greatest toolkit we have to gain actual, factual knowledge about the world we inhabit. While science can never prove anything, it can teach us more than, arguably, anything else. Read on to find out what it all means!

sixpenceee: Thunderclouds look amazing from an aerial view….


Thunderclouds look amazing from an aerial view. (Source)

Catching prey using VorticesI was reading about Vortices and…

Catching prey using Vortices

I was reading about Vortices and after hours of research online, out of the blue I stumbled upon this amazing bird. This is the Red Necked Phalarophe and from the looks of it seems to have put vortices to a really productive use – catching its prey.

By rotating around ~60-80 times a minute, it produces an upward vortex that sucks out insects/bugs/crustaceans from the water, which it swiftly picks up with its beak and eats. ( This one would have aced the Fluids class for sure 😀)


This is analogous to tornadoes sweeping up cars and houses along its way in an upward swirl.

Mind Blown!

** The actual dynamics of vortices of course is waay more complicated. 😉

Science Discovers How Complex Life Came To The Galapagos…

Science Discovers How Complex Life Came To The Galapagos Islands

“Incredibly, all it took was volcanism, wind passing over the ocean, and the natural process of rain to bring a habitable environment to the middle of the ocean. The arrival of not only single-celled life but also complex plants, animals and fungi was not merely serendipitous, but inevitable, given how powerful winds and ocean currents are.”

The Galapagos Islands house some of the world’s most unusual and uniquely adapted plants and animals in the world. This includes giant trees that evolved from the humble dandelion, tortoises the size of boulders, and birds and iguanas that feed beneath the sea. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that plants and animals made it to this remote region of Earth, given wind, ocean currents and flying/swimming animals. But it is surprising that they were able to thrive on these volcanic islands, given that igneous rock has none of the properties you need for rich, fertile soil. Yet the physics of the islands themselves allow them to create their own rain, which leads to the incredible habitats they now exhibit today. All it takes, after that, is the arrival of plants and animals capable of filling those niches.

Come get the story of how science brought habitability to the Galapagos Islands!