Monday, July 27, 2015

Wilczek's new book on beauty in nature

Here is an endorsement for a new book, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design:
Deepak Chopra, M.D.: “For a century, science has invalidated ‘soft’ questions about truth, beauty, and transcendence. It took considerable courage therefore for Frank Wilczek to declare that such questions are within the framework of ‘hard’ science. Anyone who wants to see how science and transcendence can be compatible must read this book. Wilczek has caught the winds of change, and his thinking breaks through some sacred boundaries with curiosity, insight, and intellectual power.”
There is a fine line between the frontiers of hard physics and crackpot babble, I guess.

Separately Wilczek claims in Nature magazine:
Particle physics: A weighty mass difference

The neutron–proton mass difference, one of the most consequential parameters of physics, has now been calculated from fundamental theories. This landmark calculation portends revolutionary progress in nuclear physics.
The article is behind a paywall, so I cannot assess how revolutionary it is. My guess is that it uses the masses of the protons and neutrons to estimate the masses of the up and down quarks, and then uses the quark masses to calculate the proton and neutron masses. It does not sound revolutionary to me.

Peter Woit also endorses the book, and a comment says:
If Ptolemy’s epicycles worked, would we consider them to be beautiful?
Ptolemy’s epicycles did work. I scratch my head at how scientists can get this so wrong.

In Ptolemy's Almagest, the principal epicycles were just his way of representing the orbit of the Earth. The orbits of Earth and Mars could be approximated by circles, and the view of Mars from Earth can be represented by the vector difference of those two circles. The Earth circle was called an epicycle. There were also minor epicycles to correct for the orbits not being exactly circular.

So yes, epicycles did work to approximate the orbits, and the same main idea is used today whenever anyone describes a planetary orbit, as viewed from the Earth.

1 comment:

  1. It's about Brian Hart

    Circa: Turn of the Millenium.

    Briant Hart has always been a Christian. In Full Faith.

    At least, a White Skin. At least, a Christian. In Full Faith. Complete with Placing His Hand on a Printed Copy of a Bible.


    And look, where he (and Nitin Kulkarni and Pradnya Walhekar-Martz) have gone!

    [Yes, Roger, you can always turn me off here. Your first instinct. Or, write me an email suggesting I don't post such nasty comments. Your last-but-one. Or, write a reply to me here about these things. Your last-to-last-but-one.]