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Critical Opalescence

Critical Opalescence


Making the transition from confusion to comprehension, on all scales
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    George Musser is a contributing editor at Scientific American. He focuses on space science and fundamental physics, ranging from particles to planets to parallel universes. He is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory. Musser has won numerous awards in his career, including the 2011 American Institute of Physics's Science Writing Award. Follow on Twitter @gmusser.
  • Gravitational Waves Reveal the Universe before the Big Bang: An Interview with Physicist Gabriele Veneziano

    It’s not usually put like this, but the discovery of primordial gravitational waves two weeks ago has given us our first direct glimpse of a period before the big bang. The term “big bang” is sometimes taken to mean the beginning of the universe, and that’s the impression you get from diagrams such as the [...]

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    Amanda Gefter’s Ultimate Reality Party

    Last night I had the pleasure of going to Amanda Gefter’s book party, celebrating the release of Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn. I first got to know Gefter a decade ago when she audaciously contacted Sci Am to pitch her first-ever science story, and I followed her later career at New Scientist with admiration. But nothing [...]

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    Cosmological Data Hint at a Level of Physics Underlying Quantum Mechanics [Guest Post]

    Two weeks ago, I blogged about David Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics. Like Einstein and Louis de Broglie before him, Bohm argued that quantum randomness is not intrinsic to nature, but reflects our ignorance of a deeper level of reality. One physicist who has developed the idea further is Antony Valentini of Clemson University. Last [...]

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    What Happens to Google Maps When Tectonic Plates Move?

    A couple of weeks ago, I was writing up a description of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and I thought I’d compare the warping of spacetime to the motion of Earth’s tectonic plates. Nothing on Earth’s surface has fixed coordinates, because the surface is ever-shifting. Same goes for spacetime. But then it struck me: if [...]

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    The Wholeness of Quantum Reality: An Interview with Physicist Basil Hiley

    One night in 1952, Richard Feynman and David Bohm went bar-hopping in Belo Horizonte. Louisa Gilder reconstructs the night in her brilliant book on the history of quantum mechanics, The Age of Entanglement. Feynman was on a sabbatical in Rio and, ever exuberant, raved about local beers, drumming lessons, and Brazilian girls. Bohm, teaching at [...]

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    Does Some Deeper Level of Physics Underlie Quantum Mechanics? An Interview with Nobelist Gerard ’t Hooft

    VIENNA—Over the past several days, I attended a fascinating conference that explored an old idea of Einstein’s, one that was largely dismissed for decades: that quantum mechanics is not the root level of reality, but merely a hazy glimpse of something even deeper. A leading advocate is Gerard ’t Hooft of Utrecht University, who shared [...]

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    When the Large Hadron Collider Is Too Small

    The Large Hadron Collider has only just begun its explorations, so it might seem a little premature to begin thinking about what new particle projects might come next. But given how long these things take to plan, is it ever too soon? This summer, particle physicists held a huge planning retreat in Minneapolis, which Peter [...]

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    What Would It Be Like to Fall into a Naked Singularity? [Guest Post]

    Last year, novelist Sergio De La Pava compared the American criminal justice system to the strange physics concept of naked singularities. That inspired me to ask the author of Sci Am’s article on the concept, theoretical physicist Pankaj Joshi of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai (right in photo), for an update. Watch [...]

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    Can We Resolve Quantum Paradoxes by Stepping Out of Space and Time? [Guest Post]

    Next month will be the 100th anniversary of Bohr’s model of the atom, one of the foundations of the theory of quantum mechanics. And look where we are now: we still don’t know what the darned theory really means. One of the most radical interpretations (which is saying something) has got to be the so-called [...]

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    What Would It Mean for Time to Come to an End? [Video]

    Could time come to an end? What would that even mean? Last month I gave a talk about this strange physics idea at a TEDx event in Trento, Italy, based on a Scientific American article I wrote in 2010. My conceit was that time’s end poses a paradox that might be resolved if time is [...]

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