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Strange charm

Posted on December 6th, 2010 by annakjarzab

So for a couple of years now I’ve been really fascinated by physics, especially theoretical physics, cosmology and astronomy. As a kid I was, like, THE WORST at math, but I was kind of okay at science, provided that it didn’t require any math. Now, of course, all science requires math at some point, especially physics, which is why I really like theoretical physics because that’s mostly a lot of sitting around thinking up possible solutions to problems that may or may not have any basis in fact or evidence to support them. Even theoretical physics eventually has to be backed up by mathematical equations, even if these mathematical equations turn out to be false, but hey! I’m not a real theoretical physicist so that doesn’t need to concern me.

Anyway, what I’ve gleaned from my many years of continued reading about theoretical physics, cosmology and astronomy is that A. the universe is so awesome we have no idea just how awesome it really is and probably never will, and B. it’s really hard to understand most of the universe’s mysteries unless you are very dogged, patient, and focused because some of the most interesting things about the world that we live in act contrary to the expectations we have based on our own common sense. As Michio Kaku, author of such awesome books like Physics of the Impossible, Parallel Worlds and Hyperspace has written:

“Our common sense does not represent reality. We are the oddballs of the universe. We inhabit an unusual piece of real estate, where temperatures, densities, and velocities are quite mild…our common sense evolved in a highly unusual, obscure part of the universe, Earth; it is not surprising that ourĀ  common sense fails to grasp the true universe. The problem lies not in relativity but in assuming that our common sense represents reality.”

Just before that passage he was explaining how monumental Einstein’s theory of general relativity is and how it pretty much toppled Newton’s theory of gravity because Newton’s theory was based on what we could see and experience and Einstein’s theory was based on what is really going on in the universe. BUT, Einstein’s theory kind of breaks down when you get to the subatomic level, because particles don’t behave quite as one might expect them to, to the point where even observing them at all can affect the outcome and it’s impossible to know with real certainty all properties of a particle at any single point in time and space.

This is where my retention and comprehension of physics sort of breaks down, at this quantum level, which is why I was delighted to discover this rather catchy and educational video/song by Hank Green about quarks. Enjoy.

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