PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

by Michio Kaku

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:55 pm

suec wrote:I've watched a lot of Star Trek and that kind of thing. And I'm relying on it to count. :grin: But have done no reading. As far as physics goes, it was my weakest subject at school. After a while I pretty much gave up. I'd sit at the back of the lab with my nose buried in a good book. Of course I regret it now. I blame poor numerical intelligence for a lot of it - I was also hopeless at maths and I've come to the conclusion that's a significant factor. But then again, so was laziness. Over the years, often I'd look up at the stars and reflect on my own ignorance and wonder about them but never did much about finding out. There's a fair bit of light pollution where I live so I don't see as much as I'd like too. What knowledge I do have has been picked up incidentally, from documentaries about the formation and history of Earth, or from conversations so it's all pretty patchy really.

Don't call it laziness. We weren't all meant to be rocket scientists. We each have our own talents, of which I'm sure each of us excel. I think we need to give ourselves credit for attempting to broaden our horizons, as it were, even though it doesn't come easily. :reader: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:24 pm

My experience:

From the summer of 1978 to November 1979, I worked for the man who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 for the invention of the Maser—Dr. Charles Townes. (He also is responsible for the laser, which came later, but did not win the Nobel Prize for that.) In 1958, Townes and his brother-in-law, Dr. Arthur Schawlow, showed theoretically that masers could be made to operate in the optical and infrared region and proposed how this could be accomplished in particular systems. This work resulted in their joint paper on optical and infrared masers, or lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). Other research has been in the fields of nonlinear optics, radio astronomy, and infrared astronomy. Dr. Townes was the lead researcher in the construction of the Infrared Spatial Interferometer, the first astronomical interferometer to operate in the mid-infrared. With Dr. Schawlow, he wrote the book Microwave Spectroscopy, published in 1955.

I also worked for Dr. Raymond Chiao, who worked under Dr. Townes. Dr. Chiao was first to measure the quantum tunneling time, which was found to be between 1.5 to 1.7 times the speed of light. His main focus now is on detecting gravitational waves through the use of superconductors.

I was Dr. Chiao’s secretary but also helped support Dr. Townes and the rest of the Astrophysics Graduate Group at UC Berkeley. I typed dissertations and pre-prints for physics journals and was in charge of the department library. I remember that black holes were a new thing back then. And I see from doing a little research today that Dr. Townes "and his assistants detected the first complex molecules in interstellar space and first measured the mass of the black hole in the center of our galaxy.”

Apparently Dr. Townes, even though he is 93 years old, is still doing research in astrophysics at UC Berkeley. I was excited to happen upon this interview with my old boss in 2001. I haven’t seen him in almost 30 years. It is best to start watching a little before ¼ of the way through. BTW I just noticed a mistake on the You Tube title. It's Charles Hard Townes, not W.

[youtube]9l3Qom98qzI[/youtube]

Although I worked for these guys for a year and a half, I understood more from reading Dr. Kaku’s book than I ever did working daily with these scientists. They were a good bunch to work for, though, and I will always think fondly of my experience there.
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby fansmom » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:35 pm

Very impressive, Liz! You really have the background to lead us well.

I am in the peculiar circumstance of reading PW and the Bible simultaneously. (Four book clubs now, what can I say?) There's more overlap than you might think: I have to take major bits of both on faith, there's quite a bit of both that I just don't understand, and both try to explain everything.

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:02 pm

Liz, what an interesting job and a TZ moment for sure!

fansmom, that's a big chunk of reading. Just reading one of those books at at time is admirable!
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Linda Lee » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:56 pm

My experience is an introductory college physics course @ 40 years ago, some stargazing while camping, watched Star Trek and Stargate (SG1 And Atlantis). Oh, and I've also seen that moon rock on display at NASA.

Liz, that sounds like a very interesting job.
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Liz » Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:08 am

fansmom wrote:Very impressive, Liz! You really have the background to lead us well.

I am in the peculiar circumstance of reading PW and the Bible simultaneously. (Four book clubs now, what can I say?) There's more overlap than you might think: I have to take major bits of both on faith, there's quite a bit of both that I just don't understand, and both try to explain everything.

Fansmom, it’s only impressive because of who I knew. And if Dr. Townes’ people get wind of my post here and alert him to it, he’ll probably have a good laugh. I can just hear him now: “She’s conducting a discussion on astrophysics?” :lol: Or maybe it would be, “Liz who????”

At the very end of the interview (52:23 into it), Townes is asked about how the awe that he finds in doing science has invigorated the religious side of him. I thought it was an interesting answer. But let’s not go there just yet. I only bring it up because it enhances this particular aspect of the subject (which we cannot escape). But not just that. He says that Arno Penzias was a student of his. Oh really! :-O Funny how he doesn’t give Lemaître any credit. If you will remember from the Lemaître tidbit, Arno won the Nobel Prize that vindicated Lemaître’s claim. From that tidbit (#7):

In 1964 (when Townes won the Nobel Prize) there was a significant breakthrough that confirmed some of Lemaître's theories. Workers at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey were tinkering with a radio telescope when they discovered a frustrating kind of microwave interference. It was equally strong whether they pointed their telescope at the center of the galaxy or in the opposite direction. In addition, it always had the same wavelength and it always conveyed the same source temperature. This accidental discovery of microwave interference came to be recognized as cosmic background radiation, a remnant of the Big Bang and won Arno Penzias the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978. Lemaître received the good news while recovering from a heart attack in the Hospital Saint Pierre at the University of Louvain.

I thought the universe was expanding. Seems to me, it just keep getting smaller. ;-)

Linda Lee, interesting, yes, but not as interesting as my next job (which was more where my talents lie). Congrats to you for even taking a physics class. I never did, although it was required for both of my kids.
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Buster » Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:06 am

My background is more along the lines of biology and natural history, though I occasionally admit to my passion for mathematical puzzles.
I like to kayak at night, so the sky is a constant fascination. Great book choice!

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Liz » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:50 pm

Buster wrote:My background is more along the lines of biology and natural history, though I occasionally admit to my passion for mathematical puzzles.
I like to kayak at night, so the sky is a constant fascination. Great book choice!

Buster, do you feel your background in the natural sciences made it easier for you to understand the book?

Speaking of the sky at night, did anyone see the comet that Shadowydog mentioned? I looked at the webcast last night at 1:03 EST. I saw it there. But I couldn't see anything in my skies at all--except rain.
:lol:
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Theresa » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:54 pm

No, I didn't see anything. The skies were clear, but there's just too much light pollution down here to be able to see anything other than the brightest planets.

Hard to see the stars when the skies are leaking, eh Liz?

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Mar 02, 2009 3:14 am

I haven't read the book but this question I thought I could join in with :lol:
always look at the stars, as a young teen I can recall going for walks with my father at night with the dog and him telling me about the stars which constallation was which that sort of thing. They are quite clear here to see. As to the science stuff we have had and still get alot of programmes on tv about the science of the Universe etc. Most I don't understand I can't quite get my head around it all as I have no particular interest in physics etc. DH sometimes has had to explain it to me :lol:
If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby gemini » Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:53 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I haven't read the book but this question I thought I could join in with :lol:
always look at the stars, as a young teen I can recall going for walks with my father at night with the dog and him telling me about the stars which constallation was which that sort of thing. They are quite clear here to see. As to the science stuff we have had and still get alot of programmes on tv about the science of the Universe etc. Most I don't understand I can't quite get my head around it all as I have no particular interest in physics etc. DH sometimes has had to explain it to me :lol:
If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

I am amused by your remark about the Sci fi (my favorite Channel) television storylines being "out there". I used to think so too until I read this book and found how many of those "out there" ideas are scientific theory.
:-O
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Liz » Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:25 pm

gemini wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:I haven't read the book but this question I thought I could join in with :lol:
always look at the stars, as a young teen I can recall going for walks with my father at night with the dog and him telling me about the stars which constallation was which that sort of thing. They are quite clear here to see. As to the science stuff we have had and still get alot of programmes on tv about the science of the Universe etc. Most I don't understand I can't quite get my head around it all as I have no particular interest in physics etc. DH sometimes has had to explain it to me :lol:
If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

I am amused by your remark about the Sci fi (my favorite Channel) television storylines being "out there". I used to think so too until I read this book and found how many of those "out there" ideas are scientific theory.
:-O

THIS IS SO TRUE! That is exactly what I was thinking when I was reading the book. :shocked:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:12 am

gemini wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:I haven't read the book but this question I thought I could join in with :lol:
always look at the stars, as a young teen I can recall going for walks with my father at night with the dog and him telling me about the stars which constallation was which that sort of thing. They are quite clear here to see. As to the science stuff we have had and still get alot of programmes on tv about the science of the Universe etc. Most I don't understand I can't quite get my head around it all as I have no particular interest in physics etc. DH sometimes has had to explain it to me :lol:
If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

I am amused by your remark about the Sci fi (my favorite Channel) television storylines being "out there". I used to think so too until I read this book and found how many of those "out there" ideas are scientific theory.
:-O


I know but they are sometimes too far out there for my poor brain :lol: I can just about get my head around some concepts in them.

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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby gemini » Thu Mar 05, 2009 12:29 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:
gemini wrote:If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

I am amused by your remark about the Sci fi (my favorite Channel) television storylines being "out there". I used to think so too until I read this book and found how many of those "out there" ideas are scientific theory.
:-O

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I know but they are sometimes too far out there for my poor brain :lol: I can just about get my head around some concepts in them.

In that case you might as well join us in our discussion as you seem to have the same understanding as most of us who read the book.
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Re: PW Question #1 ~ Your Exposure to the Study of the Universe

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu Mar 05, 2009 12:32 pm

gemini wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:
gemini wrote:If watching Sci Fi tv shows counts then I have watched alot some of thengs they talk about can be over my head too, alternate universes etc :hypnotic: some storylines are quite far out there :lol:

I am amused by your remark about the Sci fi (my favorite Channel) television storylines being "out there". I used to think so too until I read this book and found how many of those "out there" ideas are scientific theory.
:-O

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I know but they are sometimes too far out there for my poor brain :lol: I can just about get my head around some concepts in them.

In that case you might as well join us in our discussion as you seem to have the same understanding as most of us who read the book.


:lol:


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