Day: July 13, 2010

For a Proton, a Little Off the Top or Side Could Be Big Trouble

The quark structure of the proton. There are t...
The quark structure of the proton
“Physicists announced last week that a new experiment had shown that the proton is about 4 percent smaller than they thought. Instead of celebration, however, the result has caused consternation. Such a big discrepancy, say the physicists, led by Randolf Pohl of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, could mean that the most accurate theory in the history of physics, quantum electrodynamics, which describes how light and matter interact, is in trouble.”  (NYTimes.com)

‘Aging Successfully’?

Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age: “Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday last week by playing at Radio City Music Hall and saying his new hero is B. B. King, still jamming in his 80s. Joining Mr. Starr in his 70s next year will be the still-performing Bob Dylan (“May you stay forever young”) and Paul Simon (“How terribly strange to be 70”). Following soon after will be Roger Daltrey (“Hope I die before I get old”) and Mick Jagger, who is reported to have said, several grandchildren ago, “I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ at 45.”

A rock ’n’ roll septuagenarian was someone the gerontologist Robert Butler could have only dreamed of in 1968, when he coined the term “ageism” to describe the way society discriminates against the old. Dr. Butler, a psychiatrist, died, at age 83, a few days before Ringo’s big bash. No one, his colleagues said, had done more to improve the image of aging in America. His work established that the old did not inevitably become senile, and that they could be productive, intellectually engaged, and active — sexually and otherwise. His life provided a good example: He worked until three days before his death from acute leukemia.

But as much as Dr. Butler would have cheered an aging Beatle onstage, his colleagues said he would have also cautioned against embracing the opposite stereotype — the idea that “aging successfully,” in his phrase, means that you have to be banging on drums in front of thousands — or still be acting like you did at 22 or 42. That stereotype is almost as enduring as ageism itself.” (NYTimes.com)

Theoretical Physicist: Gravity Is an Illusion

Personal coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton Gera...
Coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton
A Scientist Takes On Gravity: “Dr. Verlinde’s argument turns on something you could call the “bad hair day” theory of gravity.

It goes something like this: your hair frizzles in the heat and humidity, because there are more ways for your hair to be curled than to be straight, and nature likes options. So it takes a force to pull hair straight and eliminate nature’s options. Forget curved space or the spooky attraction at a distance described by Isaac Newton’s equations well enough to let us navigate the rings of Saturn, the force we call gravity is simply a byproduct of nature’s propensity to maximize disorder.

Some of the best physicists in the world say they don’t understand Dr. Verlinde’s paper, and many are outright skeptical. But some of those very same physicists say he has provided a fresh perspective on some of the deepest questions in science, namely why space, time and gravity exist at all — even if he has not yet answered them.”  (New York Times).

Raising a Toxic Child

Nancy Kelly spanks Patty McCormack at the end ...
Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds: “We marvel at the resilient child who survives the most toxic parents and home environment and goes on to a life of success. Yet the converse — the notion that some children might be the bad seeds of more or less decent parents — is hard to take.

It goes against the grain not just because it seems like such a grim and pessimistic judgment, but because it violates a prevailing social belief that people have a nearly limitless potential for change and self-improvement. After all, we are the culture of Baby Einstein, the video product that promised — and spectacularly failed — to make geniuses of all our infants.” (New York Times)