Q&A doesn’t go as expected

There was a fun fictional Q&A by McSweeney’s that covers Peter Higg’s, of Higg’s Boson fame, taking questions for a rather unusual audience. Give the whole thing a read it is hilarious.


PETER HIGGS: I’d like to again thank Scranton Community College and the New Jersey Youth Physics Foundation for extending this invitation to speak about my work. Their dedication to both training tomorrow’s scientists and paying my speaker’s fees in a timely manner is truly an inspiration to us all. But enough of my rambling on! Now that we’ve finished the presentation, I’d like to open the floor and encourage the inquisitive young minds here to spur some discussion about subatomic particles. Who’d like to begin? Yes, you there in the Lord of the Rings shirt. No, the other one. The other other one. Of Gandalf. Could you step up to the microphone, please?

STUDENT ONE: If my half-elf wizard fell off a castle parapet high enough to kill him, could he cast the Dimension Door spell to teleport safely onto a lower surface before landing? My Dungeon Master said the impact would be fatal but I don’t think so.

HIGGS: Hmm. Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I opened the floor, but in the spirit of education, let’s entertain the idea. This basically asks if the momentum is conserved after your wizard relocates, yes? It’s been years since I role-played a spellcaster, but even in quantum experiments teleportation appears to conserve momentum. Fatality depends primarily on how long he’s been falling and secondarily on how heavy he is. For humans in earth gravity, most falls above 46 meters are deadly, but I can’t speak for half-elves living in whatever escapist fantasy you’ve constructed for yourself. So, yes. Your Dungeon Master is most likely correct. What an enjoyable diversion! Thank you for that thought experiment. Now, who has a question specifically over the concepts we’ve covered in today’s lecture?

STUDENT TWO: If my sorceress wants to cast a fireball spell to follow a mortar-like parabolic arc, rather than a straight line and exploding on impact, could she do that? Isn’t that how gravity works?

Read the rest

Space Alert!

Team Hypercube has a look at a wonderful cooperative board game called , that sees you playing as the crew of an explorer vessel travelling through space.

The game plays in real time and uses a CD (or iphone/android app) to control the pace. You have decks of cards that represent threats and a game board that represents the ship you are on and the crew and systems. The goal is to survive while the ship runs scans of the system before it jumps away. It is chaotic fun.

The universe is big

I’ve seen these sort of videos before and I think I am supposed to get to the end of them and go “wow! We are do tiny and the universe is so vast!” but I never do. I mean sure the universe is big, and that is actually really awesome (Literally Awe inspiring) but it isn’t actually a new discovery. The exact size of it is to some degree but that the earth was tiny in relation to the rest of the universe wasn’t new even to the ancient Pagan astronomer Ptolemy. He said in Book 2 of the Almagest

And so, in general, we have to state that the heavens are spherical and move spherically; that the earth, in figure, is sensibly spherical also when taken as a whole; in position, lies right in the middle of the heavens, like a geometrical center; in magnitude and distance, has the ratio of a point with respect to the sphere of the fixed stars, having itself no local motion at all

He was wrong about it being the center, he understood the magnitude was effectively zero compared to the whole universe.