Archive for October 6, 2019

Nobel Prize Time Approaches

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on October 6, 2019 by telescoper

Just a quick reminder that this year’s crop of Nobel Prizes will be announced next week, with the one of most personal interest to me – the Physics Prize – being due on Tuesday 8th October. Before going on here is a picture of my own Nobel Prize Medal:


It’s actually chocolate inside, though it is 13 years old and by now probably inedible if not toxic. You can read about how I got it here.

Anyway, as usual there has been quite a lot of speculation about these awards. Despite not having a great track-record of success some persist in trying to use citation metrics as a predictor; see here for example. Others have a less formulaic approach; see e.g. here.

I don’t really have any idea who is going to get it this year, but here are three possibilities:

  • Extrasolar Planets. This has to be a strong contender, but to whom should the prize be awarded?  Possible winners include Didier Queloz, Aleksander Wolszczan, Dale Frail, and Michel Mayor, but the maximum number allowed to win is three….
  • Geometric Phase. Although if they were going to win they probably would have done so by now, I still think there’s an outside change for Michael Berry and Yakir Aharonov.
  • Quantum Information. This isn’t my area but is very hot these days. It’s also very broad so I’m not sure what specific area and which individuals would prompt an award – quantum cryptography is a possibility, but who?

Anyway, I’d welcome other suggestions through the comments box.




Topical Mechanics Problems

Posted in Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on October 6, 2019 by telescoper

In writing the homework problems for my first-year Mathematical Physics module I was sorely tempted to include some political references but I restrained myself in order not to cause any offence. That doesn’t stop me posting some examples here, however, so here are three examples of the sort of thing I had in mind:

  1. Arlene and Boris arrange to have a secret meeting near the Irish British Border. Arlene drives a car at 20 mph along a straight road that takes her within one mile of a customs post where Boris is waiting. Boris has a bicycle on which his top speed is 12 mph and he wishes to leave the customs post at the last possible minute to intercept Arlene. How far away is Arlene when Boris leaves the customs post, and how far must Boris cycle to meet her?
  2. Donald falls 200m from the top floor of Trump Tower. Neglecting air resistance, what is Donald’s velocity when he hits the ground? Assuming he has a mass of 200 kg and he is brought to rest by the impact, what is the energy dissipated? Is this likely to cause serious damage (to the sidewalk)?
  3. Jacob is reclining on a bench in the House of Commons with his head against an arm rest. The coefficient of static friction between Jacob and the armrest is 0.3 and between Jacob and the seat it is 0.4. Assuming that Jacob is infinitely thin, one-dimensional and entirely rigid, calculate the minimum angle he can make with the bench without slipping.

You may wish to refer to Fig 1 and Fig 2 here.