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Posts tagged ‘physics’

quantum cycling … and the butterfly effect

It begins with a butterfly on a thistle plant along the side of the road as I ride by.  I think about a book I am reading and discussion of Edward Lorenz’ Butterfly Effect, as in chaos theory … and things like quantum mechanics and other principles of physics that I will confess I have a miserably inadequate understanding of – quite unlike my son, the soon-to-be-physicist.

We’ve had a brief window of opportunity to do some riding together before he leaves again to continue his summer research in Nashville.  I love having the chance to ride along and talk.  On quiet roads, we are relatively free from distractions and interruptions (except, of course, when I make him stop so I can take pictures).  The conversation unwinds like the curve of the road, rolls along, changes direction, circles back.  Sometimes serious, sometimes not.  Laughter almost always manages accompany us.

Recently I asked him to help me better understand the different branches/disciplines of physics – kind of a “Physics for Dummies” type of explanation.  While I have a very rough understanding of the research he is doing and where his interests lie for grad school – theoretical/computational high energy particle physics  –  I will confess that I am mostly clueless about the different fields of study within the physics world.

And, of course, he absolutely knows this – as he rolls his eyes, sighs, and tries once again to explain it to me.  I listen as he patiently tries to describe and define – and eventually I get lost.  Again.  So in the simplest of terms (yeah, even a cavewoman like me can understand – kind of… maybe?) this is roughly how he described a few concepts to me (and I hope I am recalling this correctly?) :

Classical/Newtonian Mechanics:  big slow things

Relativistic Mechanics:    big fast things

Quantum Mechanics:   small slow things

Field Theory:   small fast things

String Theory/M-Theory: un-testable things

Do I have any better understanding of any of this?  Probably not.  If nothing else,  I may have at least figured out that I am probably not a Quantum Cyclist (small and slow), but more of a Classical/Newtonian Cyclist (big and slow).   I hear you laughing, Mason…

I will keep reading, I will continue trying to learn more and understand.  In the meantime, I will just take a photo of the butterfly, and let my son figure out the rest.

Random scenes from recent rides – big, small, fast, and slow… all the usual suspects. Happy Memorial Day.

physics bike nerds

Riding through the halls - APSU Physics

Finals are over, the semester is done … everybody’s “Home for the Holidays”.  Happiness!

I spent the better part of yesterday and today retrieving the boys from their respective schools.  Today, while picking up Mason, I got to visit the unofficial PVC (Physics Velo Closet) – the storage room in the physics wing of the Sundquist Science Complex where the fledgling all-nerd physics bike club has been keeping their bikes.  Mason wanted to bring his bike home over the break, so with the halls basically end-of-semester-empty, he decided to ride to the elevator. (Guess we won’t mention this to President Hall…).

I’ll have to admit I got a laugh when he told me that one of his professors (and the club’s sponsor) would sometimes arrive for class in the morning, riding directly into the building and into the elevator – on his bike. Love it! 😀

Also got to see Mason’s friend Drew’s awesome Pepto-pink road bike … Brilliant, brainy and bikes – the perfect combination.  I can’t even begin to describe the totally random collection stuff in the storage room – from tech-y physics lab equipment to a life-size cardboard cutout of Einstein along with a collection of plastic pumpkins.  The pink bike definitely fit right in.  They are an eclectic and brainy bunch with a fantastic sense of humor.  I’m thrilled Mason’s a part of it all, and has found the perfect place to pursue his passion.  But for right now – I’m so happy to have them home for a few weeks…

Drew's awesome PINK road bike in the physics storage room


My darling son, Mason - physics nerd & bike geek. Awesome!!

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