Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Nobel gathering at CERN

December 3, 2009

Today and tomorrow, CERN is hosting a gathering of Nobel laureates in the particle physics field who are largely responsible for its development during the last 50 years. The program is available online, and i’m told that video streaming for the talks will be available from the same page later. In the meantime, some of the presentations are already available, including a retrospective on unification by Sheldon Lee Glashow:

Other questions cannot so “easily” be answered: What is the origin of neutrino mass? Why is the cosmological constant so tiny? But my own most vexing problem is that of flavor: At least 20 parameters are needed to describe the various masses and mixings of quarks and leptons. Most of these have been measured, but no plausible theoretical relation among them has ever been found. Are we likely to find such relations in the future? Or are these 20 numbers simply accidents of birth of the universe, just as the radii of planetary orbits are accidents of birth of the solar system. Some of my string-bound colleagues advocate just such a gloomy philosophy. For them I would pose one last question: How can we ever learn whether uperstrings are the correct approach to fundamental physics?

Read the whole article here (PDF).

The shoulders of giants

November 30, 2009

The Royal Society is commemorating its 350th anniversary next year and, as part of the celebrations, has put together a very nice site called Trailblazing. The site presents an interactive time-line highlighting some of the events and publications that have made history during those three and a half centuries. The best part is that one can download, in PDF, a bunch of jewels. Among them: Newton’s letter on light and colors, Faraday’s musings on gravity and electricity, Maxwell’s article presenting his field equations, Bayes’ essay on chance, Eddington’s report on his famous expedition, or Hawking and Penrose’s work on singularities. Talk about the shoulders of giants!