Why I do Science

Magic. It’s one of our oldest dreams. We believed that, if we really understood the shape of the world, we could call forth wonders awesome and terrible. We could fly, if we only knew the true name of the wind. Turns out, we were right. We have learned the nature of air and metal and fire and shaped them into servants that carry us across continents. We have peered inside our bodies, seen the diseases…

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Why I do Science

Magic. It’s one of our oldest dreams. We believed that, if we really understood the shape of the world, we could call forth wonders awesome and terrible. We could fly, if we only knew the true name of the wind. Turns out, we were right. We have learned the nature of air and metal and fire and shaped them into servants that carry us across continents. We have peered inside our bodies, seen the diseases…

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Entropy

This comic is about the physics concept. For the word ent*rop*y, adjective, def.: “resembing an ent-rope,” please see… some other article I suspect doesn’t exist. So what is entropy actually? Imagine a golf course. If the golf ball gets near the hole it falls in, because the bottom of the hole is at a lower energy than the surface. Now imagine an earthquake strikes the golf course. Intuitively we would predict the golf ball wouldn't…

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Witnessed

This strip is a little different than the usual Cartoon Physics in a couple of ways. To start with, each scene depicted here is something I’ve personally witnessed. The subject is also a little outside the usual for this site, and you might be wondering, why go there? Well, because the burden of speaking out about sexism in science and society should not fall only to women. We all need to do our part for…

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The Ultimate Selfish Gene

Evolution is a brutal business. Survival of the fittest implies, well, non-survivial of the less-than-fittest. But who is doing the competing in this game of survival? Often we talk of species competing against each other: dinosaurs die off while mammals take over. But this "species selection" view is controversial. Much more accepted is that competition between individuals drives evolution. Some biologists go further and argue that the gene is the "unit of selection"--this is the…

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Quantum Mechanics Part 1

Hi! I'm Chien-Shiung Wu. I'm here to teach you quantum mechanics! Well, not all of it. Quantum mechanics covers a lot. But there is one important thing you should know. See, non-quantum (or "classical") physics can describe how many things move. From simple motions... ...to more, well, complicated ones. But all these "classical" theories share one trait: They all assume objects have definite properties--like a definite position or speed. It's such an obvious assumption to…

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Feedback Part 3

So what is this mystery system? It's... HER! And... YOU! And me. And all of us. And all the other plans, animals, bacteria, fungi, and every living thing. Feedback is essential to life for the same reason it's essential to our phones: We need to keep the same temperature, and salt concentration, and blood sugar, and a whole bunch of other things, on the inside of our body, while outside the environment can change dramatically.…

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Feedback Part 2

So why would we want feedback? Well, think of your cellphone. It has certain behaviours, like sending texts if you hit the right sequence of buttons. You would like it to keep those behaviours even if the environment your phone is in changes. The voltage from the battery, for example, changes as the battery drains. But it would suck if your phone slowed down as the battery got lower. The battery isn't the only thing…

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