27 February, 2010

Not even intelligence

When famous Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was asked what characteristics Nobel prize winning physicists had in common, he said:

"I cannot think of a single one, not even intelligence."

19 February, 2010

Google Buzz

As you probably know, Google launched the Buzz project quite recently. This is something in between blogs and twitter - you post messages that appear in a followers' roll, and those are not restricted to 140 symbols. You can also link Buzz to your blog stream or posts you share in Google Reader - they will appear there immediately.

A few scientists already took advantage of this, for instance here is the Buzz stream of the Field's medalist Terence Tao. For Russian speakers I would recommend the Igor Ivanov one.

If you use Buzz or know anyone from the scientific community who does, drop a comment about it. )

Take care,


16 February, 2010

Some photos of Albert Einstein

A famous theoretical physicist Michio Kaku posted some historical Einstein photos on his facebook page. These pictures come from Michio's private archive and are mostly not very well known.

13 February, 2010

That's all about the blood, the sweat, the tears

Yesterday Amy Bishop, a Harvard PhD and a faculty member of University of Alabama in Huntsville unfolded a shooting in the biology department over there. Three faculty members were killed and many more were injured as a result of her shooting spree.

The most possible reason is that Dr. Amy Bishop was denied tenure at the University of Alabama at Huntsville last year.

04 February, 2010

Nice post about spam

Tom Martin sent me a link to his post about spam.

I always get lots of spam-like comments with no links to any porn, or warez, or anything else. Just "It was very interesting for me to read this blog post...", and so on. At some point I just gave up on erasing those – who cares about spam with no spam content? But after having a look at Tom's post I understand that I should...

03 February, 2010

History of science: Gulio Racah kicks ass

As many other branches of atomic, molecular, and chemical physics, the field of chemical stereodynamics emerged from nuclear physics. Basically all this business about how molecules rotate after a chemical reaction, or how to boost the reaction efficiency controlling the reagents – it was already there, in nuclear reactions and spectroscopy.

In 30's some people were involved in studying double gamma decays, when a nucleus goes from some excited state A to state B and then to the ground state C, emitting two gamma-quanta. Already in 1940 Dunworth proposed that there might be some correlations between the directions of emission of these two quanta. Here "correlations" mean that, for instance, if we detect the first gamma-ray from the upper side of the nucleus, the second one most likely will be emitted to the left, less likely to the bottom, and never to the right.

Dunworth was not able to check this experimentally, but induced Donald Hamilton to theoretically prove that there should be some correlations. A few years later Edward Brady and Martin Deutsch from MIT found an experimental evidence of gamma-gamma correlations in the decay of Co(60) and Sc(46) nuclei.

In the meantime theorists published lots of papers, step by step trying to improve approximations and thoroughly elaborate the problem. This lasted for more then a decade, from 1940 to 1951, when a brilliant article by Gulio Racah was published.

He starts it literally as: "Hey guys, last ten years I was interested in something else, but I just bumped into you and I see that you are really stuck. Well, the problem becomes very easy if you use the tensor operator algebra that I developed about a decade ago..."

And, of course, the problem turned out to be solvable in a very natural and straightforward manner. Now tensor operators is an important tool, not only in nuclear physics, but anywhere in physics in general. We all use it and like it.

Take care,


UPD: By the way, I never knew that Gulio Racah was a cousin of Ugo Fano...

02 February, 2010

Learn something every day...

The words "introvert"and "extrovert" appeared in English in 1923 upon translation of the Carl Jung's book "Psychologischen Typen" published in German two years before.

Something you should know about vodka

On the 31-st of January 1865 the author of the periodic table of elements Dmitri Mendeleev defended the doctoral dissertation "On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol":

People often say that in this piece Mendeleev proved that the solubility is the best for 40% of alcohol and 60% of water, and thereby invented vodka as we know it. Unfortunately, that's nothing but an urban legend: Russians were drinking vodka long before Mendeleev was even born.

01 February, 2010

Web of Knowledge - how Google sees it

Everyone knows that ISI Web of Knowledge maintained by Thomson Reuters, is a very raw and unfinished, but still commercial project. Here is what Google thinks about it:

I think that's unlikely to get better unless any substantial alternatives to WoK appear.