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The Vast and the Tiny (John Derbyshire)
American Spectator ^ | May 2013 | John Derbyshire

Posted on 05/31/2013 11:54:04 AM PDT by neverdem

On galaxies and bosons, stars and quarks. In physics, truth does not always equal beauty.

The Milky Way: An Insider’s Guide
By William H. Waller
(Princeton University Press, 296 pages, $29.95)

A Palette of Particles
By Jeremy Bernstein
(Belknap Press of Harvard University, 224 pages, $18.95)

THE BRITISH PHILOSOPHER J.L. Austin coined the handy phrase “medium-sized dry goods” to describe the world of everyday phenomena that the human nervous system is best suited to cope with, phenomena ranging in size from a grain of dust to a landscape. Within that range our senses and cognition are at home. All our intuitions about how objects move, change, and interact arise from our dealings with “medium-sized dry goods.”

Much beyond that size range, in either direction, our senses and understanding are at sea. How we can say anything at all—anything coherent, with predictive power and technological application—about the invisible constituents of matter, or about the universe at large, is a considerable mystery. We certainly can say such things: The device I am using to write this review would not exist if we did not know true facts about the atom and its parts. The only language we have for expressing those facts, however, is the language of mathematics: a tower of abstractions of abstractions of abstractions, in which everyday intuitions recede in a fog of wave-particle duality...


He accordingly divides the particle palette, and his book, into three parts. Under “Primary Colors” he deals with the six particles that emerged from the great burst of creativity in physics across the first third of the 20th century. Five of these were matter particles (“fermions”): the proton, electron, neutron, positron, and the hypothesized (by Pauli) but not yet observed neutrino. The sixth was the photon, a force-carrying particle (“boson”)...

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: astronomy; physics; standardmodel
I thought neutrinos were observed recently in the experiment in Europe where they erroneously thought they had traveled faster than light, IIRC.
1 posted on 05/31/2013 11:54:04 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: jan in Colorado

The Derb is back!

2 posted on 05/31/2013 11:55:42 AM PDT by neverdem (Register pressure cookers! /s)
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To: All

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3 posted on 05/31/2013 11:55:59 AM PDT by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: SunkenCiv; FredZarguna


4 posted on 05/31/2013 11:58:56 AM PDT by neverdem (Register pressure cookers! /s)
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