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The Top Ten Physics Highlights of 2002 183

Ocelot Wreak writes "Physics Web has a cool summary of The Top Ten Physics Highlights of 2002. These include anti-atoms, neutrino oscillation - a finding that requires new physics beyond the Standard Model, defying the second law of thermodynamics, and using neutrons to measure quantum gravitational effects, amongst others. For some reason, the Slashdot Effect and the latest research on iPod-based Beowulf clusters were not included..."
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The Top Ten Physics Highlights of 2002

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2003 @02:38PM (#5007814)

    ...is by far more women getting into physics

    There's nothing wrong with that, but I have q question: why is it particularly important for more women to get into physics? Why can't we just leave women alone and let them do what they want? Why do we need to perform "social architecture"?

    My vote would be just to stop worrying about what group does what (and that includes race), and focus on what individuals do or don't do.

    But then, maybe I'm just crazy and believe that society really should be color and sex blind. You may now begin flogging the heretic.

  • by MrDog ( 307202 ) <thurston@@@spock...wdtinc...com> on Friday January 03, 2003 @02:56PM (#5007987)
    By analyzing social trends, it may become apparent *why* those trends exist. It has been the case in the past that groups of people were not able to do what they wanted as easily as others, and we could then modify or create laws to make the system in question more equitable.
  • by michaelggreer ( 612022 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:13PM (#5008135)

    This is a common misconception. Trying to get more groups invloved in science (art, etc) is not just social engineering. It is also an attempt to make science better. The more people lend their talents, the better it will be. This is obviously true in sports, as African-Americans became able to join professional teams. As Jesse Jackson once said, "we never knew how good football could be until everyone could play". The same is true for science: we will never know how good it can be until everyone can participate.

    What "women want" is highly influenced by what paths in life seem available or attractive to them. This is hardly something one is born with, but much more likely the product of cultural atmosphere. The fact that there are more American women scientists than Afnagni ones makes this obvious. A restrictive environment of possibilities acts as a real barrier to entry for women, many of whom don't even think of themselves a spossible scientists. And all of that is prior to active prejudice on the part of others.

    My mom is a chemist and she had to fight like hell her whole life just to work, much less to do that work and still be considered a woman. Anything that makes science more viable for all individuals sense of identity is positive, and clearly benefits science.

  • by Anonymous CowWord ( 635850 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:20PM (#5008202)
    When the electric motor was invented, I doubt everyone in the world had it within a year. I doubt trains were made everywhere within a year of making the steam engine.

    Just because the reasearch doesn't provide immediate benefits doesn't mean its useless.

    Also, science isn't just about making life better. Part of it is also about satisfying curiosity and knowing more. If someone found the edge of the universe tomorrow, it would not help life in any way, but I would still regard it as the one of the most compelling achievements in science.

    And just one more thing; how does anti-matter compare? anti-matter, if successfully harnessed would be a clean pure source of energy. Go talk to the people of Chernobyl and they will tell you how important it is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:48PM (#5008467)
    Remeber this also, however. Conversely, Inequality of Opportunity does equal Inequality of Result. Or, to put it more plainly and verbosely - if the barriers of societal pressures and mindsets are removed, there is no guarantee that the percentage of women who become physicists will equal the percentage of men who become physicists. However, if those barriers remain in place, it is guaranteed that the percentage of women who become physicists will be less than the percentage of men who become physicists.

    Also, as a reply to the original message - yes, references to gender and racial types may at a point reinforce the barriers which the user may be attempting to break down. But on the other hand, ignoring the fact that there is still a great amount of gender bias in the world is also dangerous. How can one address the issue of bias without referring to the group being biased against?
  • by budalite ( 454527 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @04:19PM (#5008783)
    If we only see ~5% of the Universe (and probably only understand about 0.00000001% of that), could it be that we really cannot see most of what is right in front of us? Has anyone postulated that the rest of it is all around us, not just "out there somewhere"? Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
  • Depends on how you interpret the second law. In the macroscopic, statistical sense, sorry, but you will never live long enough to see the second law violated, although the laws of probability dictate that it will probably happen some time.

    This simply points out the statistical nature of Thermodynamics. Small systems can be expected to violate the laws of Thermo sometimes because they are small, and the laws of Thermo assume that you are dealing with a system with a large number of components. Rigorous derivations of the laws use the Law of Large Numbers, which of course only applies to large numbers for some strange reason.

    It's still pretty cool, because dispite the theoretical possiblility of observing violations on the small scale, it's never actually been seen before.

    You can't use this to build a perpetual motion machine, because the effects are only of limited duration. It's kind of like in particle physics, where you can violate conservation of energy if you do it fast enough that the rest of the Universe doesn't catch you at it.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.