Welcome to Sciencenoise. This is the home for some of my writings about science. Currently I also contribute a blog called Context to the website for Science News magazine, where I was editor in chief from 2007 to 2012 and have recently returned to be managing editor.
I add content to this page on an irregular basis. If you want to be alerted when new material is posted, you can follow me on Twitter at @tom_siegfried.
Any similarity of the name of this page to other publications, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I've been named the winner of the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award for 2013. The prize was for an essay I wrote in Science News on the occasion of the discovery of the Higgs boson. You can read the essay here.
On October 8, Peter Higgs was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his prediction of the field responsible for the existence of the Higgs boson (along with another physicist who did similar work). My blog about the circumstances that led Higgs to predict the existence of the particle as well as the field is here.
Nobody has ever found any, but the existence of negative mass in the universe remains a theoretical possibility. If it does exist, it will be very weird. My blog post on the strange behavior of negative mass is here; Part II, on whether antimatter has negative mass, is here. And for a bonus, you can read my Top 10 Negative Inventions of all time here.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the first paper by Edward Lorenz about chaos in the weather. He never actually said whether a butterfly in Brazil could cause a tornado in texas, by the way. My column is here.
My latest essay on the statistical problems that render many scientific results bogus has appeared on the Nautilus website, here. I've posted a list of the sources that I used here.
Some scientists persist in advocating the idea that something not observable cannot be considered real and is therefore not scientific. But by that reasoning nobody should have believed in atoms until a few decades ago when modern microscopy made it possible to image them. Nowadays many physicists pursue the study of other things that may not ever be observable, such as the vast conglomeration of parallel universes known as the multiverse. In my latest Randomness column, available here, I discuss a paper by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, who defends the scientific status of multiverse research by invoking a principle he calls "multiversality." In a nutshell, he points out that if the only explanation for observable phenomena implies the existence of something unobservable, it's reasonable to consider that unobservable thing real as well.
July marks the 100th anniversary of the first of three papers by Niels Bohr presenting his model of the atom. Bohr's atom explained the perplexing nucleus-plus-electrons structure of the atom discovered by Rutherford and established the fundamental role of quantum physics in the workings of physical reality. My essay in Science News on the Bohr atom is available here.
The FDA says it will reconsider restrictions on the diabetes drug Avandia. About time. The 2007 paper linking Avandia to heart attacks was seriously flawed, as I described on pages 18-19 of my Hill lecture and in a 2010 Science News essay.
Two of the biggest cosmic mysteries may have a single solution. Identifying the dark matter, which makes up most of the mass of the universe, could also explain wht there is apparently much more matter than antimatter in the universe — if the dark matter is made of antimatter nuggets. My summary here of new paper here.
Entropy is a messy concept, especially when you dig into its foundations. A new analysis finds that entropy can't be well-defined for non-equilibrium systems, which is most things. My summary here of new paper by Lieb and Yngvason, here.
The famous "Wow!" signal from 1977 may have been a real message from E.T., not a false alarm, a new study about how smart aliens would communicate suggests. I summarize it here. The paper is here.
A new example of quantum weirdness from Yakir Aharonov and colleagues, illustrating a deep conceptual difference between quantum and classical physics. I describe it using a baseball analogy, here.
When fighting antibiotic-resistant microbes, searching for new drugs may not be the best strategy. Managing the bugs' evolution works better, says a new study I discuss here.
Many scientific findings reported in the media turn out to be wrong. A recent op-ed column in the New York Times by a philosopher places the blame for this situation on science writers. While it's true that science journalism has its deficiencies, in this case the philosopher's allegation is baloney. The fault lies not in science writers, but in science itself. Basically, the problem is that statistical methods for testing hypotheses are flawed. I discussed these issues in detail in a lecture at the University of Tennessee in 2009, available here
Content copyright . SCIENCENOISE.ORG. All rights reserved.