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Another Slice of APS April 2019, Knowing Theories Of Others.

A simple slice of life as an academic.  No chair was assigned for the session Z13 in which...

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Hontas FarmerRSS Feed of this column.

Currently I am an adjunct professor at the City Colleges of Chicago and the College of DuPage . My research focuses on astrophysics from massive star formation to astroparticle physics. Born and... Read More »


Theoretical physicist have no more than five good unique insights in a lifetime. Then spend years chasing down the implications of those insights. May computers at least help with if not supplant us in this effort? Maybe, maybe not. I Went to talk, did a lot of good listening, and served as a sort of unofficial chair of the session because APS didn’t assign one for session Z13. (No so unusual peruse the session index and a handful don’t have chairs. Sessions B10, Y08). That was a new interesting experience. I could see the overarching themes of the talks APS put in the session.

A hypothesis of everything, that is not what I first thought it would be, is what I will present tomorrow at the April 2019 APS conference. Quantum Gravity, finding a way to make general relativity into a quantum theory of some kind, has been the driving mystery of my adult life.  Now, after years of work towards that, a few who have researched the problem think it was the wrong approach.  That instead we should make Quantum Field theory compatible with General Relativity in some way or the other.   Not the other way around.

By oversimplifying the complex human story of how big science done by big collaborations like Event Horizon Telescope, the mainstream media got many things wrong.    The task of the media is to inform the general public.   So, while they do have to simplify complex topics they also have to faithfully represent them.  

Social media reflects the level of understanding created in the average person by both our educational system and the major media. Being a adjunct prof at community colleges teaching introductiory to intermediate level courses this was not surprising to me. 

The Image presented at a press conference today by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration is the result of collaboration between numerous scientists around the world lead by EHT director Shep Doeleman.  They were able to do this using the technique known as very long baseline interferometry (VLBI).  

This technique creates an instrument with the highest possible angular resolution ( smallest angle of separation between objects where we can distinguish the features). Using this technique astronomers were able to see the details of an object light years away. 

Media hyped black hole images will show a whole lot of nothing.  Look at the simulations put out by the research team showing what they expect to find, nothing, at least at the location of the black hole.   Which is just fine.  A black hole is a region of space time from which light cannot escape.  The escape velocity for their gravitational field exceeds the speed of light.  In relativistic terms their effect on space time is such that falling towards the center of the black hole is as inevitable as the flow of time in the forward direction. As such the base standard expectation of a black hole image is to see nothing.   

Neil deGrasse Tyson was accused by three women of various acts of sexual misconduct over time. NatGeo and Fox paid for into the sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct allegations made by Dr Katelyn N Allers (inappropriate touching under the clothes), Ashely Watson (sexual harassment ), and Tchiya Amet (acquaintance rape by drugging).