The Fourier Transform - Diagonalizing The Convolution Operator

Why is the Fourier Transform so useful both in theoretical and applied science and engineering...

The Promise Of A Muon Collider

Based upon some recent statements by the DOE, the commitment to building a muon collider in this...

The Fourier Transform As Diagonalization

Why is the Fourier Transform so useful both in theoretical and applied science and engineering...

Genetic Programming And Theoretical Physics

Cornell scientists have applied genetic programming to experimental data in order to elicit fundamental...

User picture.
picture for Hank Campbellpicture for Bente Lilja Byepicture for Heidi Hendersonpicture for Chris Rollinspicture for Stephanie Pulfordpicture for Daniel Ferrante
Jon LedermanRSS Feed of this column.

I am inspired both by the elegance of theoretical physics as well as the creative application of applied science and technology in solving interesting problems. Theoretical science pervades many... Read More »

In a recent piece entitled Politics in the Guise of Pure Science, John Tierney asks whether scientists can be "honest brokers" on controversial and politically charged issues like global warming and climate change.  

Citing various instances in which he casts various scientific authorities as backpedaling on their own initial catastrophic predictions, he criticizes the role scientific authorities establish in the political community.   Among other things, he argues that scientists should acknowledge the promotion of their own agendas.   
Energy technology is not only the next big thing but it also is attractive in being leveraged on real science and technology.  ET presents potential for real social, political and environmental change.  Bail out or innovate?  Transformational investment is the only way out.  Amidst the debate regarding the stimulus plan, Thomas Friedman is a voice of truth, vision and clarity.  
Someone on this site recently posed the following thought experiment questioning the postulate of special relativity that no object can travel faster than the speed of light - c.  Imagine a one dimensional problem in which two travelers, move close to the speed of light, but in opposite directions - one moving close the speed of light in the positive direction and the other traveler moving close to the speed of light in the negative direction.  

Wouldn't these observers perceive the relative velocity of the respective other as exceeding the speed of light (i.e., approx. 2c)? 

Special relativity posits the following:
Should the government or private industry shoulder the initiative for meaningful strides in alternative energy breakthroughs?  The level of disruption necessary cannot be achieved on any practial time horizon by private industry without some enormous stroke of luck.  Obama's references to JFK, an energy moonshot and government initiatives in this area is the best hope, but the logistics of propelling this economically and pragmatically are unclear.  An encouraging answer is some combination of private and public effort such as the DOE's initiative to partner national laboratories with VCs.   

It's always satisfying to see concepts in the sciences, which reappear with varied nomenclature across fields and disciplines.  There are countless examples but one that always stood out for me is the concept of Green's functions.This is such an interesting an important concept in all of pure and applied science.  And to explain it will require some exploration of another interesting idea called a delta function and another important concept, linearity.
There is often an uncomfortable and artificial hierarchy amongst theorists and experimentalists.  Those exalting pure theory often forget that applied science is an art unto itself as is engineering.  There are many problems in applied science or engineering in which theorists are ill-equipped.  Of course, there are rare examples of great theorists who were also great experimentalists such as Fermi.  Steven Quake describes some examples of the crossover between pure and applied science and the scientists behind these initiatives.