Física (Continuación)

In 1987, as Minister for Higher Education and Science, I was despatched by Margaret Thatcher to CERN in Geneva on a delicate mission. It was the era of “the cuts” and I was the bearer of unwelcome news. For us the biggest black holes were in the budget, and particle physicists would have to overhaul their expenditure like everyone else.

It was not that Mrs Thatcher had a grudge against pure science – she was scientifically trained, but as a chemist, and particle physics seemed to her the spoilt child of the scientific family. Our contribution to CERN was expensive and she wanted some of it diverted to less speculative fields of research, with a better chance of producing short-term fruits.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yesterday, my flatmate came into my room and asked, «Are we going to die tomorrow?» Cern, the European laboratory for particle physics, has apparently chosen today to try to recreate the big bang, using an atom-smashing machine called a Large Hadron Collider – and a chemistry professor named Otto Rössler, among other scientists, thinks it «quite plausible» that the experiment will create black holes that will «survive and grow exponentially and eat the planet from the inside».

Knowing almost nothing about particle physics, I consoled my flatmate: «I’m sure they know what they’re doing.» And if they’re wrong?, she persisted. «Then you won’t have to go to work on Thursday,» I pointed out.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por José Manuel Sánchez Ron, miembro de la Real Academia Española y catedrático de Historia de la Ciencia de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (EL PAÍS, 23/04/08):

Hay historias que merecen ser contadas e individuos que deben ser recordados. Uno de ellos es Max Planck (1858-1947), el físico alemán de cuyo nacimiento se cumplen hoy, 23 de abril, 150 años.

Debemos a Planck un descubrimiento que puso en marcha una de las grandes revoluciones de la historia de la ciencia, la de la física cuántica, cuyos frutos terminarían cambiando el mundo. Fue en 1900 cuando Planck obtuvo un resultado que no encajaba bien con la continuidad que la física suponía para la radiación electromagnética.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics and of the public engagement in science at the University of Surrey. He is this year’s recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday prize for science communication (THE GUARDIAN, 01/12/07):

Yet another of my pens has just disappeared from where I swear I just left it and is probably already with my smug doppelganger in a parallel universe. We all have our favourite take on the existence of parallel worlds; it’s a subject that has been fodder for science-fiction writers for quite a while now. The question is whether the idea has a place in serious scientific discourse.Well,…  Seguir leyendo »

By Paul Davies, the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24/11/07):

Science, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Paul Davies, director of Beyond, a research centre at Arizona State University, and author of The Goldilocks Enigma (THE GUARDIAN, 26/06/07):

Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient «coincidences» and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Margaret Wertheim, the director of the Institute for Figuring, a science and mathematics education organization. She is writing a book on physics and the imagination (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20/06/07):

ON Thursday, on the summer solstice, the Sun will celebrate the year’s lazy months by resting on the horizon. The word solstice derives from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). The day marks the sun’s highest point in the sky, the moment when our shadows shrink to their shortest length of the year. How strange to think that these mundane friends, our ever-present familiars, can actually go faster than the sun’s rays.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia, is the author of “The Elegant Universe” and “The Fabric of the Cosmos” (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20/10/06):

SEVENTY-FIVE years ago this month, The New York Times reported that Albert Einstein had completed his unified field theory — a theory that promised to stitch all of nature’s forces into a single, tightly woven mathematical tapestry. But as had happened before and would happen again, closer scrutiny revealed flaws that sent Einstein back to the drawing board. Nevertheless, Einstein’s belief that he’d one day complete the unified theory rarely faltered.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Ariel Dorfman, escritor chileno, autor, entre otros libros, de Memorias del desierto (EL PAIS, 05/09/05):

De niño, estaba seguro de que Alberto Einstein era el violinista más insigne del mundo. La confusión provino de una foto del gran hombre que adornaba el New York Times en las prostrimerías de los años cuarenta -digamos 1948, para adjudicarme la conveniente y coincidente edad de ocho, la misma edad de Einstein en 1885, cuando tomó sus primeras lecciones de violín-. Y heme ahí, entonces, aquella mañana de 1948 cuando mi papá abrió el diario en nuestro hogar en el barrio de Queens y apuntó con reverencia a ese hombre con el bigote exorbitante y el pelo montaraz y los ojos suaves y traviesos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por José Manuel Sánchez Ron, miembro de la Real Academia Española y catedrático de Historia de la Ciencia en la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (EL PAIS, 26/02/05):

Estamos comenzando a adentrarnos en un año que para muchos vendrá marcado culturalmente por la celebración de dos centenarios: el cuarto de la publicación del Quijote, y el primero de la aparición de unos artículos que revolucionarían la física, y en muy diversos aspectos, el mundo también, debidos a un entonces desconocido empleado de la Oficina de Patentes de Berna, y más tarde celebridad mundial: Albert Einstein.

Como no podía ser de otra forma, en España celebraremos -lo estamos haciendo ya- más y mejor a Cervantes.…  Seguir leyendo »