Category Archives: physics

Sunshine In = Earthshine Out

No computer simulations have ever had broader consequences for human life than the current generation of climate models. The models tell us that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can trigger abrupt shifts in the planet’s … Continue reading

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Cosmic eggshells

In the creation myths of certain cultures, the world began as an egg, which broke open to form the earth and the sky. What if some intrepid explorer mounted an expedition to the ends of the earth and came back … Continue reading

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Sphere packings and Hamiltonian paths

In an American Scientist column published last November, I discussed efforts by groups at Harvard and Yale to identify arrangements of n equal-size spheres that maximize the number of pairwise contacts between spheres. The Harvard collaboration (Natalie Arkus, Vinothan N. … Continue reading

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Statistical mechanics of magnet balls

They come out of the can in a gleaming 6 × 6 × 6 cubic crystal. It took me a day to figure out how to get them back into the can. But that’s not the deepest mystery about these … Continue reading

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A slight discrepancy

The image above shows the mesh top of a patio table, photographed after a soaking rain. Some of the openings in the mesh retain drops of water. What can we say about the distribution of those drops? Are they sprinkled … Continue reading

Posted in computing, featured, mathematics, physics | 36 Comments