30 September 2011


It's the day after Thursday, and you know what that means ~ it's science Friday !! Of course, every day is science day, but on Fridays I try to remember (a task made more challenging by early onset Oldsheimer's) to write about things sciencey that will be fun and informative.

So. In physics, specifically in quantum mechanics, there is an element of uncertainty regarding the position, speed, or state of subatomic particles, depending on random events which preceded the moment of observation ~ and depending on whether or not an observer is present. In 1935, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment to illustrate this paradox, now famously known as Schrodinger's cat. You can click on the preceding link for a rather wordy explanation, or you can click here for a very brief and clever video which clarifies the situation. Summary: cat is sealed in box. A device in the box may or may not kill the cat (see image above). If you open the box, what will you find, a living kitty or a corpse? If you do not open the box ~ check this out ~ the cat is theoretically both alive and dead. Got that? Infinite possibilities, parallel universes, oh my. Try the links, and you'll see how.

Onward. "Emergence is the word used to describe what happens when a system becomes more than the combination of its pieces. A set of rules, group of animals, or collection of objects can develop singular properties that none of the single pieces possess .... Emergence can manifest in many ways, but it always manifests as a new property, held by a group of objects but by none of the individual parts, when no larger control is imposed on the group." Thus begins a discussion of emergence which offers examples from biology, sociology, and physics. Just when you thought you had things figured out.

Finally, a very useful resource ~ Statistical Terms Used in Research Studies: A Primer for Journalists. But just as valuable for any reader, no matter their level of science or math sophistication. You know how statistics can be applied in multiple ways to any event or status, yielding different results depending on the methods used? How does one know whom to trust, and what to look for? By learning the language, of course. You wouldn't buy a used car without some knowledge of cars, or a reliable friend along with you. Just so with statistics, and this short article provides a wonderful overview, useful even to someone like me who has the education and field experience, but that was years ago. The refresher is, well, refreshing.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.cracked.com/article_19419_6-parodies-that-succeeded-because-nobody-got-joke.html

    here is another take on schrondingers cat.