The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

If you want real, true, sweet, creamy caramelized onions to top your burger or pizza, cook them over medium-low to low heat for a long time, maybe up to an hour. If you crank the heat and try to speed up the process, you’ll get a different product―onions that may be crisp-tender and nicely browned but lacking that characteristic translucence and meltingly tender quality you want.

Making My Case

A little more detail on why I think that the idea of every electron affecting every other electron around the universe doesn’t wash.

One thing about scientists that nonscientists sometimes don’t get is that predictions have wide-ranging implications. You may think that something is true because it holds for a specific example, but if that idea is to be generally true, it has to hold up all across physics. (As an aside, this is a common stumbling block for crackpot theories). Claiming that “everything is connected” can be tested and indeed has been tested, even though the experiments were not made for the targeted purpose of falsifying this specific claim.

I’ve already given the example of atomic clocks, though any precision spectroscopy experiment would probably suffice. Brian gives the example of bands in semiconductors, and the Pauli Exclusion Principle is the source of this structure — the electron energy levels cannot be the same, so they “pile up” into bands. But his video takes that one step further, to affecting distant semiconductors. So, I ask, where are these bands in individual atoms? Why don’t we see them? Gather together a reasonable fraction of Avogadro’s number of atoms in a lattice and you get a fairly wide band of energies for a transition, even after you reduce thermal motion. Do the same to a gas, and do Doppler-free spectroscopy, and the transitions can be quite narrow.

Another example, as I mentioned in the comments, has to do with the behavior of composite Fermions, such as atoms. The Pauli Exclusion Principle is based on the behavior of identical particles. If all these electrons are in slightly different states, which differentiates the electrons, then the atoms themselves are not identical anymore. Which means that if you were to collect a bunch of them into a cold gas in some confining potential, you should be able to get them all to drop to the ground state (which would be a band). But we don’t see this behavior: You can form what is known as a Fermionic condensate, which is the analogue of a Bose-Einstein Condensate. But since the Fermionic atoms are identical, they are subject to the Pauli Exclusion Principle and can’t occupy the same energy states in the system; this adds a level of difficulty in forming them (you don’t have the same avenues of exchanging energy in collisions during evaporative cooling, since you are limited to one atom per energy level). But the bottom line is that this kind of system exists, which tells us that the atoms are identical to each other, and falsifies a prediction based on Brian’s conjecture.

Not Identical to My Blog Post

Everything is Connected

More, and in some depth, on the Pauli Exclusion kerfuffle. (I was on the road all day yesterday and got in late, so I am not really caught up with … life, so only time for this quick note.) Please go read it.

Much more interesting to me is getting the physics right.

Amen to that. If my snarky headline/commentary got in the way, I apologize for that.

In Space, No-One Can Hear You Go "Kerpow!"

What Would Happen If You Shot a Gun In Space?

Newton’s third law dictates that the force exerted on the bullet will impart an equal and opposite force on the gun, and, because you’re holding the gun, you. With very few intergalactic atoms against which to brace yourself, you’ll start moving backward (not that you’d have any way of knowing). If the bullet leaves the gun barrel at 1,000 meters per second, you — because you’re much more massive than it is — will head the other way at only a few centimeters per second.

If the gun was not lined up with your center-of-mass, you would also feel a torque and begin rotating.

Time Has Come Today, Part I

Last week I gave a seminar at Augusta State University called “It’s About Time” and promised to write up a summary of the talk, so here it is (sans a few cartoons and some data I don’t have permission to show). Some of the material I have discussed before, and some has been covered recently at the Virtuosi and, previously, at Uncertain Principles. Both discussions are good, but as I had noted for the former post, there are some subtleties to the discussion that one might not be expected to know if one isn’t exposed to timekeeping on a semi-regular basis.

The Chicago Way

I raised the questions asked in Chicago’s 1969/1970 song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” the lyrics to which includes the followup question, “Does Anybody Really Care?”

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? No.
Does Anybody Really Care? Yes.

(at which point I paused for comedic effect, as if this were the end of the talk. I crack myself up sometimes)

The basic point of the first answer is that there is no predefined “truth” for what time it is. There are choices/decisions that go into that determination, so the time is a voted quantity in addition to being a measured quantity — measurement limitations are not the only reason the answer is “no”.

For the second question, which is the whole motivation for precision timekeeping, the answer had better be “yes” or else there is no justification for performing the task. The motivation for the navy (both here and abroad) for timekeeping is navigation, and this dates back to Harrison and the “longitude problem”. To know your latitude it’s fairly straightforward — the north star is almost due north, so finding its angle in the sky relative to the horizon gives you that information, or you can get the information from the declination of the sun at noon. But the longitude isn’t so easy; for a long time navigation was done by dead reckoning, but with increased ocean travel and the reach of the British Empire there was too much “dead” in dead reckoning, and so the British navy sought a way to improve navigation.
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Sorry About That, Chief

BREAKING NEWS: Error Undoes Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Results

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed. Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Boom Boom

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The disposal of drums of sodium into Lake Lenore, an alkaline lake in the Grand Coulee area of eastern Washington State, in 1947 by the War Assets Administration.

Wanna dispose of some sodium? Na.

[A]fter WWII, the US government found they had some extra sodium no one wanted, so they disposed of it.
In a lake. Full of water. And by the way, it was ten tons of pure sodium.

Safety and environmental impact disclaimer

Oh, and all that surplus WWII sodium? While that would destroy the ecology of a lake, in this case it was already a heavily alkaline lake with no fish in it. While I wouldn’t say this was a great thing to do, at least they thought to minimize the impact. But cripes: don’t try this at home.

Brian Cox is Full of **it

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Every electron around every atom in the universe must be shifted as I heat the diamond up to make sure that none of them end up in the same energy level. When I heat this diamond up all the electrons across the universe instantly but imperceptibly change their energy levels.

You kind of expect the “rock stars” of physics to not spout crap like this, so it’s disappointing when they do. But this isn’t a case of him mis-speaking: he doubles down on this notion in a WSJ article.

I recently gave a lecture, screened on the BBC, about quantum theory, in which I pointed out that “everything is connected to everything else”. This is literally true if quantum theory as currently understood is not augmented by new physics. This means that the subatomic constituents of your body are constantly shifting, albeit absolutely imperceptibly, in response to events happening an arbitrarily large distance away; for the sake of argument, let’s say on the other side of the Universe.

This statement received some criticism in scientific circles. Not because it’s wrong, because it isn’t; without this behavior, we wouldn’t be able to explain the bonds that hold molecules together. The problem is that it sounds like woo woo, and quantum theory attracts woo-woo merde-merchants like the pronouncements of New Age mystics attract flies – metaphorically speaking.

Well, no. The issue isn’t the Pauli Exlusion Principle itself — that’s sound science. It’s what he’s done with it. The first, obvious problem is that relativity tells us that the communication can’t be instantaneous. The second is that the Pauli Exclusion Principle doesn’t work this way. It applies to a single system in which you have all these identical electrons, and they can’t be in the same exact state. This is because of their QM behavior if you were to exchange them — something has to be different about the two electrons. In a crystal, the energies are slightly different as a result, and you get a band of energies. But this does not extend beyond the system, be it crystal or even individual atoms — the electrons belong to different systems, which are not co-located. Exchanging electrons meaning exchanging systems as well. That’s what’s different.

Here’s a simple argument why this can’t be true: we can tell time with atomic clocks. A Cs atomic clock, for example, has electrons in one of two possible ground states, separated by an energy which corresponds to a frequency of 9 192 631 770 Hz. If the energy levels are different, as Brian contends, because of all the other electrons in other Cs atoms in the universe, we wouldn’t have this sharp energy difference and shouldn’t be able to get the part-in-10^15 kinds of accuracy (and even better levels of precision) from atomic clocks. That we can do this is a pretty strong indication that he’s wrong.

Maybe QM is so misunderstood because some prominent physicists are pitching it as mysticism instead of science. Coincidentally, I just got an offer for a copy of his new book to review. I wonder if I should accept.

Added: I should be clear that I’m good with pretty much everything else mentioned in the article. It’s the mysticism-connectedness angle, and the physics explanation, that is bogus, I don’t expect that from Brian Cox.

Added 2/25: Making my case in a little more detail