Posts Tagged ‘Einstein’

Short review on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episode ‘The Einstein Approximation’

February 3, 2010

Warning: For those who haven’t seen this episode, spoiler alert!

This is the first, and hopefully won’t be the last, of a series of short reviews I’ll try doing each week for ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

This week The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) episode ‘The Einstein Approximation’ came out,  and is the 14th episode of the show’s 3rd season.
Let me just start this quick and short review of the episode by further stating what the guys there and I have in common, apart from the quite obvious facts that we’re all geeks/nerds by heart.
Even before TBBT, I’ve admired and idolized Einstein myself, because of his great mental feats (which were of course, backed up by other physical theories and experiments at his time). Great because by just the power of his mind Einstein was able to revolutionize our lives and the 20th century, paving ways for faster transportation, not to mention telecommunication and computing, which drove and is still driving the information revolution today. And of course, so much more benefits which we more or less take for granted in our daily lives. In fact, Einstein is oftentimes synonymous with the word ‘genius’.
Einstein was also very much interested in philosophy and politics, not just physics. He’s written several books, articles, letters to people outside the scientific community. He also has a quirky sense of humor, as seen from this  picture of him. At first I thought this photo of Einstein was edited. But as it turns out it was really him, tongue hanging out and all. 🙂 It was at the time he was making fun of people taking pictures of him. Great stuff.

Silly Einstein
Of course Einstein is not without criticisms. Great and accomplished a scientist he maybe, history tells us he left much to be desired when it came to being a father or a husband.

Now, back to the episode review of TBBT. At this point I shall establish a partially objective, partially subjective point system of each episode based on the earlier 2 seasons (which I have watched at least 2 times…).
Let me just start off by saying this is a classic Sheldon episode, which is great in itself. Again we expected lots of ‘weird’ humor: Sheldon’s ability to complicate relatively simple things, as well as him belittling his friends, most noticeably Penny. Hilarious stuff once again. Bravo to TBBT production team.
Not a lot of scifi or comic book references were made though. But lines such as:

Howard: How long has he been stuck? (referring to Sheldon)
Leonard: Umm…intellectually about 30 hours, emotionally about 29 years.

And

Howard: Have you tried rebooting him? (referring to Sheldon)
Leonard: No I think it’s a firmware problem.

Are classics. 🙂

The part where Leonard and Sheldon were arguing inside the ‘ball play room’, with Sheldon going ‘bazinga’ everytime, was also hilarious.

Sheldon, and of course the rest of ‘the guys’ are fans of Einstein no doubt. Sheldon of course thinks he’s at the same level with Einstein so he tries to do what Einstein did in order to come at the epiphany that is the special theory of relativity: to work for a menial job so he can occupy his basal ganglia with a routine task so he can apparently free his pre-frontal cortex to solve his physics problem.

Another classic moment in this episode is the guest starring of Yeardley Smith, the not so well known voice actor behind the famous cartoon character Lisa Simpson (yes, in The Simpsons fame). Absolutely entertaining piece of the episode.

Another classic dialog is again with Sheldon and Penny:

Penny: What are you doing here?
Sheldon: A reasonable question. I asked myself, what is the most mind-numbing, pedestrian job conceivable? And 3 answers came to mind: toll booth attendant, an Apple Store “Genius”, and “What Penny does”. Now, since I don’t like touching other people’s coins, and I refuse to contribute to the devaluation of the word “genius”, here I am (meaning at the cheesecake factory).

Lines like these make me think of the real meaning and application of LOL. 🙂

I suppose myself and those guys, as well as the show’s production team, can’t help cracking jokes at Apple. 😀

Overall I’d give this episode the following scores:

* reference to sci-fi, comic books, and other geek/nerd pop culture: 6/10

* reference to physics and other fields of science: 9/10

* dialog humor factor: 9/10

* techie/technology factor: 8/10

which gives an overall score of: 8/10

🙂

Falling In Love: The Physics Of Attraction

October 12, 2009

This article discusses why the colloquial expressions such as “That’s why I gravitate towards you”, “I’m falling for you”, and “She is attracted to me” can be quite scientifically accurate. The following article muddles up the meanings of casual words like “falling” and “attraction” with the currently accepted theories, studies, and findings of physics on the related matters. I’ve done something like this before , similar in fashion to how the word “God” is poetically and figuratively used in relation to the “religious”  views of Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and other physicists . This time, it’s love. 🙂

First we have Space-Time

Space-time or spacetime is a mathematical model that you get when you combine the 3 dimensions of space with a 4th one,  the dimension of time.  In a nutshell, space-time is similar to a landscape where a point locates an event i.e. a 3 dimensional location + the time when it happened, instead of just a usual, spacial point in space like in maps, even if it’s a 3D map. Since space-time involves 4 dimensions, even most scientists find it very hard to imagine what 4 dimensions would look like, since us humans are accustomed to only 3 dimensions of our space. We always look at time as something that is fixed and unchanging. Newton certainly did when he wrote the laws of motion. One of the most impressive feats of Einstein was that he showed this was not so, and that time is as maleable as space.

To see this graphically, observe the image above. Since scientists are only humans, they have difficulties imagining warped 4 dimensions, and so 2 dimensional analogs are used, which are enough to illustrate the point. The image above shows a distortion in space-time.  These imaginations of space-time were first thought of as what are famously now known in science as thought experiments, with one of the most popular users being Albert Einstein himself.

Then there’s Gravity

General relativity describes gravity as a curvature in space-time and that, again in a nutshell,  gravity is a dent in space. To further picture this, consider again the image above. Ordinary matter, which makes up everything we see in the universe, causes space-time to warp and bend around it. The more matter there is in a given object or point, the more warping, denting,  and bending of space time, and therefore the stronger the gravity. The image shows the Earth, which is relatively quite massive, making a dent in the space-time continuum, thus creating a gravitational effect which pulls us, the moon, and other objects in space towards it, even including the Sun. The Sun of course has the strongest gravity or pull in the Solar system, since it’s the most massive object in it. Again, remember that the image is just a 2D analog of a 4D space-time continuum. The Earth does not immediately plummet towards the Sun since the Earth has its own gravity, which counteracts the Sun’s pull. But nevertheless the Earth is slowly circling down the drain/dent of the Sun in the space-time continuum (Sun’s gravity) and in a few billion years, the Earth and everything less massive than the Sun will quite likely plummet towards it. In other words, gravity is just an illusion since we can’t quite really conceive a 4th dimension in our minds, and that gravity is really just a warping of the space-time continuum.

You can then further imagine or create a thought experiment that other less or more massive bodies than the Earth in the Solar system create their own dents or warps in space-time. These include the other planets, asteroids, and even us humans, albeit in a very minute fraction only.

In fact, one of the suggested ways of mitigating a future asteroid impact on Earth is based on the premise that mass causes denting or warping in space-time. The gravity or gravitational tractor, as it is known, deflects an asteroid many years prior to its impact on Earth, by simply hovering or “parking” beside the asteroid. This form of asteroid mitigation does not really require cutting edge scientific discoveries or engineering feats, it does not need to physically contact the asteroid, and does not necessitate the need for the mechanical and structural composition of the asteroid in advance. Simply put, it works by allowing the relatively massive object, the gravity tractor, to “pull” the asteroid towards a direction which will lead it away from a future Earth impact. The “pull” comes from the fact that, slowly but surely, the tractor’s warping of space imposes a pull, albeit tiny, to the nearby asteroid.

Finally, Falling in Love

So, by now perhaps you’ve already surmised my coy and sly use of the words “falling” and “attraction” with respect to falling in love, as well as how physics currently views gravity and space-time. In other words, geeks and nerds like me often joke about how a girl could “fall” for you if you simply sit near her, since you do have mass, however minute. That mass of yours will eventually make her notice you, or perhaps not, but it will certainly impose a “pull” on her towards you, or vice versa. Of course technically speaking, it will take millions to billions of years before the more massive one between you two finally pulls the other. In this case, it’s better if you just ask her out, and that sometimes physicists, geeks, and nerds like me don’t really give that much good an advice. Still, as I mentioned earlier in this article, phrases such as “I’m falling for you” and “We’re attracted to each other” are quite scientifically accurate. Ah, love in geek or nerd speak. So romantic. 🙂

Which brings to mind the fascination of some men in today’s times to skinny women. Based from what I’ve pointed out here, it’s physically (by this I mean in physics) understandable why some men would prefer heavier or more massive women, but what about skinny women? I suppose the social sciences have more to learn and discuss in these matters. 🙂

Resources, references, and further reading: