Particle Physics / Quantum Physics / Quantum Physics


Physics To Be Thankful For

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we’ve asked some of our contributors and friends to tell us what physics they are most thankful for. We hope you’ll join the conversation by sharing your own thoughts in the comments section. On Thanksgiving day, we’ll have more thoughts from physicists, plus some of our favorite reader comments, on our Twitter feed, @novaphysics. Just look for the #thanksphysics hashtag. Wishing a safe, happy, and inspiring holiday to all!

Frank Wilczek: I’m thankful that the world gives us puzzles we can solve, but not too easily.

James Stein: I’m thankful that physics both intrigues the intellect and is a major driver of technological improvement. While this is true of science in general, energy is the ultimate coin of the universe, and physics is the means by which we discover how it is produced, how it is transformed, and how we can use it to better our lives.

Delia Schwartz-Perlov: I’m grateful to be living at this moment in history, when dark energy hasn’t been dominating our universe for too long, and we are therefore still able to see our magnificent universe. Creatures living billions of years in the future will not be able to see all of this.

Jim Gates: Physics is the only piece of magic I’ve ever seen. I’m grateful for real magic.

Sean Carroll: I’m thankful for the arrow of time, pointing from the past to the future. Without that, every moment would look the same.

Clifford Johnson: I’m thankful for the “Hoyle resonance” of carbon 12. It is an excited state of carbon that allows it to be produced in stars from helium collisions. Hoyle realized that this is the only way that the carbon we are all made of could be produced, and so reasoned the fact that he (a human, made of 18% carbon) was around to puzzle over the problem was a prediction of the existence of this state. The resonance was later discovered by nuclear physicists, with exactly the properties he said it should have.

James Stein: I’m thankful for Michael Faraday’s discovery of the principle of electromagnetic induction. It made it possible to use electricity to advance the human condition, and I think it is the single most productive discovery in the history of physics.

Delia Schwartz-Perlov: I’m eight months pregnant, so I am grateful for the physics that enables ultrasound. It is pretty amazing and exciting to see what’s going on in there.

Edward Farhi: As the physicist Ron Johnson once said, I’m grateful to quantum mechanics for an interesting life.

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Kate Becker

    Kate Becker is the editor of The Nature of Reality, where it is her mission to blow your mind with physics. Kate studied physics at Oberlin College and astronomy at Cornell University, and spent seven years as senior researcher for NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.