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.

Tell us what you think on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

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.

    • As a layperson with an interest in science, I am grateful for all the brilliant people throughout history who have figured out so much about our amazing universe, and have enriched our lives through their hard work and curiosity.

    • karen ancas

      I am grateful to know that the universe is legitimately moving from order to chaos. This lets me off the hook for trying to be too organized and fighting a losing battle!

      • Seems we were thinking about the same thing .Entropy 🙂

    • Truly Incredible Thank You 😛

    • Marcy

      I like physics because it allows for electron magnets, radiological chemotherapy, electronic cars, my daily mechanical conveniences and of course: Star Trek, Fringe, and Dr. Who

    • Heleneg

      I’m thankful that physics forms the basis of our universe and that the earth spins on an axis, without which, we would not have four seasons, each with its own beauty.

    • I am thankful to the Carnot cycle and the invention of refrigeration/air conditioning there from..I am also thankful to Entropy , the mess in the world can only increase I am at peace with my usage of plastic bags..

    • I am thankful to Carnot cycle for the provision of refrigeration/air conditioning.. I am also thankful to Entropy which keeps me peaceful about by plastic bag usage…let the disorder in the world continue to prosper..

    • Mannmus

      All the universe(s) is (are) the exploration of probability.
      The Dream   Russell W Mercer 1974
      This is the dream which has no ending;
      Go now dreamer through the endless night;
      All doors open onto all other doors;
      The void is the toy of man’s ignorance,
      To give him distance, give him time;
      Each point, each dream, each dreamer shall has been;
      Each point, each dream, each dreamer and forever is.
      This is the dream which has no ending,
      Go now dreamer through your endless sleep.
      Forget distance, forget time!
      All paths seek the summit of the mountain,
      All dreamers take the same journey.
      Each point, each dream, each dreamer shall has been;
      Each point, each dream, each dreamer and forever is.
      Dreamer’s dreaming dreamer’s dreaming dreamer’s dreaming dreams.  

    • Don Duggan-Haas

      I’m thankful for convection and all the physics that underlies it. Without it, we’d not be here (which I suppose is true of a lot of physics). But without convection, there’d be no weather, no plate tectonics, no fire, and on and on…

    • N-CHO2

      I m thankful to Nova for having the insight to show documentaries based on science explained by scientist themselves as opposed to to other media which dilutes science so much that it loses its facts

    • I’m grateful for the History of Physics and all the wonderful cross-applications in technology and engineering that Physics has made possible. I’m grateful also that Physics has brought great understanding in cosmology and incredible curiosity about all the magical things still to discover about the universe 🙂 I’m also grateful that Physics has helped in launching aviation, aeronautics, and aerospace as well as science fiction 🙂 …..How lovely, too, that MyFamily is able to get great BirthdayThemeKits regarding aviation and science fiction characters (like Dr Doofenshmirtz of PHINEAS AND FERB) from 🙂 Dr Doofenshmirtz, Phineas, and Ferb all love physics and teach OurDaughter and OurSon to enjoy physics and experimental science, too 🙂

    • It is the Arrow of Time that is misunderstood. We never see actions preceeding the effect, for all we muse, never the reverse. Time is omnidirectional, it is a nature of the Universe, that time proceeds from past thru present and toward the future.
      Imagine, the nature of the universe as an infinite string composed of beads, where beads represent the Now moment for a object in our Universe. An event occurs to create an entangled pair particles from an single object on the Universal String, where the object was, there are now two adjacent paired objects entangled. There is no past, no future, only the Now ever changing. These two objects may change position in relation to the Universe but not to alter their adjacentcy to each other on the infinite string. Entanglement remains until one or both are destroyed.

    • Andrew

      I am thankful for inverse entropy: biological evolution.

    • W.P. Sokeland

      I am greatful for the understanding of sophmore physics electro-magnetic theory. IN TIME IT WILL ALLOW MANKIND TO REDUCE THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY SEREVERE WEATHER.

    • I’m thankful for the physics of water, especially the part about expanding just before it freezes!! Bad for pipes and radiators, but good for northern lakes.