A Scientist’s Random Walk Sunday, May 14 2006 

Chu1.jpg Chu2.jpgChu3.jpg

Background : Nothing. Just lie back and watch ! 🙂

Link : Conversations with History: A Scientist’s Random Walk, with Steven Chu(Google Video)

Nobel Laureate Steven Chu in a conversation with UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler about scientific inquiry and the evolution of Chu’s own research interests

Steven Chu is the first among the trio which recieved the 1997 nobel prize in physics “for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light”. The Google Video above is an interview( You can find the transcript of that interview here. By the way, the photos above are from the same site. )

Talking of Google videos, there is of course the video about Feynman The pleasure of finding things out – RP Feynman which is a must -watch.

Excellent short 40 min documentary interview with Dr. RP Feynman- one of the greatest physicist of our times and a Nobel Laureate. Specially uploaded for students of NSIT.

If you haven’t seen it already, I would strongly recommend that you watch it ! And yeah, since this is an excellent excuse to post one of my favourite photos of Feynman, here it is 🙂


Knot theory Sunday, May 7 2006 


(The above figure shows the three fundamental moves that one can use in Knot theory to see whether two knots are equivalent.)

Background : Well, Knot theory is an interesting part of mathematical physics with a lot of applications in diverse fields. It does not fit directly into the standard curriculum for the five basic themes of undergrad-theoretical-physics ( Classical, Quantum, Statistical, Field theoretic and Mathematical methods) .

So, this is just for fun – and like many other things in life done for fun , you should be open-minded enough to learn new things as you go along. I can’t guarantee that you would understand everything here ( partly because I don’t understand everything and mainly because nobody understands everything 😉 ), but it is fun if you like it.

Note that Knot theory to start with does not require much background in physics ( It is afterall a branch of topology and so much of the required background is from the math side ). But, if you really want to see some beautiful ways Knot theory enters physics, you should have a background in Quantum field theory( in particular some familiarity with Feynman’s diagrammatic way of doing perturbation theory and path integrals at the level of say Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell by A. Zee) .

As always, if you have no idea what Knot theory is about, you can do no better than start off with the article on Knot theory from Wikipedia and then proceed to different sites which talk about knot theory Then there is a site which has enough links to keep you busy throughout the summers 🙂 This should give you an idea of what is this all about.

If you are not in mood for all this stuff, then you might like to read some stories ! Here is an interesting article titled Scottish Physics and Knot Theory’s Odd Origins which talks about the history of knot theory and how Kelvin invented it for modelling vortices in ether 🙂 It talks about the role played by Maxwell, Kelvin and Tait(He is a mathematician who is supposed to have invented dimples in the golf ball ;)) in Knot theory. A bit more serious article is A brief history of knot theory which I got from here.

Now, for some serious stuff. This is A Knot Theory Primer. See also Knot Knotes by J.D.Roberts which I found at this site having lots of good books on physics and math( I am thinking of a separate post for that site, so that people don’t miss it ). You can also see a short course by Kauffman.

Ok, I’ve come so far and I’ve not even come to the QFT applications of Knot theory many of which go under the name of Witten. Since, this post has already become so long, I will just point you to an AJP article before I finish.

Knots and physics: Old wine in new bottles
(Should be accessible inside IITK)
Allen C. Hirshfeld
Physics Department, The University of Dortmund, D-44221 Dortmund, Germany

(Received 3 July 1997; accepted 15 May 1998)

The history of the interplay between physics and mathematics in the theory of knots is briefly reviewed. In particular, Gauss’ original definition of the linking number in the context of electromagnetism is presented, along with analytical, algebraical, and geometrical derivations. In a modern context, the linking number appears in the first-order term in the perturbation expansion of a Wilson loop in Chern–Simons quantum field theory. New knot invariants, the Vassiliev numbers, arise in higher-order terms of the expansion, and can be written in a form which shows them to be generalizations of the linking number. ©1998 American Association of Physics Teachers.

Update(10/5) : Ok, I give in to temptation. I can’t just leave a post on Knot theory without talking more about its relations with Topological Quantum Field theories. One of the landmark papers in this field is of course Witten’s Quantum field theory and the Jones polynomial. But, since it is a bit high-brow stuff, it is better to start with an article on that paper. ( you can also see a talk by Witten where he talks about the period when this paper was written.) By the way, If I remember correctly, it is this paper which led to Witten’s Field’s medal…

Try your hands at “Quantum Topology and Quantum Computing”, by Kauffman and “Quantum Topology and the Jones Polynomial”, by Kauffman . Lots of pages in the first paper are devoted to introducing quantum mechanics so you can just skip it if you feel like it.

Anderson’s article Saturday, May 6 2006 


Background: I guess quantum mechanics would do. Since, as usual, high-energy physics is dominating the posts here, it’s time for some condensed matter stuff. Let us start with what is arguably the most famous article in CMP.

Link : P. W. Anderson, “More is different”, Science 177, 393 (1972)
(via the blog http://nanoscale.blogspot.com/ which is one of the very few blogs dealing with condensed matter physics.)

This article outlines what I call the “Anderson philosophy behind CMP” 🙂 In case you didn’t know, P.W.Anderson(Physics Nobel Laureate(1977) – is arguably among the most famous physicists in condensed matter physics. You can find his website at Princeton here and here.

And people who are into condensed matter physics would find this link to Journal Club for Condensed Matter Physics from Bell-labs interesting ….

Posted by : Loganayagam.R.

The Titan surface – A View from Huygens(video) Saturday, May 6 2006 

Background : Nothing at all. This is a NASA video – and you know it is supposed be for “kids” 😉

Link: A View from Huygens

This is a multimedia video from Huygens. It is a bit large(15.4 MB) but it has some good pictures of Titan(one of the moons of Saturn) and is worth watching.

Posted by: Loganayagam.R.

Applications of Classical Physics(Caltech notes) Saturday, May 6 2006 

Background: These are some immensely useful notes on many things that are not quantum. It should be useful to everyone.


These are the lecture notes for a course offered by Kip.S.Thorne at Caltech. They cover a wide range of topics in a beautiful way. I am just giving here the chapter names so that you can get an idea.

Chapter 1: Physics in Euclidean Space and Flat Spacetime: Geometric Viewpoint
Chapter 2: Kinetic Theory
Chapter 3: Statistical Mechanics
Chapter 4: Statistical Thermodynamics
Chapter5: Random Processes
Chapter6: Geometric Optics
Chapter 7: Diffraction
Chapter 8: Interference
Chapter 9: Nonlinear Optics
Chapter 10: Elastostatics
Chapter 11: Elastodynamics
Chapter 12: Foundations of Fluid Dynamics
Chapter 13: Vorticity
Chapter 14: Turbulence
Chapter 15: Waves and Rotating Flows
Chapter 15: Waves and Rotating Flows [
Chapter 16: Compressible and Supersonic Flow
Chapter 17: Convection
Chapter 18: Magnetohydrodynamics
Chapter 19: Particle Kinetics of Plasma
Chapter 20: Waves in Cold Plasmas: Two-Fluid Formalism
Chapter 21: Kinetic Theory of Warm Plasmas
Chapter 22: Nonlinear Dynamics of Plasmas
Chapter 23: From Special to General Relativity
Chapter 24: Fundamental Concepts of General Relativity
Chapter 25: Stars and Black Holes
Chapter 26: Gravitational Waves and Experimental Tests of General Relativity
Chapter 27: Cosmology
Appendix A: Concept-Based Outline of Book
Appendix B: Some Unifying Concepts

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Is god playing a game with us? Monday, May 1 2006 

Do you think god is playing a game in which the laws of physics are dynamically updated and tweaked according to our knowledge?

Read this post at http://shankar1729.wordpress.com/2006/05/01/god's-game.

Posted by: Ravishankar S