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Chad Orzel
Works at Union College
Attended University of Maryland, College Park
Lived in Schenectady, NY
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Chad Orzel

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The obvious thing to follow up Monday's Forbes post on some of my favorite experimental demonstrations of quantum phenomena: a similar post describing three of my favorite experimental proofs of relativity.
Relativity predicts a lot of phenomena that seem weird, but there are a huge number of experimental tests confirming that it's real. Here are three of the best.
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A week or so ago, Science put out another installment in their series of career advice posts designed to piss people off, urging young scientists to work 16-hour days and make sure they get noticed. At Forbes, I talk a bit about my own experience with late  nights in the lab, which I view more as True Lab Stories than career advice.
Many scientists have anecdotes about working long hours, but these should be True Lab Stories, not career advice. What really matters is not the time that's put in but the results that come out.
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It is hilarious to me that the inclusion of "McDonald's" in your post leads to a link and the stock price. Well, that's Forbes, I guess.
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The story of the magical laser locking procedure I used in grad school, and how it's different from real magic. Prompted by a panel I did at Readercon over the weekend.
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I like this analysis but I think you've missed a third possibility: Magical phenomena are due to physical principles which we could understand by scientific study, but we can't manipulate them directly at our present tech level, so experimentation is infeasible and at best we can only theorize in a vacuum. At the same time, there are alien intelligences which can and do exploit these principles. They can be communicated with, but their motives and desires are only poorly understood, so asking them to do something for you may or may not work and can be dangerous.

This is a first-order model of what historical occultists thought they were doing: invoking "demons" or "angels" that could do things they could not do themselves, at great personal risk. In a present-day or near-future fictional setting it also gives a concrete reason why magic is poorly understood: we can't do the experiments we would need to do to understand the physical principles of it, the psychology of the alien entities is genuinely difficult to get a grip on, and even the most sympathetic of them are not inclined to help people all the time.
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Yesterday's post attempted to summarize quantum physics in six essential ideas. Today's looks at relativity, which can all be traced to one single core concept.
Einstein's theory of relativity has an intimidating reputation, but the whole theory can be traced back to a single principle that's simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker: The laws of physics do not depend on how you're moving.
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My daughter knows about Galileo because she was struck by a description of his early telescopic observations of Saturn, and how he thought the planet had ears sticking out of it, or was a triple planet.

So I explained relativity to her by going back to Galileo's thought experiment of being belowdecks on a ship traveling at constant velocity on a smooth sea. (I pointed out that the case she had more direct experience of was being in a jetliner cruising through the calm stratosphere at 500 miles an hour: if you don't look out the window, it feels like you're standing still.)

And then explaining that Einstein's problem was realizing that the speed of light was a constant of nature, and trying to reconcile that with Galileo's relativity principle: how can these two things both be true? You can try to concoct elaborate mechanisms all you want, but suppose you just assume they're both true: what happens then?
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If you want to make someone see a particular color, science tells us there are three ways to do that. Two of them rely on quantum physics.

New Forbes post, spinning off posts by +Rhett Allain and Hilary Brueck.
If you want someone to see a particular color, there are three ways to make that happen, and a lot of science involved.
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Nature News ran an opinion piece decrying the too-soon posting of preliminary results in physics. My response is that physicists should take a tip from economists, who long ago made their peace with big news stories about incomplete data like this morning's jobs report.
Physicists worried about preliminary results being overturning need to take some lessons from economists.
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University of Copenhagen, as a matter of fact.
Where'd you get yours?
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A week or so back, I wrote about general principles of quantum physics everybody should know about. Some of these may seem really weird, but quantum physics is arguably the most precisely tested theory in the history of science. Here are three of my favorite experimental proofs of quantum phenomena.
Quantum physics predicts a bunch of phenomena that seem really bizarre, but have been unambiguously confirmed by experiments. Here are three of the best.
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I'm on vacation with my family, and thus have even less interest than usual in refereeing other people's bickering. I'm disabling comments on this post. Find somewhere else to fight.


Chad Orzel

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In which I use the question "how did they dig that prison escape tunnel to the exact right spot?" as an excuse to talk about physics. Because that's how I roll...
The fancy tunnel El Chapo used to escape prison raises the question of how you would navigate underground to dig that. Submarines face a similar problem, and they solve it using physics.
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+Ken Abbott They cannot use GPS to navigate as it is underground!
There was probably some support from prison staff.  With that much money and criminal contacts it would be very difficult to avoid various sorts of pressure.  This escape is not just a technical problem.
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Over at Forbes, a look at the transition from atomic physics, where electrons occupy narrow states of well-defined energy to condensed-matter physics where they occupy broad energy bands. It's all about Schrodinger's cat and fenced-in dogs.
Why is it that atoms have well-defined energy states, but large collections of atoms have broad energy bands? It all has to do with Schrodinger's cat, and the physics of fenced-in dogs.
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A new version of a post that's long been a favorite at ScienceBlogs: listing off the essential core concepts needed to understand quantum physics.

Looking at my old post (http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2010/01/20/seven-essential-elements-of-qu/ ), I see that in the last five and a half years, I've managed to shrink the essential list of quantum concepts by one item...
Quantum physics can be intimidating, but if you keep these six key concepts in mind, you should be able to improve your understanding of it.
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Nicely explained. One may qualify this article as a successful form of quantum mechanics' vulgarisation. Well written. Well done! 
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Whoa, my book is on Brainpickings...
 
The Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics, Animated. How a lineage of scientists pieced together the puzzle revealing the dual nature of the universe. http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/03/chad-orzel-quantum-physics/ 
How a lineage of scientists pieced together the puzzle revealing the dual nature of the universe. Ever since Heisenberg stood on the shou
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Some quasi-philosophical musing prompted by a much-linked piece at NPR on "the agony of ignorance," contrasting that with the excitement of people at the Convergence conference at not knowing stuff... yet.

My original title was "The Ecstasy of Ignorance," but the editor liked this better, and I'm not going to argue about titles.
While some scientists fret over questions we might not be able to answer, others are excited by the vast opportunities for future discovery.
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Associate Professor, Union college Department of Physics and Astronomy
Employment
  • Union College
    Associate Professor of Physics, 2001 - present
  • Yale University
    Postdoctoral Associate, 1999 - 2001
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Schenectady, NY - New Haven, CT - Rockville, MD - Komae, Japan - Williamstown, MA - Whitney Point, NY
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Introduction
Chad Orzel is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College in Schenectady, NY. He is also the author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (Scribner, 2009), a popular-audience book explaining quantum mechanics through imaginary conversations with his dog, Emmy.
Education
  • University of Maryland, College Park
    Chemical Physics, 1993 - 1999
  • Williams College
    Physics, 1989 - 1993
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