My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Wed, 25 Jan, 2006

Winter work and energy

When it comes to health, I regret to say I've had a lousy winter so far. Working in a public place puts me in the way of all sorts of viruses carried by customers and their children, and I've endured the annoyance of several of them since the fall. I continue to boil and stew every forty minutes with embarrassing hot flashes which are literally "un-cool." And for the last month, I've had an ongoing dental problem with an infection in an old worked-over tooth. On Tuesday I had it re-worked, a truly unpleasant experience which felt like a mining operation being done with power tools and picks and shovels, located in my jaw. I was dosed with plenty of local anesthetic so it wasn't exactly painful, but I would rather have been at a movie, and I hate movies. A week or so from now, they will complete the operation, but as the dentist explained, there is no guarantee that it will not go bad again in the future.

So I won't think about bad futures. All this adversity plus the dreary lightless days of winter (which seem somehow to be lightless even when the sun is shining brightly) have cut into my drive and energy. I have not been able to do much art or much physics this January, so far. I feel ashamed of this. The macho physicist does not suffer these vapors, but soldiers on through sickness, exhaustion, "insane busy-ness," and bad computer code, fueled by coffee and ambition. And so, I will too. I am not insanely busy yet.

I am working on work. Work for physics in the simplest sense means force times distance; something actually has to be moved. I am also studying potential and kinetic energy, which seem to be complementary entities during the designated period of an object's motion. At the beginning of the journey under gravity, the energy is all potential; just before the object strikes the ground, the energy is almost all kinetic. Is it right to say that one is "transformed" into the other? Or that one must decrease while the other increase? Schaum's is quite elaborate about the descriptions of these energies, though other sources like my favorite learn-physics website, The Physics Classroom, are more user-friendly.

In my winter torpor, I sit motionless in front of the screen, reading physics blogs and science sites. This is not always helpful. When I read about the vastness of physics and astronomy and the other sciences, and the incredible amount of information, technology, and mathematics that these science types know, I feel like a small thing just poking its nose into their world. I am terribly impressed by complexity. It has a kind of power of its own. Will I ever get beyond these little high school equations? I must pay attention. They are fundamental.

Just a few days ago, I dragged myself home to find a colorful bag left at my door. Inside the bag was a set of DVD's and a note from an old friend and art client whom I had recently caught up with at a convention. I had mentioned my physics quest to her at the convention, and she said she would try to find resources for me. The DVD set was from The Teaching Company, which puts course lectures on DVD or video for home learners. The course she picked for me was: "Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos," taught by Steven Pollock of the University of Colorado at Boulder. My friend gave me this as a gift! The Teaching Company also has a DVD-based course in calculus which more than one of my Friendly Mathematicians has recommended to me. But for now, even if I don't have the math yet, I can learn about quanta, quarks, and leptons right here in my studio. It will be a good way to work through the rest of the winter.

Posted at 3:22 am | link

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