Correlation CAN Imply Causation!

When analysing results in science we often look for something called ‘correlation’. This is a term that we give for a relationship or connection between two things. Finding and defining these relationships can be very useful to understand the way our world works.

However we can often fall into a trap, assuming that if there is a correlation, then that MUST mean one thing causes the other. Sometimes this is the case, for example there is a correlation between time spent driving a car and likelihood of a motor accident. Of course the more time you spend in a car, the higher the chance you may end up in a motor accident. This isn’t always the case though. Rather amusingly, there is a strong correlation between number of pirates and global average temperature (as number of pirates decrease, temperature rises). Now we can instantly tell this seems nonsense and is probably just a coincidence but other examples could be less clear.

To explain this further, the fantastic Youtuber’s at MinutePhysics produced this video which we thought we’d share!

Do Gravity and Quantum Theory mix?

Physics is often split into different fields to help us understand them. These range from Classical mechanics to Cosmology and include every area of physics research and understanding. Two of the most revolutionary fields in the last century are the fields of Gravity and Quantum Physics.

Einstein famously revolutionised our theories on gravity with his publications on relativity. He alongside scientists such as Planck, Lorentz, Poincare and Michelson from the basis of our understanding of relativity and gravity.

This desktop experiment could help probe one of the most mysterious transition points in modern physics research. Credit: Edward Laird

A few decades later de Broglie, Heisenberg, and Schrodinger among others built on previous work to formulate an approach known as quantum theory. While relativity, Newtonian mechanics and other similar fields dealt with the large scale machinations of the universe. The quantum realm was limited to the very small.

Both fields were shown to be testable, robust and have formed a vital part of our physics understanding for many years. However, they have never quite matched up and worked nicely together.  There appears to be a crossover point at a certain size that below which, things start to ignore Gravity and become governed by quantum mechanics.  The exact nature of this changeover has confused and confounded scientists for many years but we may be getting closer to investigate this in more detail.

A group of scientists in Oxford have just finished designing and building a device that hopes to probe this mysterious boundary to give us a better idea of what might be going on. It will likely  be a few months before results from this will be analysed and presented but these results could further help us understand the mysteries of the world around us.

For more information about the device and the science behind it, visit the announcement article here.

TIS: 40th anniversary of Wow! Signal

Today in Science: August 15th marks the 40th anniversary of the Wow! signal. This famous radio pulse was detected on Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope. It was a very strong 72 second long radio burst. The strength of this signal, along with its length caused scientists to determine that it was unlikely this signal came from Earth, and also had the possibility of not being naturally occurring. This got people considering whether we were alone in the universe. It was though that maybe this provided evidence of alien life.

In recent times it has been suggested that rather than aliens it could have been produced by hydrogen clouds surrounding comets. In the past these have produced similar signals. However, researchers at Big Ear have criticised this theory, stating that no comets were present at the time of the recording.

The Wow! signal represented as “6EQUJ5”. The original printout with Ehman’s handwritten exclamation.

Like the legend of the Phoenix

Hello and welcome to Physics for Idiots 2.0. After a long absence we realised that lots of you have been using our site and we thought you deserved better than what we already had. So the team decided that a redesign was in order and that is what we have done.

Currently we have simply ported the old content across and spruced it up but we don’t plan on stopping there. We have lots of plans to improve the site and the service we are providing to you guys. As we are in a state of flux we can’t guarantee smooth sailing but we are hoping that we have already ironed out most of the teething problems.

During this transition period we would love to here from the people who matter the most…you guys, after all you are the ones using the site and we want to make sure it works for you. We would love to hear your opinions of the redesign and any new features we add. We also want to open the site up to requests. Is there content missing you really want to see (we are currently working on new content) or is there a feature that you think will really help. Well let us know and we can look into it.

To get in contact with us regarding the new site we are implementing a new email address. You can direct all your feedback here: feedback@physicsforidiots.com

We hope you enjoy the new site and continue to enjoy this service.

Thank you for all your support so far.

The Physics for Idiots Team!

A site to help make science simpler.