Category Archives: Quantum Physics

Weasel Causes Large Hadron Collider Partical Accelerator to Shutdown

Cern’s famous particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, has recently gone offline due to a weasel.

When was the last time a tiny furry and curious animal short circuited a partical accelerator? A couple days ago.

Cern reported that the unfortunate event happened when a weasel chewed through a wire on a high-voltage transformer at their Geneva location. The BBC reports:

The LHC was running when a “severe electrical perturbation” occurred in the early hours of Friday morning.
A spokesman for Cern said that the weasel did not get into the tunnels, just the electrical facilities.

Read the full story here.

Sorry Nerds, There’s No Warp Drive

It makes for a sensational headline but NASA didn’t even come close to discovering warp technology.

The mechanism behind their fuel-free propulsion has no clear link to warping space-time. In fact, space-time is not proven or understood to exist as a material substance able to warp. It’s all nonsense. So what really happened?

Richard Feynman once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

You should have been suspicious when the story made the rounds on social media. The headlines were claiming NASA successfully tested something called the EM Drive. The EM drive is awesome, and it’s real science. It’s a propulsion engine doesn’t use propellant, which seems to violate the laws of physics by creating a reaction with no initial action.

First, let’s examine the actual finding. NASA has developed a hollow device that can be  pumped full of electromagnetic radiation which reflects back-and-forth, tapped inside the chamber, generates thrust, causing the device to accelerate in a direction based onthe shape of the chamber. You might ahve seen the story or similar reports over the last year because iterations of it have been built by Roger Shawyer (the EM Drive), one from a Chinese group led by Juan Yang, and one from Guido Fetta (the Cannae Drive), all claiming successful thrust. The stories on science news sites claim the acceleration created is caused by warped space of an Alcubierre Drive, the completely fictional “Star Trek” design.

Here are some problems. First off, none of the tests showed results from gadations in power. If this is a viable prototype for an engine, the science behind it hasn’t proven why a tiny acceleration in relation to a huge amount of relative power is worth any sort of real consideration for space travel. It’s a weak engine with no sign of how it can be scaled.

Secondly, the thrust they created is so small it might just be a mistake in mathematics or caused by an unknown factor, unrelated to warp tech. A true test requires an isolated environment, with atmospheric, gravitational and electromagnetic effects removed from the equation.

Thirdly, good science is reproducible. These tests lack a transparent design so no one else can verify that this actually works.
Finally, a real report has to be created that can be peer-reviewed and understood before irresponsibly publishing the claims.

Optimism of this sort, claiming to be able to put people on mars with a warp engine, is not scientifically valid. This latest group declared they have broken the previously-held laws of physics. They assume we can scale up and implement this engine for space propulsion just because of some questionably positive results. They claim to be distorting space, they claim they might be causing light to go faster by approximately 10^-18 m/s. They made these claims without actually proving them, and told the general public, spreading misinfo.

Harold “Sonny” White at NASA, has made extraordinary claims about warp drive in the past. He is totally the kind of guy who would jump to warp drive as a conclusion. There is nothing in NASA’s report that shows they’ve created a warp drive. Sorry, Star Trek and Star Wars fans. Most likely this is a public relations move to get America and the world science communities more excited about space travel and science education.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Why is it so difficult to think in Higher Dimensions?

Humans can only perceive three dimensional space but theoretical math works out just fine when manipulating objects in four or more spacial dimensions. Mathematicians, scientists and philosophers still debate whether higher spacial dimensions actually exist.

It’s hard to imagine higher dimensions. Even one additional spatial dimension is hard to see with your inner mind’s eye. If you want to imagine six, seven or eight spacial dimensions it isn’t just hard – no one’s even truly conceptualized hyperspace. It’s what makes the subject compelling but also what makes it frustrating to talk about. The examples theorists are able to use to help people “visualize” what can’t be seen must work within human limitations, and are thus second and third dimensional examples of a higher dimensional concept or object.

“Wait a second,” some of you are wondering, “Isn’t TIME the fourth dimension?”
This article is about spacial dimensions only. Personally, I agree with Amrit Sorli and Davide Fiscaletti’s work which I feel adequately proves that time is NOT a spacial dimension. If you want to debate this issue further, you can read my reasoning in my follow up piece, Time: fourth dimension or nah?, also available on

One of the most basic exercises in multidimensional theory is to imagine moving in a fourth. The distance between you and everything around you stays the same but in some fourth dimension you are moving. Most people can’t truly do this imagination game because there in nothing in our three spacial dimensions to compare the experience to.


In the famous book about spacial dimensions, Flatland, living, two-dimensional beings existed in a universe that was merely two dimensions.  A being with three dimensions, such as a sphere, would appear as a circle able to change circumference as it moved through a third dimension no one in flatland has ever conceptualized.

Humans evolved to notice changes in our three-dimensional environment, inheriting our ancestors ability to conceptualize space in three dimensions as a hardwired trait that actually stops us from conceptualizing other aspects of reality that might nonetheless  exist. Other people see hyperspace as a theoretical construct of mathematics that doesn’t describe anything in reality, pointing to the lack of evidence of other dimensions.

Tesseracts Predate Computer-assisted Modelling.

A Tesseract. Many people in the advanced math classrooms of my generation of high school students struggled to wrap their heads around tesseracts without moving diagrams. If a picture is worth a thousand words are we talking animated gifs and words used to describe three dimensional space or should we make up a new saying?

We are able to conceptualize three dimensions in the abstract when we watch TV, look at a painting, or play a video-game. Anytime we look at a screen we watch a two dimensional image from a point outside that dimension. Having an outside point of view for a three dimensional space could give us a way to artificially understand a higher spatial dimension. Until that time comes, we are sort of stuck explaining fourth dimensions by demonstrating how it would look on a two dimensional screen which we view from a third dimensional viewpoint.

It’s kind of like imagining “one million”; you can prove it mathematically to yourself, you can count to it and you know how valuable it is but you can’t truly picture one million of anything. Trying to explain this conceptualization problem with words is pretty tough because your brain is not equipped to handle it. Humans try to wrap their minds around it and dream up ways to explain hyperspace to each other anyways.

4D Rubix Puzzle

A rubix cube is particularly compelling as a multi-dimensional teaching tool, because it puts spacial dimensions in the abstract in the first place, and then gives the cube the ability to change the dimensional orientation of a third of it’s mass. It’s hard to wrap your head around a normal three dimensional rubix puzzle. By adding another dimension and using the same principle, one can ALMOST imagine that fourth spacial dimension. Most people can’t solve a three dimensional Rubix puzzle but if you think you are ready for the fourth dimension, you can download it and play it on your two dimensional screen, here: Magic Cube 4D

If you don’t think you’re ready to try and solve that puzzle but you want to know more you can watch this roughly 1/2 hour video about it:


While Miegakure is still under development, it’s set for release in 2015. Interactive games like this can spur collaborative thinking from a larger pool of collaborators – and make game developers tons of money.

If you want something a little less abstract than Rubix, check out this prototype for Miegakure, the surreal PlayStation 4 game that lets the user explore a four dimensionally capable world through three dimensional spaces that connect to each other through higher dimensions. It’s a great idea that makes everyone have the initial thought of wondering how the heck they coded it. Then the idea sinks in and you realize they wrote the code first and played with the visual manifestation as they went. It’s a great metaphor for the idea in the first place; begins as a concept rather than an observation. The essence of the argument against hyperspace actually existing is the lack of physical evidence. Unlike a ghost story or a spiritual, religious attempt to explain the supernatural, there is actually mathematical evidence that seems to make higher dimensions possible. It has logical evidence as opposed to empirical data. There are ways to observe without using human senses but it’s difficult to prove an observation of something the majority of humans have trouble even seeing with their mind’s eye, so to speak.

One day we might be able to use technology to increase our understanding of this abstract concept, and manipulate an entirely new kind of media. For now we are stuck with two and three dimensional visual aids and an mental block put in place by aeons of evolution.

 Read More about Hyperspace on!
Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

The Ancient Technology of Mirrors

Mirrors out perform most modern image technologies in terms of resolution, efficiency and user experience.

The technology to understand and manipulate light took centuries to develop, and happened independently across many different cultures. Mirrors have helped to shape the modern human mind while also furthering our understanding of math and science. They are an impressive holdover from the analogue age that doesn’t require electricity yet can produce replicated, moving images at a resolution higher than the human eye can perceive. Cosmoso takes a look at the history of this uniquely high tech piece of our global, human ancestry.

Developing Reflective Tech Before Recorded History

Like a lot of ancient technologies, people were able to develop and perfect image reflection without fully understanding the principles and materials they were manipulating. Creating a mirror in a time before modern science took different paradigms of understanding, such as alchemy, superstition and religious belief.

Human technologies are often inspired by nature. Our ancestors often pondered the meaning of the reflective properties they no doubt noticed in pools of water. When water is flowing, falling or otherwise in turmoil, the light it reflects is scattered but a calm pool of water with a dark surface below it shows a reflection.

Technologies often lead to further inspiration, and the advent of metal smelting and the discovery of glass and crystal lead to a variety of reflective properties humans were able to control. Archeologists have found man made mirrors made of polished obsidian, a natural volcanic glass dated back to 6000 BC in ancient Turkey.

Thousands of years after stone reflective mirrors were created, mirrors made of polished copper were made by ancient Mesopotamians dated to 4000 BC, one thousand years before Egyptians discovered copper smelting and discovered copper reflection on their own, at about 3000 before Christ.

Other types of polished stone mirrors have been found in Central and South America much later around 2000 BC. Ancient Americans developed tech on a later timeline because the land was developed later in the planet’s history by nomadic people who often abandoned technology to live off the land while nomadically exploring previously uninhabited lands.


In times when the only access to your own reflection was an enigmatic piece of polished obsidian, the sense of self was a psychological leap away from modern man’s. Obsidian mirrors were used by various cultures to scry or predict the future, and mirrors of stone were thought to possess magic powers.

Chinese Technology: Far Ahead of the West

Around the time when the Americas were still developing stone technologies, bronze mirrors were being manufactured in 2000 BC China. China was very technologically developed at this time, and able to smelt and create a variety of metals, compounds and amalgams, including a bronze. There are many archeological finds attributed by forensics to Chinese “Qijia” culture. Proprietary secrets forced mirror tech to diverge, and it’s possible to find examples of mirrors made from various metal alloys such as copper and tin, at the same time other parts of Asia were still simply polishing copper smelted from the earth.  The tin, copper alloy found in China and India is called speculum metal, which would have been very expensive to produce in it’s time.

mirror-03-238x300Speculum metal coated mirrors brought such a high analogue resolution that people could understand what they looked like, which affected fashion and hairstyles but also began to affect other artforms like dancing and martial arts. Philosophical concepts such as duality, other worlds and multiplicity were suddenly easy to explain via analogy with the help of a mirror.

Manipulation of one’s own facial expression, slight of hand and other practiced mannerisms were now able to be studied and documented, creating new layers to the fabric of civilization.

For all of this cultural development, there was no scientific analyzation of why a mirror worked or the light it was reflecting. Before mirror technology could be advanced, there needed to be written, thoughtful investigation of why the tech worked in the first place. This was a slow process in any ancient tech but in a time before light waves and chemistry was understood, it was extremely slow. The earliest written work studying the way light reflects came from Diocles, a Greek mathematician and author of On Burning Mirrors who lived 240 BC – c. 180 BC. Illiteracy and language barriers slowed the technological development of concave and convex curved mirrors another few hundred years.greek math

Mathematics and mirrors will always have a reciprocal relationship, with math and science allowing humanity to dream up new ways of manipulating light and mirrors allowing that manipulation to inspire new questions and explanations. What was once considered magic became the study of the world we inhabit as  technology took root in the physical and psychological world humans are trapped in.

Another technological breakthrough happened in ancient Lebanon when metal-backed glass mirrors were finally invented, first century AD. Roman author Pliny wrote his famous work, “Natural History” in 77 AD, where he mentions gold-leafed glass mirrors, though none from that time have survived. Most Roman mirrors were glass coated with lead which might have used the same technological process and just been much cheaper than gold.

ptolemy's optics

Discovering the text On Burning Mirrors, Greco-Egyptian writer, Ptolemy, began to experiment with curved polished iron mirrors. He was able to peak the interest of wealthy benefactors and study with impunity. His writings discuss plane, convex spherical, and concave spherical mirrors. This was circa 90 AD. The image above describes light passing through a cylindrical glass of water.

Silvered Glass & the Modern Age:

Silver-mercury amalgams were found in archeological digs and antique collections dating back to 500 AD China. Renaissance Europeans traded with the known world, perfecting a tin-mercury amalgam and developing the most reflective surfaces known until the 1835 invention of silvered-glass mirrors. Historical records seem to credit German chemist Justus von Liebig with silvered glass but glassworkers guild records obscure the story behind it. Silvered glass coats metallic silver on the back of the reflective glass by utilizing silver nitrate in the dawning of applied chemistry. Silver is expensive but the layer is so thin, and the process so reliable that affordable mirrors began to show up in working class households across the planet ever since.


Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

“Many Interactive Worlds” Quantum Theory Still Doesn’t Make Sense

A lot of people really want alternate universes to make sense but they don’t. It makes for great sci fi and it’s a fun thought experiment, but alternate universes might be based on too much assumption to be considered good science: back in October, 2014, Wiseman and Deckert suggested a new take on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory: Many Interactive Worlds. It’s hard to see what sets their work apart from predecessors.

You can read more about misinterpreted implications of quantum mechanics: Your Interpretation of Quantum Physics is Probably Wrong

I was initially excited by their work, published Winter 2014, but the more I read about the Many Worlds Interpretation the less I bought it. Quantum theory is hard for most people to understand, which makes sifting through conflicting theories and rationalizations a daunting task. I’m going to try and be concise but thorough in my critique of Wiseman and Deckert’s work. I’m sure they are fine people and they’ve certainly put a lot of thought into a very abstract, difficult concept.


First let me get this superficial complaint out of the way: Wiseman and Deckert seem to have just dropped the word “interpretation” from their interpretation. Why? well it certainly wasn’t for clarity’s sake. The Many Worlds Interpretation and Many Interacting Worlds have awkwardly similar acronyms, MWI and MIW. Because quantum theory isn’t confusing enough~!

The Many Worlds Interpretation was the work of Hugh Everett III back in  1957. It gets called the parallel universe theory, the alternate universe theory, and the “many universes” interpretation. It comes back up in science fiction periodically but most quantum physicists don’t count it as a viable explanation of quantum mechanics’ many unanswered questions. Everett postulated all  possible outcomes happen causing reality to branch at each decision or quantum observation, creating infinite parallel universes as more an more branches are formed. Everett imagined the observer splitting into what he described as “clones” who live in the different universes. It’s really easy now, in 2015, for a version of the Many Worlds Interpretation to gain traction, because so many people are familiar with the concept from decades of science fiction examples.

So Wiseman and Deckert didn’t make up the idea of multiple universes. What are they saying is different about their new interpretation? In the Everettian model, universes branch off like a tree, never to meet again. Wiseman and Deckert describe a multiverse where particles seem to be able to influence each other and interact despite existing in separate universes. It makes a more classically physical math work out in the examples they chose. Many Interactive Worlds explains “Ehrenfest’s theorem, wave packet spreading, barrier tunneling, and zero-point energy—as a direct consequence of mutual repulsion between worlds.”

The equation they provided can successfully calculate quantum ground states and explains the notorious double-slit interference phenomenon. It sounds so impressive that most science news outlets ran with it despite there being absolutely no evidence of these other universes.

So the Griffith University academics turned heads but they kind of sidestepped the work of many foundational aspects of quantum science.  Physical Review X published the work, which is basically a proposal that parallel universes not only exist, but that they constantly interact. They explain this interaction as a force of repulsion between alternate universes. Their equations show this type of an interaction explains some of the most bizarre parts of quantum mechanics – and that is a mathematical breakthrough. It just doesn’t really have any explanation of what this “force of repulsion” is or how it can be measured. They are basically talking about philosophy, not science, but it’s really hard to prove them wrong because it’s so complicated and most people want a solution to the century of unexplainable quantum dynamics.
The bottom line: There is still no experimental evidence to support any multiple universe model, and the Many Interactive World interpretation didn’t change that.
Update: I found a video that explains my point~! Check it out.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY