Jennifer Coopersmith ©2023 Two famous laws of physics are relevant to our understanding of the climate. The First Law concerns the conservation of energy, the Second Law concerns the distribution of that energy. Energy comes in different forms and can be inter-converted between these forms. Overall, it’s conserved (First Law) but the conversions prefer to … Continue reading Stratospheric Cooling and the Second Law
© Coopersmith 2018 The trouble with historians (including economic historians) is that they base their arguments on what has happened, not on what could happen. Physicists, on the other hand, no sooner have a theory than they are testing its limits – does it apply at higher speeds? in Outer Space? inside a Black Hole? … Continue reading What economics can learn from physics – the Principle of Least Societal Tension
© 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith The Edwardian seer and futurologist, H. G. Wells, wondered whether aircraft would ever be used commercially. He did the calculations and found that, yes, an airplane could be built and, yes, it would fly, but (he proclaimed) this would never be commercial – the amount of oil-based fuel required was far too … Continue reading Cars – are they a species?
© 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith Global Warming is a difficult idea in so many ways. Planet Earth doesn’t have ‘a temperature’, one figure that says it all. There are oceans, landmasses, ice, the atmosphere, day and night, and seasons. Also, the temperature of Earth never gets to equilibrium: just as it’s starting to warm up on the … Continue reading Global Warming – a very difficult, very simple idea
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith There is the beauty of a sunset, a rainbow, a perfect rose, a fractal pattern, and so on, but, in addition, there is the beauty of the scientific argument itself – logically compelling, spare, economical, yet explaining so much, and linking together previously unconnected facts into a grand unity. In other … Continue reading Science and Beauty
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith It is sometimes said that science is nothing but a refinement of common sense, but Einstein warns us that we must strive to overcome common sense and prejudice (a generalisation of novelist Evelyn Waugh’s idea that childhood is a trap, and each child must learn to escape from their own particular … Continue reading Science and common sense
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith Newton’s attraction or repulsion of point masses, in accordance with his Second Law of Motion, was one of the most momentous advances in physics – explaining such a wealth of phenomena (apples falling, the Moon orbiting the Earth, billiard ball collisions, and more) in just one way (a mass accelerating along … Continue reading Reductionism and Energy
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith The beautiful hand-in-hand advance of physics and mathematics is well known. For example, there was the (uncomfortable) discovery, by the Ancient Greeks, that some measurements led to ‘irrational’ numbers; and the differential calculus enabled the definition of instantaneous speed, without the need for division by zero. I would like to bring … Continue reading Physics and Mathematics
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith The historian of science, Henry Guerlac, wrote that science and mathematics were the chief cultural products of the French Revolution. If someone doesn’t know who painted the Mona Lisa, or when the French Revolution occurred, we consider them to be uncultured, but what if they know nothing of Newton’s Laws or … Continue reading Science and Culture
copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the efficiency of a ‘heat engine’ decreases if the temperature of the environment, the ‘heat sink’, is raised (even if the temperature of the heat source is raised by the same amount). Now the Second Law is a universal law, and every (macroscopic) … Continue reading Global Warming and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
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