Some personal views on nanotechnology, science and science policy from Richard Jones
I’m off to the seaside. Normal service will resume in a couple of weeks.
There is a fairly active Surfing community in the UK. It was suggested at the sight at the sight of those waves the while they are not quite big enough, we are sure you can find some.
Lest anyone suppose that there is not a link between Surfing and Science besides the obvious one. Allow me to refer you to one of our ‘Mentors’, Erwin Schrodinger and his Surfboard.
Abstract: An essay by Steve Hawk focusing on Austrian surfer Erwin Schrodinger’s interpretation of the motion of physicist Louis de Broglie’s electron wave. Quantum mechanics; Nature as a great wave phenomenon; Electron as matter wave; Movement of surfable swells; Detection of by-product of sound and light waves’ oscillations.
Deep in his or her heart, every surfer believes that the act of riding a wave is somehow different from anything else a person can do. Not better, necessarily, just different. Something you can’t understand until you’ve tried it. Of course, the same could be said of skiing, or skydiving, or jamming a screwdriver up your nose. But I am convinced, as are most surfers, that there is something truly special about our sport, something that goes beyond the sun and the water and the babes on the beach. It has to do with the waves themselves.
When you catch a wave, you are being propelled by a phenomenon that plays a fundamental role (perhaps the fundamental role) in the way the universe works. Waves sit at the heart of the ninety-year-old debate that defines quantum mechanics: Should the subatomic world be regarded as matter or energy? Albert Einstein realized at the turn of this century that light waves sometimes behave like particles. Thirty years later another physicist, Louis de Broglie, alternately reasoned that electrons, always thought to be particles, sometimes behave like waves. But it was Erwin Schrodinger, an Austrian, who eventually won the hearts of surfers everywhere when he worked out the equation that accurately predicted the motion of De Broglie’s electron waves.
“The electron is not a particle, [Schrodinger] argued, it is a matter wave as an ocean wave is a water wave,” Heinz R. Pagels, the theoretical physicist, wrote in 1982.
“According to this interpretation… all quantum objects, not just electrons, are little waves—and all of nature is a great wave phenomenon.”
All of nature is a great wave phenomenon. If you surf, you have to like the sound of that.
In theory, the swells we surf are no different from the light waves that travel from Alpha Centauri to your eyeball. Once the wind kicks up a swell, ocean waves move with the predictability of billiard balls, abiding by the same mathematical principles that govern all waves. Like their high-speed counterparts, our waves come in a variety of frequencies and amptitudes. They can be focused, diffracted, refracted. They decay.
Of course, measured against other waves with which humans are familiar, surfable swells move like lumbering beasts. They are the Schrodinger equation writ large—abstract mechanical principles magnified from the subatomic to a scale even the Beach Boys could grasp. While sound waves travel at about 760 miles per hour and light waves at 186,000 miles per second, surfable ocean waves move a little faster than the average person can run.
With sound and light waves, we detect only a by-product of their oscillations. In the case of sound, a barrage of waves beats against your eardrum; your eardrum activates your auditory nerve; your auditory nerve sends a signal to your brain; your brain tells you to dance. Out in the surf, no such translation is needed. You can feet each undulation, each pulse of energy, as it moves through the universe.
With a little practice, you can ride it.
Have a great time discovering the Universe. Martin
Martin, that was brilliant. 😉
I just want to say “Whoooooa duuuude” 🙂
Thanks Martin – that’s very fine. The beaches we went to – in north Pembrokeshire – do indeed have good waves and a bit of a surfing scene. I’ve never surfed myself but the waves are hypnotic to look at, and I spent a bit of time with my 6 year old daughter just paddling in the shallows and feeling the force of the waves going past. We also went on a boat trip around an offshore island separated from the mainland by a narrow sound, through which a spectacular tide race runs. Where the tide race, which runs at 6 or 7 knots on the flood, meets a line of submerged rocks there’s a spectacular 6 foot standing wave.
To Zenith – The reason our program works as well as it does is its deep connection to the ocean. It is all very fine to ‘learn’ about the esoteric nature of Mathematics and the related Sciences, but to actually get out there an do it, in the ocean and see Mathematical ‘functions’ in action is something else again.
We have a 25’ Left which starts up at the end of September. If you can make it to Vancouver BC, we can get you the rest of the way.
To Richard – I subscribe to Drift [http://www.driftmagazine.co.uk/currentissue.asp] which is a UK online Surfing magazine taking full advantage of the power of the ‘net. I am glad you and yours enjoyed your vacation. It is important to relax and reconnect. When I walk of the site and head for the beach, people know better than to follow.
Standing wave are interesting phenomena, the most famous ones creating ‘Perfect Storms’. The whole Schrodinger analogy fits for many parts in the study of the Nano world, I look forward to the day when one of the crew exclaims ‘Hey, it looks like a surf wave!!’ while looking a a ‘Phenom’ image.
Sir, I’d be honored to ride those waves, enlightened by such a concept! 🙂
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