Physics and Science
Physics. My Roots. I left and came back - more than once. Now I am in an infinite loop of sorts.
Theoretical Physics purges the mind. It makes me a better engineer and hacker - though my engineering and hacking does not require a lot of true physics.
I am fascinated by the complexity of the seemingly simple and mundane. Classical statistical mechanics and thermodynamics is as weird and quantum mechanics - and much underappreciated.
Physics I do: Heat transfer, thermodynamics, and energy storage.
Physics I am also interested in: Quantum Field Theory, General Relativity.
Physics I was trained in: Solid state physics, optics, lasers, superconductivity, engineering thermodynamics.
Heat Conduction Cheat Sheet (2018-09-24)
Temperature waves – simulating yearly and daily oscillations in the temperature below the surface of the earth or near wall/floor of our ice/water tank. Stationary solutions – to assess the heat transport between pipes and the medium they are immersed in, like the tubes making up the heat exchanger in the tank or the solar/air collector.
Infinite Loop: Theory and Practice Revisited. (2018-06-10)
Learning: Physics, computer science, and engineering. Formal education versus hands-on tinkering. I do have the former, but still think my actual education happens via the latter.
Physicist, walking down the stack (2018-05-02)
One more attempt at describing what I am up to: Physics and IT - revisited.
Can the Efficiency Be Greater Than One? (2018-04-09)
What is efficiency actually? The ratio of an output and an input energy – however these may be defined arbitrarily, and input and output are determined also by economics, not only by physics. So the answer is actially: Yes! I provide a non-exhaustive collection of examples.
Consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2018-03-03)
Most textbooks introduce Carnot’s cycle by calculating energies for an ideal gas – but the efficiency would not change if the substance was not 'ideal' in the sense that the equation of state – p(V,T) – were different. Motivated by a paper about Carnot’s efficiency for a machine using Van der Waals gas, I calculated the efficiency for a more general class of substances. But looking at Carnot’s process in a temperature-entropy diagram would have been sufficient. I found it intriguing how strong the constraints are that the laws of thermodynamics impose on the properties of materials – so that these functions of state conspire to result in the infamoue rectangle in the T-S plane.
The Heat Source Paradox (2018-01-19)
"A simple relation between a heat pump system’s key data; yet used in a misleading way in adverts: The worse the performance is, the smaller the heat source can be built."
Simulating Life-Forms (2): Cooling Energy (2017-11-28)
I found an incredibly detailed research report by the Australian government – about energy use in private homes, by appliance and purpose. It confirms my reluctance to 'predict' cooling energy as usage of air conditioning depends strongly on life-style choices.
Just going back to basics – how do the famous physicists introduce entropy and statistical mechanics in general?
The Collector Size Paradox (2017-11-01)
‘Collector harvest’ does not change much if we only use half the collector. Perhaps counter-intuitive but explained by the characteristics of heat exchangers connected in series: Especially if one of the heat exchangers (in the tank or collector) is already much superior to the other one, it does not help to optimize the good one further.
Tinkering, Science, and (Not) Sharing It (2017-09-17)
That moment when you realize that your tinkering with PVC piping is actually science. Getting nostalgic about my nerdy childhood hobbies.
Simulations: Levels of Consciousness (2017-08-17)
Getting philosophical – what is a simulation (of our heat pump system), and what are the challenges? For modern buildings, simulating 'user behaviour' can be as critical as simulating 'physics' and control logic.
Heat Transport: What I Wrote So Far. (2017-07-14)
A list of all my blog posts focussing on heat transport, plus short summaries: Heat transfer and energy storage in our heat pump system, in ground, in ice. Analytical solutions versus numerical simulations versus maverick’s heuristics.
I am trying to learn from my own articles on physics - after more than five years of 'science blogging'. I surprised myself.
Spheres in a Space with Trillions of Dimensions (2017-06-17)
Nearly all the volume of an N-ball with a large number of dimensions is concentrated in an extremely thin shell below its surface. Boring textbook stuff – but I found this particularly intriguing in my first encounters with statistical mechanics a long time ago.
You Never Know (2017-05-25)
… when obscure knowledge comes in handy!
Subversive? Physics? (2017-05-07)
Next iteration: What's the purpose of this site? This site has more or less the same article over and over again - perhaps in disguise and interlaced with technical notes.
Meta thoughts on my life-long re-learning of phyiscs, triggered by an article about psychological research: Corporate speak makes you dumber, thus I needed to replace it by mathematical derivations.
Simulating Peak Ice (2017-05-02)
Continued from last post – comparing measurements of the level in the tank with simulations of the evolution of the volume of ice. Simulations comprise a model of the control logic, the varying performance factor of the heat pump, heat transport in ground, and energy balances for the hot and cold tanks, and the heat exchangers connected in series. Simulated maximum volume is just 0,7m3 greater than the measured volume, and the true plateau of ice (for about two weeks) is modeled correctly.
Mr. Bubble Was Confused. A Cliffhanger. (2017-04-08)
Our automated level sensor underestimated the volume of ice in the melting phase. In the coldest January since 30 years Mr. Bubble ware driven over the edge. He had to deal with a cliff … of ice.
Ice Storage Hierarchy of Needs (2017-02-22)
Mulling upon ‘Peak Ice’ in our heat pump system – and detailed simulations versus simple energy accounting. Why the maximum volume of ice obtained in a season depends sensitively on the properties of ground and the collector.
A physicist’s musings about the unit used to characterize solar panels’ peak power: kWp.
'Hands-on example: Learning theoretical physics as a hobby. Describing once more, perhaps in an even more obscure way, what a 'personal' impact theoretical physics might have.
Learning General Relativity (2016-12-03)
Latest physics self-study project – my list of resources and why I picked them.
An invention – an answer to: Can a compression heat pump be built in a completely different way? Yes, the pressure gradient can be created by centrifugal forces!
Re-Visiting Carnot's Theorem (2016-09-18)
From the theory department: Why can’t there be any heat pump / heat engine better than Carnot’s reversible machine? A closer look at the proof by contradiction.
Alien Energy (2016-04-15)
Our photovoltaic generator is up and running for nearly a year. In this post I analyze the most remarkable day – as per our data logging, when we got nearly the generator’s rated power in mid-winter. Re-visiting the impact of temperature on output power, and the 'focusing' / 'edge of clouds' effect.
On the impact of physics on my life (2016-03-12)
Some changes and random musings: On my Research Notes (formerly known as blog about anything). In praise of physics: How theoretical physics made me better tech troubleshooter.
Re-visting heat transport and heat diffusion length, this time only analyzing dimensional relationships. I introduce the concept of dimensional analysis by answering the question: How does the speed of a rowing boat depend in the number of rowers?
You need to get a feeling for numbers 'in renewable energy' - and it more than baffles me when authors of click-bait articles don't bother to the most basic cross-checks. It seems we lost the feel for 'what can power what' when engines replaces horses and humans.
Temperature Waves and Geothermal Energy (2016-01-22)
Solution of the Heat Equation, based on the simple assumption of a harmonically varying surface temperautre, plus a superimposed geothermal gradient. The results can be used for cross-checking the value of the thermal diffusivity of ground.
An account of the 19th century invention, based on the original German research reports.
Heat Pump System Data: Three Seasons 2012 - 2015 (2015-09-29)
Brief summary of last season's performance, plus back-of-the-envelope estimate of economics: Heat pump versus natural gas, based on costs of energy in Austria.
Finally two science geeks did a careful experiment - proving that vortices on either hemisphere rotate in different directions. I just like to point to a pioneer who did such an experiment long before the social media era - in 1908.
An Efficiency Greater Than 1? (2015-06-01)
The Coefficient of Performance of a heat pump is much greater than 1 which is due to the definition, omitting input 'ambient energy'. The rather high factor gives proof of the fact that heat pumps operate well above absolute zero.
How to Evaluate a Heat Pump's Performance? (2015-04-21)
Definitions of performance indicators and how to determine them – comparing alternative methods, based on sensors available (Coefficient of Performance / Seasonal Performance Factor). Bonus: Cute math puzzle as the comparison boils down to: When is the ratio of averages equal to the average of ratios.
Ice Storage Challenge: High Score! (2015-04-01)
At the beginning of February we had turned off the solar collector to mimic a harsher winter. The ice cube, generated by our heat pump since then, stopped growing at about 15m3. About 10m3 of water remained unfrozen. Toying with theories about heat transport ...
Solar power and the impact of a solar eclipse. Soon we will contribute - our PV generator has already been ordered.
A Sublime Transition (2015-02-14)
Phase transitions between water, vapor, and ice: Last winter’s viral trend of freezing boiling water in mid-air, and discovering that scientists discuss such effects to this day.
A simplified simulation based on historical weather data: How large should this tank be so that it would hardly ever freeze completely in typical Eastern Austrian winters?
Physics, Science, Engineering, and a Lot of Fun (2014-12-17)
In overly correct legalese, my job titles according to our business licences are 1) Consulting Engineer in Applied Physics and 2) IT Consultant.
Engineering Links (2014-12-14)
Ressources I often use.
Being Creative with What Is Available (2014-11-27)
Build something from anything and to use whatever tool is at hand! Refers to anything we ever did or built - in the physics lab, as software developers, on designing the heat pump system.
All Kinds of Turbines (2014-10-16)
Again some back-of-the-envelope cross-checks, this time related to hydro power.
Pumped Heat from the Tunnel (2014-10-04)
Summary of a press release that announced a EU 'Smart City' project. Cross-check of numbers for a large heat pump system. The heat source is water from a tunnel.
On the arcane nature of pipework, path integrals, and public key infrastructure.
Grim Reaper Does a Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation (2014-06-22)
Some crude estimates related to the physics of scything - and why it might be so exhausting.
An alternative way of understanding SR - found in my favorite ancient text book.
Why is fluid dynamics hard? Where does that infamous non-linearity sneak in?
Why I read theoretical physics textbooks in the morning.
This Year in Books: Biographies, Science, Essays. (2013-12-31)
My pick of favorite books read in 2013. I am hardly capable of reviewing books but I tend to pick books in order to answer a specific question.
'Student Friendly Quantum Field Theory' (2013-12-22)
Review of Robert Klauber's excellent book.
Using Social Media in Bursts. Is. Just. Normal. (2013-12-02)
On modelling the behavior of so-called intelligent life-forms using analogies from physics, and how that matches my anecdotal experience.
Mastering Geometry is a Lost Art (2013-11-25)
On Newton's geometrical proof of Kepler's laws.
Following up on the puzzle - and correcting my earlier proposal. Epic comments!
Learning Physics, Metaphors, and Quantum Fields (2013-11-04)
A bit of path integrals and symmetries, introduced by lengthy ramblings on metaphors in physics.
Since my post on phase space was appreciated nearly only by physicists and mathematician, I have tried again - starting from a metaphor concerned with Austrian politics.
I tried to explain Quantization using an uncalled for detour through phase space, pop-sci chaos theory memes and indulging in statistical mechanics.
is a summary of what is popularized often, wave-particle etc., but I add some field theory at the end - and I start from a very down-to-earth field.
On Science Communication (2013-09-23)
Some anecdotes about my not having become a science popularizer though I probably was nonetheless.
Why I believe that classical mechanics is as geeky as Quantum Theory - just view it through the lenses of an alternative, more spooky, mathematical representation.
Science: Explain, Evaluate, Utilize (2013-09-16)
Explaining science and technology is my passion and my mission - as a physicist, engineer and IT expert.
The trailer of the series on Quantum Field Theory.
Greatest Innovation Ever (2013-09-04)
Thoughts on the power grid - tangentially related to heat pumps that are often considered sort of buffer that will help to stabilize the smart grid (via demand side management).
On methods from physics applied to other fields, sprinkled with autobiographical vignettes.
Not about physics - but about logical consistency of time-travel movies. Should be part of the internet's consciousness.
Philosophy Degrees are Undervalued (2013-04-07)
This is a vain and self-servicing reblog. I really like the figures in this post...
The Falling Slinky and Einstein's Elevator (2013-04-03)
It's fascinating that it is not easy to explain seemingly mundane classical mechanics!
On Coriolis force.
Intuition and the Magic of the Gyroscope - Reloaded (2013-03-13)
Reloaded: It seems that gyroscope is one of the most searched for terms on this blog. I dish what you long for, readers!
Physics / Math Puzzle: Where Is the Center of Mass? (2013-02-09)
An intriguing puzzle and my first (later corrected) proposal of a solution.
I could not resist to just let the hype about negative temperatures pass by.
Trading in IT Security for Heat Pumps? Seriously? (2013-01-22)
Personal essay on career transitions - PKI and heat pumps.
Why Fat Particles Radiate Less (2013-01-06)
Thinking about the LHC - though some of my Facebook friends found better interpretations of this title.
Joule, Thomson, and the birth of big science (2013-01-03)
This is a reblogged post:
A brief summary of the differences between Quantum Mechanics (think: Schrödinger's Cat and Wave-Particle-Dualism) and why we need QFT.
The First Heat Pump Ever Was Built in Austria (2012-12-10)
History on engineering - set in my home country.
Quick primer on interpretations of quantum mechanics - and why I consider it problematic to use 'philosophical terms' in physics.
The Dark Side Was Strong in Me (2012-11-26)
From academia to IT.
Are We All Newtonians? (2012-11-20)
How intuition may fail us, even when dealing with alleged simple classical mechanics.
Microwave Ovens Are Not Rodent-Ready (2012-11-16)
One of the top posts on this blogs. I am happy to help out fellow netizens with their issues with mice in microwaves.
Physicist, Philosopher, and Engineer (2012-11-12)
A brilliant cartoon - how could I not relate to it.
Science and Me. Torture Turning Trivia. (2012-11-02)
I am flooding the whole world wide web with my musings on science - but it seems a point of equilibrium has been reached.
Einstein and His Patents (2012-11-02)
... his refrigerator patent in particular.
I missed the most amazing light bulb's birthday - the least thing I could do was to write a post.
Physics on the Fringe (2012-10-18)
and other books on 'outsider science'
Physics Paradoxers and Outsiders (2012-10-04)
My take on fringe science, inspired by Margaret Wertheim's book Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything.
Reconcile All This (Goals of This Blog) (2012-09-30)
Should probably have been: Goal of My Life.
I Did Normal Science (2012-09-21)
Not a problem unless you have somewhat unrealistic expectations of the paradigm-shifting work you are going to do. Re: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Kuhn.
The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics (2012-09-05)
Do we understand the gyroscope really? Marveling at Feynman's explanation and new(!) papers on explaining it.
Trying to demonstrate that classical mechanics is geekier than you think, borrowing terminology from Richard Feynman.
Unification of Two Phenomena Well Known (2012-08-12)
Electrical and magnetic fields are actually two aspects of the same thing (special relativity).
Why Do Heat Pumps Pump Energy so Easily? (2012-05-10)
Brief (yes, really) explanation how a heat pump works.
Stupid Questions and So-Called Intuition (2012-04-29)
On many things physics, but also explaining (sort of) why I enjoy re-learning physics.
Anatomy of a Decision (1) (2012-04-11)
Re-considering career paths.
I neither Met Newton nor Einstein (2012-03-28)
How I remember academia.. Re: The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin.
Real Physicists Do Not Read Popular Science Books (2012-03-25)
Are pop-sci books useful?
Physics Links (2012-03-10)
List of resources started in 2012 and updated frequently.
Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge (2011-01-02)
I have always wondered why my English articles about science, career (and the universe and everything) have a different tone than my German ones.
Trying to refute the ancient, nostalgic German articles on science and me, by playing the cool and sober professional.