I have been blogging 'seriously' about physics since 2012. My motivation has been a blend of jotting down notes on interesting things I've just found, conveying my decades-old fascination with some phenomena, trying my hands at popular science writing, and reporting on my own research.
Today I am asking myself - did I learn anything from that on a meta level? To read myself, I am re-arranging the list of my physics posts and sort them by topic and sub-topic. The list says it all, I think.
I wanted to write about quantum mechanics, but it seems I was always most intrigued by classical mechanics, statistical mechanics, and thermodynamics. The latter has become my true home in physics - which has come as a surprise to myself. Yes, thermodynamics is my specialization, but years ago I rather figured that this is my job, and I rather want to follow the latest news on quantum information and particle theory in my spare time. It turned out that I am more interested in history of physics and in the evolution of concepts that are now 'well known'.
My recurring meta-topic is that classical mechanics / thermo can be as interesting, 'geeky' if you wish, mathematically 'weird', and surprising as fields that seem to be more popular.
This list may remain a static snapshot. I am editing the chronological list of my physics posts here on the blog. This list might lseem to lack some of my more applied / engineering postings, re our heat pump system and data. These are here.
(Voice from the future: Soon there will no separate 'blog' and 'website' anymore - all is being united and merged...
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
Concepts and foundations
Random Thoughts on Temperature and Intuition in Thermodynamics
Time evolution of systems in phase space: On the Relation of Jurassic Park and Alien Jelly Flowing through Hyperspace.
Phase-space in depth: Hyper-Jelly – Again. Why We Need Hyperspace – Even in Politics.
Carnot’s efficiency, irreversibility, proof by contradiction, paradoxes: Re-Visiting Carnot’s Theorem.
Mathematics used in statistical mechanics: Spheres in a Space with Trillions of Dimensions.
Heat pump basics
Brief explanation, absolute temperature:
Why Do Heat Pumps Pump Energy so Easily?
Coefficient of Performance of a heat pump: An Efficiency Greater Than 1?
Cross-check of numbers for a large heat pump system: Pumped Heat from the Tunnel
COP versus Performance Factor: How to Evaluate a Heat Pump’s Performance?
Energy accounting, economics: Heat Pump System Data: Three Seasons 2012 – 2015.
Heat conduction, diffusivity, latent heat:
Storage Challenge: High Score!
Heat conduction, heat equation: Temperature Waves and Geothermal Energy.
Heat diffusion length: Rowboats, Laser Pulses, and Heat Energy (Boring Title: Dimensional Analysis).
Simple version, daily energy balances:
More Ice? Exploring Spacetime of Climate and Weather.
Heat transport, energy balances. Simulations versus simple energy accounting: Ice Storage Hierarchy of Needs.
Detailed version: Heat exchangers, heat equation, 1-minute time slots: Simulating Peak Ice.
Thermodynamics and energy basics, dimensional analysis
kW and kWh.
No, You Cannot ‘Power Your Home’ by One Hour of Cycling Daily.
Phase transitions, ideal gas law (pressure sensor) Mr. Bubble Was Confused. A Cliffhanger.
kWp, power, energy, energy flow: On Photovoltaic Generators and Scattering Cross Sections.
History and inventions
Einstein’s Refrigerator and other inventions:
Einstein and His Patents
Centennial light bulb, sustainability: 111 Years: A Shining Example of Sustainable Product Development?
Checking 19th century papers: Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump).
Phase transitions of water, Mpemba effect: A Sublime Transition.
By an Austrian start-up – pressure gradient created by centrifugal forces: And Now for Something Completely Different: Rotation Heat Pump!
(I realize that some of my articles in the 'engineering' category would also qualify for this sub-category History. For example: I wrote a - less detailed - post on Rittinger's steam pump before. But part of the fun with these list is that you have to take those hard decisions of tagging ...)
Classical Mechanics and Fluid Dynamics
Equations of motion and Lagrangian formalism
Principle of Least Action.
Sniffing the Path (On the Fascination of Classical Mechanics)
Equation of motion, intuition in physics: Are We All Newtonians?
Motion of a falling slinky spring: The Falling Slinky and Einstein’s Elevator.
Principle of Least Action, again – extended version: Space Balls, Baywatch and the Geekiness of Classical Mechanics.
From Newton’s Law to Navier-Stokes Equations: Non-Linear Art. (Should Actually Be: Random Thoughts on Fluid Dynamics).
Estimates related to the physics of scything:
Grim Reaper Does a Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation.
Back-of-the-envelope cross-checks, hydro power: All Kinds of Turbines.
Torque, forces, precession, nutation.
The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics.
Another way to explain how the gyroscope works: Intuition and the Magic of the Gyroscope
Coriolis force (1): The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush:
Coriolis force (2). Lest We Forget the Pioneer: Ottokar Tumlirz and His Early Demo of the Coriolis Effect.
Physics and geometry
My first (later corrected) proposal of a solution:
Physics / Math Puzzle: Where Is the Center of Mass?
Correcting my earlier proposal: Revisiting the Enigma of the Intersecting Lines and That Pesky Triangle.
Newton’s geometrical proof of Kepler’s laws: Mastering Geometry is a Lost Art.
Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory
Interpretations of quantum mechanics:
Is It Determinism if We Can Calculate Probabilities Exactly?
Quantum Mechanics versus QFT: Quantum Field Theory or: It’s More Than a Marble Turned into a Wiggly Line.
Started a series: And Now for Something Completely Different: Quantum Fields!
Summary on QM: May the Force Field Be with You: Primer on Quantum Mechanics and Why We Need Quantum Field Theory
Quantization – starting from statistical mechanics: On the Relation of Jurassic Park and Alien Jelly Flowing through Hyperspace.
Path integrals and symmetries: Learning Physics, Metaphors, and Quantum Fields.
Book review: Student Friendly Quantum Field Theory.
Electromagnetism and special relativity
Unification of Two Phenomena Well Known.
Charged particles lose energy when accelerating: Why Fat Particles Radiate Less.
An alternative way of understanding SR: How to Introduce Special Relativity (Historical Detour).
List of resources: Learning General Relativity.
Using physics-like methods in economics and sociology
Networking theory, instabilities:
Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Physics with Anything
E-Mails and communications: Using Social Media in Bursts. Is. Just. Normal.
‘Philosophical’: Learning physics, culture
On trying to explain physics without math:
Real Physicists Do Not Read Popular Science Books
Re The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smoli:. I neither Met Newton nor Einstein
On learning physics. Stupid Questions and So-Called Intuition.
Re Margaret Wertheim’s Physics on the Fringe Physics Paradoxers and Outsiders.
Physics as Therapy (1) In Praise of Textbooks with Tons of Formulas (or: The Joy of Firefighting).
Physics as Therapy (2) Ploughing Through Theoretical Physics Textbooks Is Therapeutic.
Time to poetry-size articles on this website again! As usual, I google for this site - using site:elkement.subversiv.at/en - and take one continuous, unedited snippet from each of the linked pages. Search results must be processed in the order Google shows them, and they must not be re-arranged later.
the Existence of the Matrix AKA Corporate World
I had literally been asked
Who will take care of my dear website in 200 years?
run off to the restrooms at a party
As all stressed managers and other pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago
Algorithms loom large
look more like a placeholder
I am trying to learn the terminology
Off-the-wall geek humor versus existential philosophical questions
But I was penalized for all this.
Don't think about it too long!
While I gravitated against quantum theory
what I had had in mind but never did
not igniting my entrepreneurial spirits yet
back-to-the-roots stuff will be migrated
I want to challenge my own ideas
in a pang of cheeky self-assurance
a grown-up physicist's biggest ethical dilemma
what I never wanted to know
one more telltale sign of the Siren Server (© Jaron Lanier) resisting subversion by poetry
Global corporations have their brand names tested for potentially unwanted connotations
Especially if they are appealing to your vanity
The proof by contradiction
Our village has changed its zip code
to enter a more detached state of mind
You can turn into your own cliché
I'll pontificate about anything nonetheless.
So after all - it was all worth it.
Each phrase becomes a line in this 'poem'
it is no good rationalizing too much
a small-talk question, innocent and harmless.
Physics or Engineering?
I suck at keeping to my own agenda
Do we need a new attempt?
books trigger some random thougths of mine
you don't know how the story will unfold
(This has been written when our blogs have still been separate websites hosted elsewhere.)
I start a radical experiment: Opening my blog's editor, and typing what I think right now - however, planning to never publish it to WordPress.
Contrary to what seems to motivate many freshly minted bloggers, and netizens inhabiting social web worlds in general, feedback and interaction had not been my primary goal. The appeal of writing 'in public' is that on principle somebody could read what you wrote, that the internet never forgets, and that you have to hold yourself accountable to what you wrote. Have to endure reading what you wrote when you were a different being.
The joy of my early web projects was also their subversive, semi-secret, and pseudonymous nature. Online spaces were wild places, blank sheets of paper, laid before me to hone my ideas.
There is another motivation for writing online, and this is as unrelated as possible from the philosophical approach: I enjoy crafting technical arguments, documentation of technical projects, 'science writing' because I want to force myself to turn my thinking into a consistent linear thread. I want to challenge my own ideas, find the loop holes in my own arguments. I know that my blog articles may be either boring or opaque or both unless the reader has explicitly searched for content like that. But actually the latter audience is who I am perhaps writing for: I have found so much useful tech / science stuff online, for free and in sublime quality, for my professional work, my own education, my pleasure of reading - and I do not want to remain on the receiving end of this communication only.
My second motivation is tied to a minimum level of 'feedback' - page views by fellow geeks - only seems to work for my articles written on our German blog: We only blog about two times a month now, but despite the smaller theoretical audience of German speaking readers the other blog has much more views, and views are still increasing. My English blog has fallen in oblivion again after I blog only twice a month and/or after I focussed more and more on energy, heat pumps, and down-to-earth engineering and physics of everyday life.
These are my personal recent top articles in the Physics / History of Science category so far:
- Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)
- Rowboats, Laser Pulses, and Heat Energy (Boring Title: Dimensional Analysis).
- Hacking My Heat Pump – Part 2: Logging Energy Values
- How Does It Work? (The Heat Pump System, That Is)
When I blogged about quantum theory, basic and un-original as my articles might have been, my blog was 'viral' in comparison to that.
But ironically, a silent blog brings me closer to my other goal: Using the silent online space to write just for me, holding myself as accountable as possible though. Last year I had overhauled this / these website(s) here, and it turned more into a blog. Now I finally know what the purpose of having effectively two blog(-like) sites are:
Here, I give myself permission for introspection and self-centered updates. I don't share subversiv.at links anywhere on social media. If somebody wants to reads this, he or she really has to be determined and go to the 20th page of Google search results. There is no interaction. Of course this is also a consequence of my minimal web programming, but feedback can be blessing and curse. You (or maybe only: I) tend to write more about what 'people have liked before', or at least you feel a little bit guilty if you expose your loyal readers to something unusual - which turns each new post into a challenge, one you'd like to dodge sometimes. My writing self is quite 'authentic' here, in modern parlance.
But I don't want to appear fake on my real blog, the one that has much more content that this page, much more carefully crafted, and I don't want my blog to die. My solution has been - since a few months, I am only post-rationalizing now - to stay away from the autobiographical, from opinions, from philosophical, from big ideas ... and to focus on hard things. The stuff I do really know. I think The Internet would be a better place, if people would only post or comment if they 1) had through education on the subject, 2) practical experience with it, and 3) skin in the game - being personally exposed to risks and consequences arising from putting their opinions into practice. (In reverse order.)
So on my blog I just try to be useful (hopefully) to some tech and science enthusiasts, and perhaps a bit entertaining. If I will ever find a more useful 'spin' to what I have written here now, I might actually turn it into a blog article, like: What I learned from having two different websites. Why I stay away from opinion on the web. What I learned from tech / science blogging.
But for now this posting here will just remain some open-ended collection, snippets of my stream of consciousness, and I am copying these lines to a new 'post' at this silent website here and deleting the draft for a blog post.
This article has originally been cross-posted to all of elkement's sites (e-stangl.at, radices.net, subversiv.at) - at a time when these were still separate sites. They have been united in 2015, but I keep the original links - even though all the 'home page URLs' point to the same 'page'. By the end of 2019 this is going to be even more united / more confusing!
The title of this artilce is a question worth some subversive thoughts. The Element is webmaster of a growing universe of weird sites since 1997. The first site was even a commercial one. Crafted with MS FrontPage 98, no less. The Element's Alter Ago, Elke Stangl, tries to answer all of them in the following meta analysis. (I am still looking for more levels of self-reference here - suggestions welcome!)
Since 1997 I have been maintaining personal and business websites but I haven't joined the social media borg cube(s) before 2012. You can find a brief overview on all projects, that is a collection of icons plus some more or less funny comments here.
Here I try to keep track of why I am doing this, and I only comment on those pages or blogs who I consider a project of some sort.
My personal blog elkement.blog is where I finally try really hard to unite all the things again that have been scattered across different sites before, and across different parts of my life - probably of my very self. I am quite satisfied with the structure I have added in April 2014 - main 'category' pages that list individual posts.
This kind of structure is probably what I would have wanted to achieve by splitting my personal space into three distinct realms in 2002:
e-stangl.at: an ancient predecessor of the modern About page. It always got more serious than I wanted it to be - especially the German pages. But this is probably because I have outsourced the fun parts to the subversive site, and it might have triggered that idea that I absolutely have to run a bilingual site. I am still baffled by my on unwillingness to translate - I either write something in German or English, and only with utmost discipline I do translate it. I rather let it rest and write a different and only losely related version in the other language.
Before the Subversive El(k)ement had its own blog, it had its own site: subversiv.at. This was inspired from quotes from The Cluetrain Manifesto about subversive hyperlinks, and it alluded by weird split responsibilities as so-called corporate IT manager on the one hand, and as a supporter of subversive webmasters of 'non-compliant' sites on the other hand. Over the years I have added many layers of meaning to that.
I re-discovered the joys of playful nonsense, wordplay, self-referential comments disguising my ambiguous opinions. This can be seen as what later was to become Search Term Poetry and Spam Poetry. Today I re-use such poems from my blog and enrich them with German translations on the subversive site.
My science & technology site radices.net should focus more on content and less on my personal woes. I was not successful with respect to the latter. Started as a German-only page the effect of over-solemnity was probably worse. I think it did get better after I was done with soul-searching and heart-wrenching career changes - and writing about those with hindsight.
In autumn 2013 I decided this site should become home to the grey area between my interests and hobbies - e.g. as a amateur student of quantum field theory and dilettante science writer - and those parts of my professional life related to it. Translated to English I called it my Practice in Natural Philosophy tongue-in-cheek. But since I can't help but preferring to write about science an philosophy in English, the German site was / is more or less a link dump - using links from my English blog, and our German 'company blog' (see below).
I got hooked again on classical cryptography and IT security - and I finally want to start what I had had in mind but never did some years earlier: Finally 'curate' all my favorite resources, document interesting anecdotes, and in general give back something to a community that had helped my out so often - when I found the much-needed solution via the ultimate oracle, Google. So I at the beginning of 2014 I mainly updated the PKI pages.
But this was not for a German audience, but for an international one. My English blog postings on security are what I really wanted to write and these should be complemented by a Resources page. I finally did it - I turned made this website into a a bilingual, too. The English version hosts nothing but the PKI stuff, and thankfully radices means Roots and there is something like Root CAs. Totally coincidental as the original intention was to re-connect with my roots as a scientist.
My business page is where I / we pretend to be serious. However, our rather peculiar diverified portfolio as I like to call it, thwarts these attempts (hopefully).
I said we have a business blog (though it is not necessarily discernable as such). Here it is: punktwissen.blog. You can see our work there, sort of, and we use a story-telling approach (And I am trying now to use a sounding-like-business approach). These are the stories of us, the two settlers, who tell their stories about physics, renewable energy, and our related adventures.
The punktwissen blog is successor to the legendary z-village.net site, bringing news from the village at the end of the internet to the internet community. This page was maintained solely by Somebody Doing Anything Nobody Wants to Do - I was (am) just the programmer.
And there was a grand, 'corporate' version of the quaint little village, this was (is) EPSI - a prestigious middle European Think Thank dedicated to: Elementary research, painting blogs, collecting space and doing something.
Now you know.
All the other social media stuff is tangential, ephemeral and fleeting.
(I am not a writer. I feel I had to decide often between being a fence-sitting commentator or somebody who is in charge of and fully accountable for technical problem solving - and I always picked the latter.)
The internet is full of moonlighting writers who work in a day job to pay the bills but call them writers nonetheless.
I am not a writer despite I have a bunch of blogs and websites. I can relate to their ambitions somewhat as I had mulled upon working as a science writer or journalist at times. I even sent a job application to Austrian Broadcasting a long time ago.
Finally these ambitions did not get me anywhere. I feel I had to decide often between being a fence-sitting commentator or somebody who is in charge of and fully accountable for technical problem solving - and I always picked the latter.
Disclaimer: This is not to say that being an analyzing commenter or writer is something lesser. Sure, you can work as a problem solver and be paid for writing about some aspects of that, too. But I consider them nearly mutually exclusive options as long as my own career is concerned - in a postive way actually!
I just like writing on what comes to my mind in my spare time too much. I like it too much in a sense, and I don't want to entangle it with commercial transactions. Thus I don't do or plan to do: Blog posts that are sponsored in any way, visual ads, or affiliate marketing. The latter would be rather straight-forward as I write about books a lot. However, I use a free WordPress.com blog that displays ads as I don't pay for the no-ads feature.
I think I write in order to organize and develop my thoughts through writing. Even the fact I have so many different sites is related to my considering websites experimental playgrounds. Nobody can escape the power of online feedback by likers and commenter, in particular when positive. But this is exactly the reason why I regularly return to ancient, non-interactive, and badly Google-ranked websites of mine like this. I writer under the assumption somebody could and will read it - someday, and I might be held accountable. But I don't write for likes, just as I don't write for money.
Some blog postings of mine about blogging and writing:
Explaining science and technology is my passion and my mission - as a physicist, engineer and IT expert.
All children are curious scientists: We want to know 'how stuff really works'. However, in science education answers are finally given in the language of mathematics - which might kill curiosity.
I admit that I can indulge in math at times, just for the sake of it. Theoretical Physics was my personal therapy in fighting the detrimental impacts of having been sucked into Dilbert's (corporate) world once.
Nevertheless, I understand your discomfort - math haters / deniers. Fundamental theories in physics, such as string theory, seem to have developed a purely mathematical life of their own. Algorithms loom large: Corporations dig Big Data to predict our behaviors as consumers, and of course there is the NSA. And Facebook ads.
Thus I am determined to dissect and expound scientific underpinnings of, well of basically anything interesting I come across in physics, engineering or IT. As an IT consultant I sometimes gave stand-up quantum physics edutainment sessions in coffee breaks. So you are my target group: Experts in any science-y, geeky, technical or other quantitative field.
I am indecisive: shilly-shallying between excitement about curved space-time and multiverses on the one hand, and focusing on hands-on research and development from whose impacts we - taxpayers, John and Jane Does - will benefit in our lifetimes.
Currently my (science) writing is focused on
- Quantum Field Theory. When the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012 I realized that I cannot make head or tail of how the Higgs field gives the other particles mass. Based on the theory of superconductivity and phase transitions I had once been exposed too - I actually should have. Thus I am set to (re-)learn QFT.
- Thermodynamics - this is were fundamentals (entropy and the arrow of time) meet hands-on engineering (heat pumps).
And I am pondering on:
- classical physiscs and its underrated geek factor Why does a spinning top not fall over? Is it true that the sense of rotation of vortices in water flowing down the sink of your bathtub or toilet flips at the equator?
- the philosophical implications of different, but yet mathematically equivalent theories: This holds for quantum mechanics and determinism, but also for classical dynamics. The principle of least action adds a touch of multiple universes to Newtonian mechanics.
- how physics tools are used to model complex systems, such as the economy and stock exchange prices or how revolutionary ideas percolate society.
- the illusion of intuition in physics and related philosophical ideas: The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics, Are We All Newtonians?
- Power engineering and the implications of 'internet-icizing' the smart power grid: Greatest Innovation Ever, Controlling the Four Elements. Or: Why Heat Pumps Are Cool.
- History of science, old patents and inventions in particular: Einstein and His Patents.
- Information technology and IT security. Cyber Security Satire?, My Google Searches Might Heat Your Home.
- how orthodox science relates to outsider physics: Physics Paradoxers and Outsiders.
The Element is offline - or at least it wants you to believe it is. In a distant corner of the web(*) it is more active than ever.
The red pages will be back online - probably changed a bit - in due time.
The pages are still there - you just need to know the URLs.
The chance in a life time to quote from the grand Offline Page I've never used:
This website is temporarily offline...
...being updated with new revolutionary content
... or just to fix some stupid error
(Final Insight, 2012)
That's the whole point of all that self-referential navel-gazing here.
Nevertheless I need to admit that these website, wimpy as they are, are The Element's only creative output. The Element is creative with respect to arranging characters on (virtual) paper. But I am not into drawings, paintings, or music.
What is creativity? Actions without purpose, without goals. Above all: lacking any commercial or job relevant hidden agenda. Rather the opposite, actually.
This site has been started despite <..>, but not because of <...>.
What do I need to smoke in order to understand your websites? proves that his is not exactly a revenue booster.
What is Art? (2008)
The Subversive Element does not know what art is. And anybody claiming to be able to explain does not know either.
But you can elaborate on what art is not:
- Tailored to meet the expectations of your target group.
We can give it a try and explain that art is everything... (please also visit our Everything page)
- ... that is not at all created to help the creator make a living (rather the opposite)
- ... which cannot be understood, analyzed and comprehended not even (and especially not) by the creator.