Category Archives: Physics

The Temperature of the Vacuum

Quantum field theory predicts that the temperature of empty space should depend on the observer’s motion, increasing proportionally with acceleration. Here I attempt an accessible introduction to this striking effect, related to Hawking radiation and discovered independently by Fulling, Davies, … Continue reading

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A Century of Compton Scattering

One hundred years ago today the Physical Review published research on light scattering electrons that would earn its author, Wooster graduate Arthur Compton, a Physics Nobel Prize. By relativistically conserving spacetime momentum, as in the diagram below, and treating light … Continue reading

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We Are Going

After half a century confined to low-Earth orbit, and as soon as late next year, humans will once again leave Earth and voyage to Moon. The reality of this exciting adventure crystallized earlier this month when NASA announced the diverse … Continue reading

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Generalizing Coulomb’s Law

The forces between two electric charges in arbitrary motion are complicated by velocity, acceleration, and time-delay effects. The forces need not even lie along the line joining the two charges! Suppose a source charge is at position with velocity and … Continue reading

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Wooster Physics Alumni at Kent Displays

Three Wooster physics alumni who all work at Kent Displays, Inc. returned to campus last Thursday to share some info about the physics of liquid crystals as well as some of their personal journeys to Wooster and beyond. See more … Continue reading

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Compton Generator

Long before he won the Nobel Prize in Physics, and while still a Wooster undergraduate, Arthur Compton realized a third way to demonstrate Earth’s spin (after pendulums and gyroscopes). Compton reported his results in a manuscript submitted to the journal … Continue reading

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Perseverance, Ignition, Breakeven

Overcoming decades of enormous physics and engineering challenges, and despite persistent pessimism, skepticism, and criticism, the National Ignition Facility has achieved an historic milestone for controlled nuclear fusion, a target energy gain factor of . Last week, NIF focussed the world’s most powerful laser … Continue reading

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Distant Retrograde Orbit

The Artemis 1 mission’s Orion spacecraft has successfully entered and exited a distant retrograde orbit about Moon. DRO is a stable and easily accessible orbit requiring a low velocity change . In DRO, Earth‘s non-negligible gravity contributes to a 3-body problem that … Continue reading

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Zero-G Indicator

When Crew 5 rocketed to orbit last week aboard the SpaceX Dragon “Endurance” bound for the International Space Station, I was curious to see their zero-gravity indicator. A tradition SpaceX crews have adopted from Russian cosmonauts, the zero-g indicator is usually a … Continue reading

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For the dinosaurs!

The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program, but we do. I just watched live the first kinetic-impact asteroid-redirection test as NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft collided with the asteroid-moon Dimorphos of the asteroid Didymos. Below is the last image … Continue reading

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