Unfamiliar Territory

A lot of people talk about the rush they get from physical excercise. How it’s energising and invigorating, and how they enjoy it for the buzz it gives them. I get that from excercising my mind. Seriously. Although I suppose technically, excercising physics could be called physical excercise too.

My latest line of enquiry has seen me reading up on electromagnetism and electric scalar fields. This is some highly unfamiliar territory for me. I haven’t studied this sort of material properly in years. In fact, seeing as chemistry largely ignores the physics of electromagnetism, I haven’t studied it seriously since before I was an undergrad. As a result, today has been an intensive mental workout. And damn, it feels good!

Now, I should better go and eat some nice antioxidant-rich fruit to counteract all of the free radicals my head has probably generated with all of this thinking.

(Deep down, perhaps I am a physicist after all…)

EDIT– You can tell I’m feeling tired when I use the same adjective 4 times in two paragraphs. What horrible writing! It’s fixed now.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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8 Responses to Unfamiliar Territory

  1. invaderxan says:

    Of course… Given that the surface area of a sphere is given by 4πr2. Actually, I think said professor must have something against you. That seems like perfectly reasonable guesswork to me…

  2. Right, you got it. And my thinking was that the 4 pi r^2 part was the spherical cross section of the field centered at the origin. But I couldn’t find any resource that actually said that, so I may be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

  3. invaderxan says:

    Hmmm… Actually I’m fairly sure the whole term is about the flux of current through free space, where π refers to the curvature of the field and and ε0 is the permissivity of free space. But I’m not exactly an expert. ;)
    To be honest, what I love is the fact that the field equations for gravitation, magnetism and electric field all share virtually identical forms. Elegant indeed!

  4. invaderxan says:

    I guess it’s that whole fear of the unknown thing. And it isn’t helped by most things in physics having arcane sounding names like Lorentz Invariance.
    I guess, in the same way, I’ve found that sometimes the best way to tackle these problems is to dive in head first.
    (Even if that means I sometimes get calculus up my nose.)

  5. Yep. Same professor who told me he’d fail me during my comprehensive exam (same conversation, even). I couldn’t find the answer when I tried to look it up. Spherical symmetry makes sense to me, so that’s what I’m happy thinking it’s all about.
    But yeah, physics is so elegant. I love how that seemingly simple equation is so powerful.

  6. invaderxan says:

    Man, what a complete arse. Anyone would think they’d forgotten to tell him that he was employed to teach!
    I wouldn’t take it to heart, mind you. For what it’s worth, I don’t really know either — at least not without looking it up. ;)

  7. I found that throughout my PhD so far, there was always some looming topic I would have to tackle that I didn’t know much about, and it seemed a bit daunting. However, once I started actually working on it, it always cleared up, and now I look back and think “gee, that was pretty straightforward… don’t know why I was so worried about it!”

  8. Ah, I know that equation very well. In fact, a professor recently asked me (to make me feel stupid) where the coefficient 1/(4 pi epsilon) comes from and wouldn’t take my guess at spherical symmetry as an answer.

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