Entries by John Baez

Struggles with the Continuum – Conclusion

  We’ve been looking at how the continuum nature of spacetime poses problems for our favorite theories of physics — problems with infinities. Last time we saw a great example: general relativity predicts the existence of singularities, like black holes and the Big Bang. I explained exactly what these singularities really are. They’re not points […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles with the Continuum – Part 7

  Combining electromagnetism with relativity and quantum mechanics led to QED. Last time we saw the immense struggles with the continuum this caused. But combining gravity with relativity led Einstein to something equally remarkable: general relativity. In general relativity, infinities coming from the continuum nature of spacetime are deeply connected to its most dramatic successful […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Interview with a Mathematical Physicist: John Baez Part 2

Read part 1 of this interview. Tell us about your experience with past projects like “This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics”. I was hired by U.C. Riverside back in 1989. I was lonely and bored, since Lisa was back on the other coast. So, I spent a lot of evenings on the computer. We had […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Interview with a Mathematical Physicist: John Baez Part 1

We are proud to introduce you to Mathematical Physicist and PF member John Baez! Give us some background on yourself. I’m interested in all kinds of mathematics and physics, so I call myself a mathematical physicist. But I’m a math professor at the University of California in Riverside. I’ve taught here since 1989. My wife Lisa […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles with the Continuum – Part 6

  Last time I sketched how physicists use quantum electrodynamics, or ‘QED’, to compute answers to physics problems as power series in the fine structure constant, which is $$ \alpha = \frac{1}{4 \pi \epsilon_0} \frac{e^2}{\hbar c} \approx \frac{1}{137.036} . $$ I concluded with a famous example: the magnetic moment of the electron. With a truly […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles with the Continuum – Part 5

    Quantum field theory is the best method we have for describing particles and forces in a way that takes both quantum mechanics and special relativity into account. It makes many wonderfully accurate predictions. And yet, it has embroiled physics in some remarkable problems: struggles with infinities! I want to sketch some of the […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles with the Continuum – Part 4

  In this series we’re looking at mathematical problems that arise in physics due to treating spacetime as a continuum—basically, problems with infinities. In Part 1 we looked at classical point particles interacting gravitationally. We saw they could convert an infinite amount of potential energy into kinetic energy in a finite time! Then we switched […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles With the Continuum – Part 3

  In these posts, we’re seeing how our favorite theories of physics deal with the idea that space and time are a continuum, with points described as lists of real numbers. We’re not asking if this idea is true: there’s no clinching evidence to answer that question, so it’s too easy to let ones philosophical […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles With The Continuum – Part 2

  Last time we saw that that nobody yet knows if Newtonian gravity, applied to point particles, truly succeeds in predicting the future. To be precise: for four or more particles, nobody has proved that almost all initial conditions give a well-defined solution for all times! The problem is related to the continuum nature of […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.

Struggles With the Continuum – Part 1

  Is spacetime really a continuum?  That is, can points of spacetime really be described—at least locally—by lists of four real numbers ##(t,x,y,z)##? Or is this description, though immensely successful so far, just an approximation that breaks down at short distances? Rather than trying to answer this hard question, let’s look back at the struggles […]

I’m a mathematical physicist. I work at the math department at U. C. Riverside in California, and also at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. I used to do quantum gravity and n-categories, but now I mainly work on network theory and the Azimuth Project, which is a way for scientists, engineers and mathematicians to do something about the global ecological crisis.