Have you heard that we may be living in a computer simulation? Or that our universe is only one of infinitely many parallel worlds in which you live every possible variation of your life? Or that the laws of nature derive from a beautiful, higher-dimensional theory that is super-symmetric and explains, supposedly, everything? It's how my research area, fundamental physics, often ends up making headlines: With insights about the nature of reality so mind-boggling you can't believe it's still science. Unfortunately, in many cases it's indeed not science.
I've given student advice before, so some of this might not be completely new. However, it's a new year with new students, so it might be useful to give some ideas to this year's collegiate freshmen. Actually, here are four things for students to consider. What should you study in college? Should you be a biology major, or maybe computer science?
When California's next class of Assembly members is sworn in later this year, the most senior among them will have only four years of experience. Under the old system of term limits, those members would have been lining up objectives for their third and final terms and plotting runs for state Senate or another office. Instead, these lawmakers will have until 2024 if they choose to stay in the Assembly for a full 12 years, as is now allowed under revised term limits passed four years ago. The new staying power legislators wield has helped attract an unprecedented amount of outside spending in legislative races by interest groups hoping to set the field in their favor as lawmakers settle in to their posts, potentially for more than a decade. Outside interest groups had spent a record $63.7 million in legislative races as of Monday, according to numbers compiled by the California Target Book.
Some progress has been made in encouraging girls to study physics at A-level, according to a report by the Institute of Physics (IoP). In 2016, 1.9% of girls chose A-level physics, up from 1.6% in 2011. But that compared with 6.5% for boys in 2016 and 44% of schools in England still send no girls at all to study the subject. The IoP said physics-based skills were essential for many future careers, from artificial intelligence to aerospace. However, the gender balance at physics A-level in England's schools has changed little in decades, with only 20% being female.
PARIS – When Stephen Hawking postulated in the mid-1970s that black holes leak radiation, slowly dissolving like aspirin in a glass of water, he overturned a core tenet of the universe. Ever since Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity in 1915, predicting the existence of black holes, it was thought they devour everything in their vicinity, including light. Black holes, it was thought, were bottomless pits from which matter and energy could never escape. But Hawking, sometimes described as the most influential theoretical physicist since Einstein, questioned this, saying that black holes were not really black at all and must emit particles. In so doing, he touched on a persistent headache for physicists: Einstein's theory, which has withstood every experimental test so far, does not explain the behavior of particles in the subatomic "quantum" sphere.