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Peter Shalen gives Science By Number the math on Topology

Today is exceptionally mathy, it couldn’t be avoided.  Science By Number ran today’s first solo flight in efforts to coordinate the sudden influx of interviews filing in. So, I, Jes, threw a hail Mary and went solo, just for this round,  into the nitty gritty of lower dimensional analysis with a really awesome mathematician from University of Illinois’ Peter Shalen.

Yes, they celebrate birthdays with math conventions.

Yes, they celebrate birthdays with math conventions.

Starting off with Lower Dimensional…this wiki will help!  There is  a lot of new words, but, once you get past the vocabulary, you will find it describes more relatable terms.

Peter Shalen has a wiki plug in here!

Peter Shalen was a moving player in getting geometry and topology bridged together and what we are starting to see more and more of, which excites the living daylights out of me, is bridges between sub-disciplines being built, of which Shalen refers to has “returning to our roots”  Of course, he does a better job explaining this than I d0, so “Hail Mary” and welcome to topology by one of its leading members, Peter Shalen.


Edward Frenkel – Part 2 with Science By Number

Frenkel and Langlands

Frenkel and Langlands

In the second installment of our interview with Edward Frenkel, we almost closed down, and then Jes remembered about the Langland duality – and asked for a breakdown by Frenkel himself, on the math of quantum physics, number theory, category theory, etc.  He does a much better job than I am now.  That’s why we asked him.
Also – In terms of general interviewing, we’ve learned that having  a conversation by far outweighs any list of canned questions we could ever come up with.    We thank Frenkel again, for the great conversation and  once again, this is Jes and Jen, signing off with another awesome discussion with Edward Frenkel.

Edward Frenkel Gets Real with Science By Number – Part 1

Love and Math - E. Frenkel

Love and Math – E. Frenkel

Science By Number engages in probably one of the most unique interviews thus far with Mathematician, Edward Frenkel.  The backstory was that I, Jes, wanted to ask more unique questions since I gathered he had been interviewed once or twice before in his career’s life.  Half an hour before the scheduled Skype interview, I stumbled upon an incredible story.  It was Frenkel speaking about his college entrance exam in which he was denied acceptance despite the 4 hours he spent answering ridiculously hard math questions.  I urge to PLEASE listen to “The Test” from here, you HAVE to, its not a story you will hear often in your life.  The podcast begins with questions on childhood trauma, rising above adversities, and how love of math saved him and fuels his desire to be so open about his experiences.

This is part 1 of 3.  I could not find anything I didn’t want to share, we usually just do 2.  Not this time.

This is one of the more sobering interviews, and I am incredibly grateful to be on the receiving end of such an exchange.

Quantum Camp for Kids; Science By Number asks Jen

Quantum Camp for Kids

Quantum Camp for Kids

Jenny is volunteer demo-ing her quantum activity book for kids and helping introduce kids to quantum concepts.  Science By Number will be providing resources for communities interested in teaching Quantum Mechanics to children.  We will devise a template for instruction and how to organize experiments and activities and what it all means.

She needs to purchase plasma balls, diffraction gratings, and activity materials for both events.

The projected budget costs for Quantum Camp for Kids from Jen’s youcaring profile:

Estimated costs:
– diffraction grating : $15
– plasma balls : $40 (smaller balls x 2) to $100 (larger balls x1 + smaller balls x3)
– toys for entanglement exercise: $10 minimum – $40
– character puppets for activity $30
– poster board and materials for spectrographs $10
– printing costs for handouts: $15 per event

– miscellaneous demo materials / electronic devices: $30 (minimum) to $150

– pizza for kid volunteers at events $20 per event
Above and Beyond the Goal:
– Cymatic kit for explaining standing waves ($50 to $200)
– Phone app for other quantum adventurers ($100 to register app on Iphone)
Total: $150 minimum to $500 (best). We will make use of whatever we get to make the experience better and more fun.
Additionally we will work on a wireless entanglement demo for future events and get enough materials to have more events at day care centers and schools around the Lawrence area through the fall. I also can make sure each participant get gets an item to take home.
Purchases will be made where possible locally at shops in downtown Lawrence, so you will be supporting not just Quantum Physics for Kids, but the local LFK economy.

Contact Jen via her facebook page for questions or if you have ideas or if you want to help out:

Jen’s You Caring Profile to help by donating

Jes and Jen talk about Block Time


This is Jes asking Jen to talk about Block Time, and what other big names and their treatment of time are.  Above is a picture from a Scientific American article linked below to get people warmed up to the idea of ….the BLOCK UNIVERSE.  Jen is far more schooled than I and gives me the run down on how this stuff works.  Future guests will include topics on this so here is the information for future implementation as we work our way through time with some great physicists.  For today’s podcast, its Jen schooling the heck out of me so I’m prepared for when we interview the big guns.

as always,


jes and jen


Jes and Jen with Bram Boroson Part 2


Bram the pirate

The second installment – we always do this.   We tell ourselves, 17 minutes. That’s it!  And every time, the discussions get too interesting to stop mid-turn.  So here is part 2 with Bram who discusses the meaning of life and where a scientist can comment and can’t really comment in such matters.  Ideally, it’s no one’s place to say either way; Science and Spirituality cannot replace each other, and at best, can help each other.  This statement alone has yielded some heated discussions.  But the fact remains, caution is necessary when Science speaks of spirituality and when Spirituality speaks if Science.


I find no real reason that they remain mutually exclusive but this is only my opinion (Jes).

Along with that also comes Bram and Jes and Jen discussing the recurring theme of reaching across disciplines to better understand the universe (good luck to us all)

enjoytse 🙂

Jes and Jen chat with astrophysicist Bram Boroson: From Neutron Stars to Random Walks


Bram enjoying Penrose

Bram Boroson has basically been everywhere.  Well equipped in math, he has been able to migrate between observational Astrophysics and quantum gravity models with relative ease.  It’s rare to find someone who has done work in both theoretical and observational which makes his unique level of appreciation for both worlds stand outstandingly bright.  We enjoyed hearing the clever methods behind observing neutron stars, dust clouds, measuring pulsars, discrete space-time. random walks, graphine structure and how special relativity plays a role, and the ever underrated Mach’s Principle, which Bram breaks down beautifully.  This is part One of Two because…we couldn’t narrow it down so we just let the tape roll.

Science By Number takes on Physics Experiment

As a response to some bizarre attempts to classically explain quantum mechanics via the quincunx probability machine,
Jen has been relentlessly trying to hammer in Quantum Mechanics and the double-slit experiments.
For the sake of my own sanity, I opted Jenny and I do this:

Jen and I have resolved (she is in Kansas and I am in California, so it will be a couple 6 months before we can coordinate this) to document by video this experiment demonstrated in above youtube that shows the quantum eraser effect.
Luckily, George Musser Jr. of Scientific American also conducted this particular experiment, so things should go smoothly…

and along with quantum we will also show why you won’t have an interference pattern using marbles, or peas, or baseballs.
Next week is observational astrophysicist, Bram Boroson, as our guest.

To reach either of us for questions or concerns:

Jen’s facebook profile

Jes’ facebook profile

Jes consults the Grad Student on being Not Even Wrong


Me (Jes)

not me (Jen)

not me (Jen)

Today’s Science By Number, we, due to an interesting series of events on both of our behalfs with respect to being open-minded folk, have managed to attract lots of colorful ideas from lots of creative and interesting people.  In one of our many chat sessions, Jen realized how misconcepted some advanced amateurs and beginner science enthusiasts who were volunteering personal ‘Theories of Everything’, actually misunderstood or forgot some crucial foundational info on the ever critical scientific method.

 I on the other hand had learned to toss out the phrase “At best, we’re not even wrong” *look up for reaction, wait for any sign of recognition….waiiiiiit, bingo.* —  and used this to gauge which were long time blazing science warriors and which were new on the scene or not yet had their spirits broken in.

  Jen, being higher up on the totem pole as a PhD Candidate and current grad student in Kansas (I suspect she’s not in Oz anymore…) and being an adjunct professor at  Haskell Indian Nations University, I, little grasshopper Jes, soaked it all in, hopefully, like a sponge –

Enjoy Jen explain the more bizarre of phrases when she says “Jes, your not crazy, you’re not even wrong!”

Here is a link to the blog, Not Even Wrong,  which has a lot of great stuff in it, just don’t tell a string theorist you were there.

In the words of the Great Pauli –

Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!


Jes and Jen


Ethan Siegel Part II: What models can and can’t do, Of Universes that is. AND his BOOK

Physicist Ethan Siegel is among the guests at MidSouthCon33.

The Awesome Ethan

Once Again, I gotta let Ethan just explain it himself  – OH – this is Science By Number with Jes and Jen, right!

But, once again, gotta hand it to Ethan as he walks us through what modeling a universe entails, where it flourishes, where it doesn’t explain, what it can and can’t achieve and why different parts work to explain different areas of our early universe.  Ethan then shares his book, Beyond the Galaxy, which is something he wrote when he realized a cohesive, concise, non-mathematical book that would still reach in depth, pictures included , on our universe , star clusters, the expansion, and much, much more , did not infact exist for the Astronomy 101 class.  (It does now, and reaches far higher levels while still staying palpable to any 101 class student)


So, via encouragement of his students, Ethan wrote THAT book and you can go check it out:


and here is World SCientific link for those curious to buy from there  –

Here is Ethan’s Blog as always, a pleasure to read!  (I’m guiding you in through since its a picnic for me if you enjoy sesarching other blogs as well which, I find, the more perspectives, the more well rounded we all can be!

Here is via Forbes  (yea, he writes for Forbes!)

Enjoy your stay – and as always, science on!

-jes and jen (or j squared)




Dr. Bunny

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