Welcome to Rob Fatland's web site



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This web site investigates some experiments and interesting ideas in math, physics, astronomy and earth science.


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ice crystal

Rob at Columbia Glacier   image: malaspina glacier medial moraine detail


Why physics? Why math? Why astronomy? Why earth science?


Fun? You wish for fun???  It doesn't get much better than this! I think science and math are the coolest things ever... and as a good novel is an instance of language, astronomy and geoscience are instances of physics and mathematics. In fact really good novels shape and affect language and here the simile holds as well; we can't discuss starlight in any depth without nuclear physics and the temperature of a glacier isn't just 'cold', it's an idea defined using the mathematics of probability.

Science as a system of thinking is quite successful. It opens an endless landscape of connected results and ideas to explore. Of course 'fun exploration' can require some effort but this is a price to pay I can live with.


Who is this web site built for?

First answer: Curious persons who agree that science and math do not have to be taken on faith. "Nullius in Verba"... don't take anybody's word for it, that's the motto adopted by a famous science club back when all this began in earnest around 1660. New ideas should be backed by evidence and context whenever possible so Nullius in Verba is the operative motto here too. And I confess I have a lot of questions to ask. How do we know the earth goes about the sun and not vice versa? Why should we accept atoms as real? Electrons exist you say? And they all have precisely the same charge? And an intrinsic magnetic moment? And these electrons can be knocked loose from a piece of zinc by a particle of blue light? But green light doesn't work? And you say this blue light particle obeys laws of probability, electricity, magnetism, special relativity, statistical physics and gravity? This sounds like a tangled mess.

These pages are written for persons
looking for amazing and beautiful things
hidden inside the tangled mess.


How is this web site organized?

The 'main sequence' is a follow-my-nose sequential pathway of web pages, each concerning an experiment or set of ideas. Each page leads to the next according to some combination of haphazard logic and arbitrary whim. There are also developing side-branches and digressions off the main sequence of pages.

In my view the most important things built into these pages are book titles, as there is no substitute for books and for direct conversation with other people. Web resouces such as this one or hyperphysics or wikipedia or cut-the-knot are intrinsically shallow; they can provide some scaffolding and entertainment but no substitute for the depth of comprehension to be found in books. The aim here is to start from such scaffolding and try to produce a coherent narrative. The other aim is to give myself the freedom to say, as much as possible, "I don't believe X until I see it for myself."


Where to begin?

Oh let's just pick an outrageous claim from physics and dive in. How about this one: "Many small--in fact invisible--objects called subatomic particles (or perhaps 'cosmic rays') are soaring about the universe, so numerous that zillions of them shoot right through us every second."


Nullius in Verba you say? Let's get to it! The main sequence wiki starts here.
The original mainsequence (retained as source material for the wiki) is here.




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The author can be contacted: rob at robfatland dot net.