Where Grey Matter meets Dark Matter

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Episode 26 - 21 April 2010

Associate Professor David Paganin.

1905: Einstein publishes Special Relativity.
1915: Einstein publishes General Relativity.
2010: The year we make contact.

What's so special about General Relativity (GR)? Well Special Relativity (SR) tells you about the universe with two assumptions: i) that you are moving with constant velocity, and ii) that the speed of light is constant for everybody (no matter how fast they're moving). But what happens when you do away with the first assumption, so now you can accelerate? Black Holes is what happens, amongst other cool stuff like gravitational lensing and even GPS systems in your Hummer that speak like Darth Vader.

Here's what a black hole looks like in the sky on its way to eat you up. My, what a big event horizon you have...
Source: Centro de Física do Porto.

But it's all not rose-coloured (the astute reader will note a GR-themed pun in that last compound word): GR – which is the theory of the very big – does not sit well with quantum mechanics (the theory of the very small). In fact they don't even sit down in the same cafeteria.

David Paganin, an Associate Professor in physics at Monash University sets us straight on a geodesic of wisdom about what it all means, and where it might go next.


  • There are an interesting.set of videos here about relativity. The later ones deal with general relativity. (Don't blame us if they suck, we haven't had time to watch them all.)


In A Beautiful Mind, we are led through the fictionalised adult life of John Nash, a US mathematician. The reason the movie was made is that the lead character suffers from paranoid delusions and becomes a danger to himself and his family. But ABM is not the first film to show mathematicians (or people with some mathsey abilities) as loony shut-aways, barely clinging on to the real world, often with a turbulent past behind them: Good Will Hunting, Pi, Rain Man, plus others.

"Falling off the Math Cliff", Roz Chast, The New Yorker (March 6, 2006)
Click to enlarge.

We go back through some of our favourite stories of mathematicians who were wild, wacky, or just plain nuts. Is there a link between madness and mathematics? These anecdotes don't prove anything, but they sure are entertaining.

Source: xkcd

Chris thinks Dad Mays looks like Russell Crowe. What do you think?



In the introduction we talked about Wally Wallington building stonehenge in his backyard. The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K7q20VzwVs.


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