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Principle of Least Action III — History

The spectacle of the universe becomes so much the grander, so much more beautiful, the worthier of its Author, when one knows that a small number of laws, most wisely established, suffice for all movements. Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1744) Among the more or less general laws, the discovery of which characterize the development of physical science during the last century, the principle of Least Action is at present certainly one which, by its form and comprehensiveness, may be said to have approached most closely to the ideal aim of theoretical inquiry. Its significance, properly understood, extends, not only to mechanical processes, but also to thermal and electrodynamic problems. In all the branches of science to which it applies, it gives, not only an explanation of certain characteristics of phenomena at present encountered, but [...]

On Change

We all know that we leave in a three-dimensional world. Up-down, right-left, forward-backward – these are well-familiar to us directions in three dimensions of space we occupy. However, we also live in a three-dimensional world of another kind. In physics, we have units of measurement. There are lots of them, but only three are fundamental – all other are various combinations of these three – meter, second and kilogram (yes, in science, we use metric rather than Imperial units). We measure space in meters (m), we measure time in seconds (s) and we measure mass in kilograms (kg). These three units are fundamental in a sense that they are irreducible and all other units are combinations of meter (m), second (s) and kilogram (kg) (please note that in this context, kilogram is not [...]

By |2019-03-26T16:45:52-04:00May 16th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Joseph and His Brothers

I grew up in Russia and was raised on the metric system based on decimal arithmetic. When we immigrated to the U.S., I had to learn a new for me (but, actually, very old) Imperial system of measurements. I still struggle with it (decimal system, apparently, was hardwired in my brain). There are many number-systems or positional notation systems. Ancient Babylonians used the base-60 system; the Hindu-Arabic system uses the familiar decimal base-10 system; the Mayans used the base-20 system. There are base-2 binary, base-12 duodecimal, and base-16 hexadecimal systems, to name a few. Aside from the binary system used by computers, we humans mostly use decimal and, sometimes, duodecimal systems. The all-familiar decimal system is used in the metric system of measurements. In base-10 positional notation, there are 10 decimal digits—0, 1, [...]




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