BOLETÍN OCTUBRE - NOVIEMBRE - DICIEMBRE 2012

   TITULARES

  1. SOY OPTIMISTA EN CUANTO A ESPAÑA VER +

  2. PHYSICS IN DAILY LIFE: Boiling water VER +

  3. THE YEAR IN REVIEWS: FIVE BOOKS THAT STOOD OUT IN 2012 VER +

  4. NOVEDAD EDITORIAL. Everything coming out of nothing. VER +
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SOY OPTIMISTA EN CUANTO A ESPAÑA

por Alan D. Solomont

“Los desafíos a los que se enfrenta España son serios, pero es importante centrarse en cuáles son sus puntos fuertes y en cómo puede avanzar. España es un miembro clave de la Unión Europea y uno de sus pilares. Es la cuarta mayor economía de la UE y la duodécima del mundo por delante de Australia, México y Corea del Sur”

Cuando España está a punto de lanzar su campaña «Marca España» esta semana, quiero sumar mi apoyo como embajador de Estados Unidos en España. Aunque afronta desafíos en varios frentes, es importante tener presentes las fuentes de su fortaleza y la base de su éxito. España es una democracia joven con una arraigada tradición de solidaridad familiar y comunitaria. Es la cuarta mayor economía de Europa y, aunque está experimentando una contracción económica, en los últimos diez años sus exportaciones han aumentado al ritmo de las de Alemania. España es líder mundial en infraestructuras, ferrocarril de alta velocidad, energías renovables y telecomunicaciones. La tecnología española ha llegado incluso a la superficie de Marte a bordo del vehículo de exploración «Curiosity». En asociación con el programa espacial de Estados Unidos. España ha aportado a esta misión al planeta Marte una conexión fundamental de telecomunicaciones con la Tierra, así como instrumental para grabar las condiciones ambientales en la superficie del planeta. España cuenta también con tres de las escuelas de negocios mejor valoradas del mundo y es el destino que cada año eligen más de 25.000 estadounidenses que quieren estudiar en el extranjero.

En los escasos tres años transcurridos desde que llegué a España, he viajado a casi todos los rincones del país. He estado en Málaga para mantener reuniones sobre la creación de un Silicon Valley en la costa mediterránea; en Sevilla para hablar de energía solar, en Cuenca con el secretario de Transportes de Estados Unidos para ver el excelente tren de alta velocidad; y en Barcelona para examinar iniciativas en seguridad portuaria. La lista sigue y sigue. Dondequiera que voy en España, veo optimismo y energía. Veo un sector empresarial dinámico que busca oportunidades y crecimiento y está en condiciones de avanzar a medida que se descubren oportunidades.

También paso todo el tiempo que puedo con jóvenes y estudiantes. Los jóvenes españoles son realmente la generación más preparada que ha producido este país. Estos jóvenes adultos son también muy conscientes del mundo exterior. Cuando hablo a grupos en universidades e institutos, siempre me impresiona lo comprometidos que están con las cuestiones a las que se enfrentan España y la comunidad mundial. El difícil mercado laboral está obligando a los jóvenes a centrarse en oportunidades más allá de las fronteras españolas, pero en la economía globalizada de hoy lo estamos viendo en países de todo el mundo. Y a medida que la tecnología, las comunicaciones y los negocios se van expandiendo, los mejores y más brillantes vincularan sus carreras, no a un lugar, sino a la siguiente buena idea, aparezca donde aparezca.

El Gobierno de España, como en Estados Unidos y otros países europeos, ha tomado medidas muy difíciles e impopulares para reformar el sector público y crear un sector privado más dinámico y competitivo. Tanto en España como en toda la comunidad europea están teniendo lugar debates importantes sobre qué medidas son más necesarias y eficaces, la mejor manera de ejecutar las reformas y cuál puede ser un calendario razonable. En Estados Unidos estamos llevando a cabo esta importante discusión sobre el papel y el alcance del gobierno: en todo el mundo se está lidiando con estas cuestiones difíciles pero semejantes.

Sigo creyendo que los líderes de España están trabajando mucho para mantener un equilibrio entre la necesidad de responsabilidad fiscal y de una reforma económica amplia y la necesidad, igualmente importante de mantener la red de seguridad social. Pero hará falta tiempo para que las reformas produzcan resultados apreciables en el crecimiento económico y la creación de empleo.

Los desafíos a los que se enfrenta España son serios, pero es importante centrarse en cuáles son sus puntos fuertes y en cómo puede avanzar. España es un miembro clave de la Unión Europea y uno de sus pilares. Es la cuarta mayor economía de la UE y la duodécima del mundo por delante de Australia, México y Corea del Sur. El hecho de que su crisis fiscal y bancaria haya provocado una revisión y una reforma de todo el marco financiero y bancario de la UE da fe de su peso y de su importancia para la Unión en su conjunto.

España también se encuentra en el centro de la infraestructura de seguridad de Europa y ha realizado importantes contribuciones incluso cuando afronta desafíos internos. Ha apoyado los esfuerzos internacionales de mantenimiento de la paz en el Líbano y Timor Oriental. Fue una de los principales donantes de asistencia a Haití tras el terremoto y su apoyo a la seguridad y el desarrollo en Afganistán le ha ganado el respeto de la población local y de sus socios internacionales. Ha aportado recursos fundamentales para proteger del régimen de Gadafi a los ciudadanos de Libia, permitiéndoles poner fin a 42 años de dictadura. Y justo esta semana ha firmado un acuerdo en Bruselas que prepara el camino para el despliegue de buques estadounidenses en la Base Naval de Rota que formarán parte del escudo de defensa antimisiles europeo.

Incluso con el viento en contra por una contracción económica más amplia en la UE, las exportaciones de bienes y servicios españoles siguen creciendo de una manera firme. El turismo aumentó de forma sólida en 2011 y lo está haciendo de nuevo en 2012. Las empresas españolas se encuentran entre los principales inversores en Estados Unidos. Compañías españolas están construyendo nuestros mayores proyectos de energía solar y realizan algunas de las mayores operaciones de banca personal en Estados Unidos. Las empresas españolas han creado decenas de miles de puestos de trabajo en Estados Unidos (aproximadamente 16.000 sólo en el condado de Dade, en Florida) y esas mismas, empresas están entre las mayores en España. Como resultado de las recientes reformas del mercado laboral, cuando comience la recuperación económica, España debéría estar en mejor situación para aprovechar y estimular la creación de empleo y el crecimiento.

Resulta fácil centrarse en las imágenes negativas y es innegable que España afronta importantes desafíos. Pero creo que podemos centrarnos en estos retos poniendo de relieve los puntos fuertes de España. El Gobierno central está negociando con la UE unas reformas financieras que tengan sentido. Los gobiernos autonómicos están trabajando mucho para administrar presupuestos reducidos. Grupos vecinales, las ONG y organizaciones religiosas y civiles se han movilizado para apoyar a sus comunidades y ayudarse mutuamente. La sociedad civil sigue siendo civil cuando los ciudadanos ejercen su derecho a la protesta en actos mayoritariamente pacíficos. Las calles de Madrid, Barcelona y otras ciudades españolas bullen de actividad y vitalidad. No sé si España ha salido del bache todavía, pero estoy seguro de que hay luz al final del túnel. Lo veo a mi alrededor, todos los días, en España. ¡Viva la Marca España!

Alan D. Solomont es Embajador de Estados Unidos en España y Andorra

 

PHYSICS IN DAILY LIFE: Boiling water

Water is a vital substance for any living organism. But it is also an extraordinary substance. Take its boiling point, for example. H2O has a much higher boiling point than other light molecules. Indeed, it is roughly a factor of five higher than for a simple diatomic molecule with a comparable mass like nitrogen. It is also higher than that of polyatomic molecules like CO2, SO2, CH4, and even higher than that of ordinary alcohol, C2H5OH.

It is all due to the structure of the water molecule with its large dipole moment. The attractive well depth is large, and the molecules can escape from the well only at relatively high temperature. Hence the high boiling point. But this also means that the heat of vaporisation is relatively large. This is fortunate, because it makes water an efficient medium to cool our body by evaporation when sweating. Just how large is the heat of vaporisation of water?

This is something we know from experience without probably realising it. If we boil water it takes, for example, 5 minutes to reach the boiling point. If we continue heating, it will take another 20 minutes or so before the water has completely evaporated (which is good, because it gives us time to save our kettle). This means that evaporating water takes roughly four times as much heat as raising its temperature from close to 0°C to 100°C. Since the latter takes about 420 kJ/kg, the heat of vaporisation must be on the order of 2 MJ/ kg. Which it is.

Now an interesting problem arises when we boil water in a pan which has a lid on it. Ask any layman this question: What is the effect of having the lid on the pan: will it take longer or shorter for the water to completely evaporate compared to a pan without a lid? Or doesn’t it make any difference? As we all know, when approaching boiling point, much of the evaporating water will condense on the lid and flow back into the liquid. So the answer will probably be: Of course it takes longer when the lid is on the pan.

Wrong. Do the experiment and see what happens. It makes no noticeable difference. The explanation is easy. Whether or not there is a lid on the pan, the heat supply to the water remains the same. And where would the heat go? Except for the (relatively small) heat losses by radiation and conduction, all heat is used for evaporation. This means that there should be no difference, irrespective of the details of condensation and backflow that occur under the lid.

If we are a little more precise, it is even the opposite of what the layman expects. The reason is that radiation losses are reduced by the metal lid with its emissivity of perhaps 0.1, to be compared to almost 1 for the water surface. So there is even more net heat available to vaporise water if the lid is on the pan, and evaporation should even be a bit faster.

So, a simple kitchen experiment like boiling water contains some nice physics. And to answer the seemingly complicated question of the influence of the lid on the evaporation speed, all we need is the first law of thermodynamics: energy conservation, that’s what it boils down to.

 

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L.J.F. (Jo) Hermans, Leiden University, The Netherlands

EUROPHYSICS NEWS, 43/2, 2012

THE YEAR IN REVIEWS: FIVE BOOKS THAT STOOD OUT IN 2012

Books editor Jermey Matthews picks his five favorite books that were reviewed this year in the pages of Physics Today.

Last year, we ran the first installment of our "year in reviews," a roundup of the most broadly intriguing and generally positive book reviews that appeared in Physics Today. This year, I've used the same criteria in highlighting below five of the top books and reviews out of the 49 books we reviewed in 2012.

As for what constitutes "broadly intriguing" in my book, take a glance back at the 2011 list, which included Istvan Hargittai's Judging Edward Teller: A Closer Look at One of the Most Influential Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Prometheus Books, 2010) and David Easley and Jon Kleinberg's Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About a Highly Connected World (Cambridge U. Press, 2010). A review of the former characterizes Teller as "an extraordinarily gifted physicist cutting a tragic figure," and the latter claims to be a "transdisciplinary" undergraduate text on the Science of such social dynamical processes as epidemics, financial market dynamics, and information flow in online social networks like Facebook.

If those books intrigue you, then so might the five 2012 picks, which include a concise history of US leadership in physics in the 20th century, a collection of essays by a curmudgeonly Nobelist, and the recollections of a central figure in the climate debates. Coincidentally, four of the five picks were published by university presses, including two by Harvard. Not coincidentally, three of the five authors were interviewed for our Author Q&A series, which appears monthly in Bookends.

 

A Short History of Physics in the American Century by David Cassidy (Harvard U. Press, 2011; $29.95). In his May review, MIT's Benjamin Wilson describes David Cassidy's Short History as a "snappy and enjoyable read" that "revisits familiar territory with a fresh perspective." Roughly 200 pages long, the book takes the reader from the late 1800s, when physics was viewed as "the handmaiden of engineering," through the cold war era, when physics commanded the largest share of the Pentagon’s R&D budget, up to the modern era, in which the decline of federal spending has hampered large physics projects. Says Cassidy in his Bookends Q&A, "The increasing interdisciplinary and international character of research may influence decisions in some fields as to whether the big physics model is the most cost-effective and results-effective way to approach newly emerging research topics."

 

The Rise of Nuclear Fear by Spencer R. Weart (Harvard U. Press, 2012; $21.95). Nuclear power and nuclear energy form "one of the most powerful complexes of images ever created outside of religions," writes historian of Science Spencer Weart in his new book. In his June review, Princeton University's Michael Gordin says The Rise of Nuclear Fear is an "extensive revisión" of Weart's 1988

Nuclear Fear (Harvard U. Press) and "a fresh account" in which symbolism and such images as mushroom clouds, fallout, and cooling towers remain central. The new book, says Gordin, "bolsters its analysis with citations to recent findings from cognitive psychology to ground its interpretations." A former director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, Weart takes the view that human fear of nuclear reactors is irrational. In his Bookends Q&A, he suggests that the only way to overcome that fear in the long run is "for the authorities to become genuinely more trustworthy. The nuclear industry must be regulated extremely scrupulously, even if that means closing down antiquated reactors."

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann (Columbia U. Press, 2012; $28.95). Because their work demonstrated that the observed warming of the past 50 years is outside the envelope of natural variability, climate scientist Michael Mann and his collaborators "became targets of attacks that ranged from hate mail to subpoenas from the US Congress and the attorney general of Virginia." So says University of California, San Diego historian of Science Naomi Oreskes in her June review, in which she describes the steady effort to cast doubt on climate Science that points to anthropogenic interference and to sully the integrity of climate scientists as a "disheartening story." Mann describes it as a war. His report from the frontlines includes his response to the media frenzy following his 1998 "hockey stick" article in Nature and his pivot from "believing in a firewall between science and politics to being convinced that scientists must be willing to engage the political context in which they work." Although Oreskes acknowledges that the scientific community's norm is to be cautious when presenting its findings, she ends her review on this note: "If the point of caution is to avoid being attacked, then The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars makes it clear that tactic does not work."

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science by Michael P. Nielsen (Princeton U. Press, 2012; $24.95). In the opening of his September review of Reinventing Discovery, the University of South Carolina's Thomas Vogt tells the tale of chess Champion Garry Kasparov versus the world. Actually, it was "some 50000 people from 75 countries" who pressed Kasparov in an epic online chess game. The world team lost—perhaps sooner than it should have—because the voting system was "compromised"; it submitted a move that “circumvented” the wisdom of the crowd'" Such "amplification of [online] collective intelligence" is what Nielsen claims is ushering in a new era for Science. According to Vogt, Nielsen "assembles a collection of intriguing case studies": for example, the Polymath Project, in which an apparently intractable math problem was solved online by 27 mathematicians in 37 days; and the Galaxy Zoo, another online project through which amateur astronomers have made significant contributions to our understanding of the universe's large-scale structure.

Vogt says that Reinventing Discovery fails to outline a strategy for implementing networked Science, and it lacks a nuanced discussion of the tension between the goal of a large collective and the goal of the increasingly alienated individual scientist fighting for tenure. Nonetheless, Vogt considers the book "an important first sketch" of a rapidly emerging approach that is well suited for addressing "certain fields of discovery."

More and Different: Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon by Philip W. Anderson (World Scientific, 2011; $38.00). It's a good thing Phil Anderson was "thoughtful" in his collection of essays on science and scientists, or he would have had a few shots coming his way from Cornell University's David Mermin. Instead, in his January review, Mermin offers the reader a healthy serving of what makes Anderson "the greatest curmudgeon to grace our profession over the past two-thirds of a century." Mermin writes that Anderson gives respectful but often edgy opinions of other Science luminaries, including John Bardeen, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, and Eugene Wigner. Mermin ends his review with the following gem from Anderson:

All I can say to the younger theorists is: don't trust anyone over 45, except maybe me, and I'm not so sure about me.

Anderson, in his Bookends Q&A, is even more candid:

To get to a real solution, you have to somehow give up on ordinary thinking and completely rethink the conventional wisdom, and [that requires] a mind uncluttered with prejudices learned in a long career. Why am I immune to such rigidities of mind? I suppose that it is ¡n this sense that I really am a curmudgeon: I cannot bear indolent thinking.

NOVEDAD EDITORIAL.

>>

EVERYTHING COMING OUT OF NOTHING

M.M.CARREIRA AND J.A.GONZALO

 

Some contemporary scientists do not care about the principle of energy conservation and say seriously that the universe comes out of nothing. Of course Planck, Einstein and Lemaitre would disagree. But they do not seem to worry in the least. This is a clear proof that nowadays nonsequiturs are easily accepted in academic circles as most serious scientific statements

After an introduction in which the authors review high level presentations at the 1993 Summer Course in El Escorial in which two future Nobel Prize winners, John C. Mather and George F. Smoot were principal speakers, this book puts into perspective the views of Stephen Hawking, from his presentation at the Vatican Study Week on Astrophysical Cosmology (1981), his book “A brief history of time”, (1988), his lecture on “Gödel and the end of physics” (2002), and his latest book “The Grand Design” (2010).

Chapters on the origin of science in the Christian West, the Post-Renaissance Revolution and the true pioneers of Modern Physics follow. A concluding chapter reviews briefly the evidence for a finite, open and contingent universe, and an illuminating Appendix on “The Chaos of Scientific Cosmology”, by the late historian and philosopher of science Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, recently deceased, completes the book.

In summary, pretending that “Everything coming out of nothing” is a realistic description of the origin of the universe is not logically, epistemologically or metaphysically tenable. On the other hand “A finite, open & contingent universe” is a reasonable coherent and intelligible description.

 

 

 

 

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