Episode 58: Extraordinary Evidence with Kathryn Cogert and Tim Dobbs

How do we know there was a big bang?

This is the Picture of Temperatures/Densities in the Cosmic Microwave Background. It was taken by the WMAP satellite!

This is the Picture of Temperatures/Densities in the Cosmic Microwave Background. It was taken by the WMAP satellite!

i mean: how, specifically do we know?

that’s what we talk about today! EVIDENCE! OBSERVATION RUNS! SCIENCE!

Hubble, The cosmic microwave background, COBE, The Sloan Digital Sky Survey,  WMAP, Planck! we even talk about the future of observational cosmology!

Oh man, it’s so much fun! and our guests? Kathryn Cogert and Tim Dobbs of the Encyclopedia Brunch Podcast!

Physicists: Katie Mack and Michael Zemcov

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

Episode 57: Two Photons Walk Into An H-Bar with Brian Cross

Okay So.

You make an lensing system which lets you COMPLETELY BATHE a single point in a TON of identical photons.

I took this photo from one of Nicole's Papers. LOOK AT ALL THIS DANG STUFF!

I took this photo from one of Nicole’s Papers. LOOK AT ALL THIS DANG STUFF!

And then? If everything works out, TWO OF THE PHOTONS GET EATEN LIKE A HUNGRY HUNGY HIPPO, and then spit out as a single photon with twice THE ENERGY. it has twice the frequency, so it’s a MUCH DIFFERENT COLOUR from everything around it.

SO CRAZY. SO AWESOME. you can use it to look at stuff inside a cell.

our guest today is a STAR FROM BROADWAY!! so fancy! If you’re in new york around now, he’s in a play called “Desire” at 59e59 theater !

Physicists: Nicole Prent, Jacqueline Townsend

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

quick note

sorry i haven’t updated lately. i have been super busy at work and i’m currently on vacation at my parents house which has very very slow internet. remember how crackly that episode on quantum computers with comicbookgirl19? that was recorded here. SLOOWWW INTERNET= BAD QUALITY.

instead i’m going to take the month to do the type of organizing that i don’t have much energy for: booking guests for the next few months and updating the website.

in the meantime, go look at a sunset.
now you know how that works, right?

Episode 56: What “In Tangles” Meant, with Dan Harmon

Oh my what an episode I have for ye today, my wonderful Ti-Phyters!

Dan Harmon has joined us! and he is SOOO CLEVER, oh my what an episode! We spend today talking about QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT!

this would make a nice painting.

this would make a nice painting.

You might not understand how hard I am working right now to keep from making puns about quantum entanglement.

For instance, I might say something like “As a theoretical physicist Erwin Schrodinger was a peculiar person and also a keen mathematician, and one thing he was often toying with was what we now call ‘Knot theory’. He always had a loop of string or three in his pocket, to play with on any occasion where he had to wait for more than a few minutes. As I said, he was peculiar… he also had a sweet tooth, and often enjoyed sucking on a hard candy after a long meal. One such night, after a lovely dinner out with his wife, he was sucking on a candy and the conversation became heated. He could not speak quickly with the sticky obstruction on his tongue, so he removed it and threw it into his pocket for temporary storage. Unfortunately, it stuck to all of the string and became a rather big mess. It wasn’t the last time he had to unravel a problem in tangled mints.”

you see? This is an example of I’m not the type of joke i’m holding back from telling you. I’m taking one for the team on this one.

This episode is wonderful. one of our best, i think. please enjoy it and remember to listen past the end music for more clever conversation!

Physicists: Katherine Brown, Ken Clark

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


Question Barn 8


a brand new fun question!

sorry i’ve had trouble publishing lately. super busy and had trouble getting everywhere in the same place.

but question barn!





hey, i just received a correspondence from Nirav Mehta, who commented:


I just listened to question barn 8, and thought I’d add my 2 cents here… First, let me say that you an Ken were completely correct to be suspicious of your conclusions in that episode.  It was not very satisfying for good reason, and your intuition was steering you in the right direction.

It all has to do with the fact that the mass of the pi-meson is much lower than the mass of the Higgs. The (neutral) pi-meson has a mass of about 135 MeV, while the Higgs weighs in at a whopping 125 GeV.  When you consider the fact that a nucleon is about 1 GeV, it begins to make sense.  The pi-meson is responsible for the long-range attractive nature of the nucleon-nucleon interaction, and other heavier mesons such as the rho (mass 770 MeV) could play a role in the short-range repulsion.

The Higgs is nearly as massive as a Tellurium atom, and its range should be about 3 orders of magnitude shorter than the range of the pion if we think of it in the Yukawa sense as resulting in a exp(-m*r)/r kind of force.

I am still very interested in Ramiro’s question, as I know very little about the Higgs.  From your conversation, I see no reason why the Higgs can not be the force carrier for some “force”, at lest in the modern sense that forces are a result of some broken symmetry in the Lagrangian.  I liked your discussion about how the Higgs particle is a real, honest-to-goodness excitation of the Higgs field, like the photon is an excitation of the EM field, and that the Higgs observed at the LHC was not a virtual particle, how could it be?!

Episode 55: Laser Laser Laser Laser Laser Laser with Aaron Fischer



our guest is Aaron Fischer, who is a really great guy! we talk about all sorts of laser business. how lasing works, stimulated emission, space death rays, blu-ray players, laser fission, laser cooling. laser everything.

Physicists: Tia Miceli, Abby Shockley

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

QUestion Barn 7



Me and Amanda Bauer Answer a question from dave!

“First of all I really enjoy the podcast!  And for a while I’ve been wanting to send in this question and think it would be perfect for the new segment.  My question is:  What direction would one look to see the big bang? Now, I understand that we are in an ever expanding universe and technically the big bang is in all directions but I guess I’m having a hard time mentally grasping the concept. I’ve heard the balloon analogy but I just can’t understand that if I was expanding on an inflating balloon I would still be able to look to the center of said balloon, right?!. Conversely, would it be possible to look away from the big bang and into the space our universe is expanding into?

I hope this hasn’t already been covered but if it has would it be possible to go more in depth with an explanation of the expansion itself. Thanks for such an awesome podcast!


In other news, Amanda has a wikipedia page.  someone should add a thing about the titanium physicists to it. *cough*

Episode 54: The Way The Dog Ran Away with Erin McGathy

this photo is from the wikipedia page on the Milky Way. It's A fish-eye mosaic of the Milky Way arching at a high inclination across the night sky, shot from a dark-sky location in Chile

this photo is from the wikipedia page on the Milky Way. It’s A fish-eye mosaic of the Milky Way arching at a high inclination across the night sky, shot from a dark-sky location in Chile


1. It’s about the milky way galaxy. Where it comes from, where it’s gonna go, where we are within it, and how we know about it.

2. Erin McGathy is on it! She’s a podcaster and comedian out of LA. She has a podcast called “This feels terrible” , which is fantastic and cathartic! She’s frequently a cohost of the Harmontown podcast. She’s even on twitter and instagram. Anyway i was super nervous until she got on the show and it was lots of fun.

3. Amanda Bauer’s back. hooray! Also Rupinder Brar. It’s a power team. I barely had to edit, their words come out so smooth and so good.

This particular episode has an amazing conversation about science culture. It’s after the end credits and it must not be missed. it’s amazing.

Physicists: Amanda Bauer, Rupinder Brar

Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


Question Barn 6

Hey tiphyters.questionbarn

i’ve been sitting on this one like an egg, and probably shoulda published it a couple weeks ago.

Katie Mack Is Back.

Doctor Katie Mack. 

the question we answer is from bob

Hello again Ben. I’ve found and listened to the QB episodes. Thanks for the help with locating them.

Since you seem to have ready access to a cosmologist, I’d like to offer for QB a trio of related cosmological questions that have bugged me for some time.

1. How do we know that all the matter in the universe came from the big bang?

2. How do we know that the big bang did not expand into an existing precursor universe? (It seems plausible to me that this may be the case but we have no way to know because the hyperinflation immediately after the big bang and accelerating expansion due to dark energy will permanently keep us outside of the light cone of any event in this hypothetical precursor universe. I’m not fond of unfalsifiable theories…)”


cool, cool.