Episode 45: The Thumbprint Of Creation With Ryan North

the cosmic microwave background polarization

the cosmic microwave background polarization`

LOOK AT THIS FRIGGING THING ABOVE ME! it’s a photo of the cosmic microwave background, and the lines are the polarizations measured by the BICEP2 telescope at the south pole.

note how the lines swirl.

This effect is being caused by primordial gravitational waves: gravitational waves which were generated during the INFLATION epoch when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.

up until now, no one was sure if Inflation occurred. There was circumstantial evidence in favour of it, but no one was sure. Well we’re pretty sure now! LOOK AT THAT.

this is what we’re talking about in today’s show and it’s SO AWESOME.


The guest today is Ryan North. are you reading his comics? Because you probably should, because they’re amazing.

you should probably also look up Dr. katie mack, she is a twitterer , and a science blogger and also a mini podcast of her own.

Physicists: Katie Mack, Mike Zemcov


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


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Good news! I was wrong and now we’ll eat cake and make a show!


So on a recent show with Taylor Mali, he asked us… essentially, why scientists thought they knew everything? I suppose from an outsider perspective we act like we do. And indeed, we understand SO MUCH. But we were quick to correct him: we make no claims for universal understanding, nor is the joy of science the smugness of knowing a ton. No, the joy of science is in exploring that which is NOT known. the frontier of our understanding is vast, and being wrong (and occasionally right) about our guesses are the reason we get out of bed.

anyway. I’m super happy, because today I WAS WRONG. and wrong in a big way.

I am sure that you’ve read the headlines. 

the deal is that I would put (a small amount of) money on two things, up until last week:

1. Inflation is a cosmological solution to an aesthetic/philosophical problem, and that it probably didn’t happen. and EITHER WAY, we would never know because there aren’t any detectable signals which would be distinguishable.

2. Primordial gravitational waves will never be detected, directly or indirectly.

Indeed, part of my PhD thesis involved some simulations which spat out spectra for primordial gravitational waves. So part 2. was RATHER PESSIMISTIC on my part. nevertheless…

I WAS WRONG on both points!


now listen, nothing is certain, and everything should be taken carefully and conservatively…

but it’s amazing. I’m amazed.

Also, up until now, many of my experts had suggested a show on Inflation, and I’d always said no… because there were no observational verifications.

so. I’m happy to say that the next episode of the titanium physicists podcast, we’ll be talking about inflation, and the exciting news.

but tonight? CAkE!

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Episode 44: Radiation Oncology with Chad Jones

So Cancer is absolutely horrible.

Radiation is pretty horrible (also interesting). ep43pic

It is maybe a little surprising that there are methods to treat cancer using radiation.

But there apparently occasions where using radiation to kill cancer cells is justified.

Today we’re talking about Treating cancer using radiation.

Our guest is Chad Jones, Host of the Collapsed Wavefunction Podcast.


John Heath helped me on this episode by fixing the sound. You’re a miracle worker, john.

Physicists: Kiri Nichol, Ken Clark


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


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Episode 43: Approaching Singularity with Jesse Moynihan


The topic of Singularities in physics is a wonderful one.

but it’s deep. and weird. wednesday

there is an inevitability to them, and a finality to them. And in spite of these two features, we also know that they can’t be the whole story. They are both the end of the universe, and the edge of the theory.

There are strong arguments in favour of the idea that our universe began as a singularity.

There are strong arguments that say that the singularities in the middle of black holes are inescapable.

There are strong arguments which say that you will never see a singularity.

It is a world of contradiction. It is a world of certainty. singular

I have recruited THE jesse moynihan, author of Forming (volume 2 will be out soon), and writer and story board artist from some of our favourite episodes of Adventure Time. Jesse gets an earful, but his wonder and curiosity are admirable. You can follow jesse on twitter and on tumblr if you so desire.

This episode is also the debut of the indomitable Katie Mack, the astrophysicist whose outreach efforts are both awe inspiring and amazing.


Physicists: Katie Mack, Jocelyn Read


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


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Episode 42: Quantum Twins Talk In Code With Jesse Brown.

When two people want to communicate without letting anyone else know what they are stiphy42aying, they use an encryption. This would be fool-proof, except for the possibility that someone intercepts the encryption key. Communications over the internet get around this possibility by using a method called “public key encryption.” Unfortunately,  Public key encryption can be cracked using a quantum computer.

Quantum mechanics is a lot like beer… it’s both the cause of and the solution to all of life’s problems.

Quantum Mechanics can be used to do secure encryption. On this episode of the Titanium Physicists Podcast, we talk about how it’s done!

The guest today is Jesse Brown! He’s a broadcaster, and used to be the host of the “search engine” show. He’s currently canada’s greatest media critic, and he hosts the Canadaland Podcast. It’s a wonderful show.

Physicists: Katherine Brown, Miles Steininger


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

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Episode 41: The Light Which Pushes Back The Darkness With The Tolkien Professor

Once upon a time there was light.pic41

but after that there was a great age of darkness.

the dark was deep and thick. Any bright light would be absorbed, and nothing was glowing.

This was the Dark Age of the Universe.

But small things gathered together, and began to shine.

Oh how they shone.

and their light pushed back the darkness.

On this episode of the titanium physicists podcast, we’re talking about the beginning and the end of the great dark age of the universe.

Our guest is Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor , who started his OWN DANG INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING.   Pretty great.

Note that this episode is Loooong. and there is lots of stuff after the end credits, too. pretty rad.
Physicists: Vicky Scowcroft, Mike Zemcov


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

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Episode 40: Snow Lines and No Rhymes with Taylor Mali

image credit to some ninja-turtle.

image credit to some ninja-turtle.

Taylor Mali is a really cool guy. He is a poet, and wrote this poem, for example. YEAAAHHHHH!

This episode, we consider THE CREATION OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM. Why is jupiter so big? Why is the earth so little?

We answer these question.

Taylor has a lot of questions peripheral to the main topic, and not much time. Consider Listening past the end credits to hear MORE AWESOME PHYSICS DISCUSSIONS.

Quite a rousing time, eh?

Physicists: Catherine Niesh, Dave Tsang


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 


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Episode 39: Pasta Matter With Sean Martin



So if you drill into a neutron star what will you see? The answer is fun. As the pressure increases, the electrons get squished into the protons making neutrons… and so as the pressure increases the number of protons (and electrons) decreases… and the nucleons form themselves into STRANGE structures. these structures are often described as “PASTA” because sometimes it looks like gnocchi, sometimes like spaghetti, sometimes like lasagne.

Our guest is Sean Martin. A pal of mine and a real cool dude.

Physicists: Jocelyn Read, Andrew Steiner


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

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Barn the Bunny interviews me on the topic of Tardises.

Ben Tippett: Hello, my name is Ben Tippett. I’m a physicist, and a university math instructor. I study black holes and gravity stuff.

Barn: Hi. I’m a little white rabbit who knows how to type.


Barn: Okay, so you said that no one ever interviews you and that you’d like 881_The_Tardissomeone to interview you about this TARDIS paper you wrote, but also you wanted me to do it because I’m a fictional rabbit and so I know all the right questions to ask.

BT: yeah.

Barn: okay… so. This TARDIS paper. TARDIS usually stands for “Time and Relative Dimension In Space”. Why isn’t that the acronym you used in your paper?

BT: uh. It’s not very descriptive. The acronym “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” is evocative of Einstein’s Theory of spacetime, but it doesn’t really mean anything. so we went with “Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domain In Spacetime,” which means that it’s a box that can go backwards in time and move faster than the speed of light.

Continue reading

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The TARDIS time machine

a basic schematic spacetime diagram of how the TARDIS works.

a basic schematic spacetime diagram of how the TARDIS works.

Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domain In Spacetime.

it’s a more descriptive acronym than “time and relative dimension in space”

The TARDIS is a time and space machine that Dave and I have been working on since january. I was trying to make Alcubierre warp bubbles go in a circle and it didn’t work so I made this instead. It’s a bubble in spacetime that goes along a closed loop in spacetime. here’s the cool bit. while it is going BACKWARDS in time, the arrow of time inside the bubble is opposite that of the arrow of time outside the bubble.

Time inside the bubble goes backwards sometimes.

Time inside the bubble goes backwards sometimes.

Anyway it’s pretty fun.

So the deal is that I’m going to try to publish the paper. So the actual paper is a little bit technical. You need to say a lot of jargon to make people realize that you’re not a crackpot. Ironically.

Anyway, for everyone else who wants to know about this thing, We’ve written a “white paper”… a little review paper that tells you the background and summarizes the results. It’s super fun. We talk about all sorts of background information and alsxtardis2o there are a lot of fun diagrams.

So check out our review article: “THE BLUE BOX WHITE PAPER“.

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