Benjamin Bahr · Boris Lemmer Rina Piccolo
Benjamin Bahr · Boris Lemmer
A Cartoon Guide
to the Fascinating
Benjamin Bahr, Boris Lemmer, Rina Piccolo
Dr. Benjamin Bahr is a quantum gravity researcher at the University of Hamburg, Germany. He and his research group work on a unification of Einstein’s
theory of general relativity with the principles of quantum physics.
Before that, he did his PhD at the Max-Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics
in Potsdam, and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK.
When he is not trying to calculate what goes on inside a black hole, or what
happened at the Big Bang, he likes to explain physics to laypeople – by giving
public talks, or writing popular science books.
Dr. Boris Lemmer is an experimental elementary particle physicist, working at
the University of Göttingen and on the ATLAS Experiment at CERN.
Before doing his PhD in Göttingen, he studied physics and mathematics in
Gießen. He does not only love science, but also explaining it to laymen, either
in books, in talks or on stage. In 2011, he won the German Science Slam championship.
Rina Piccolo’s cartoons have appeared in numerous magazines including The
New Yorker, Barron’s Business Magazine, The Reader’s Digest, Parade Magazine,
Her daily comic strip “Tina’s Groove” is syndicated in newspapers and websites
Benjamin Bahr Boris Lemmer Rina Piccolo
A Cartoon Guide to the Fascinating
Realm of Physics
ISBN 978-3-662-49509-4 (eBook)
Springer Heidelberg Dordrecht London New York
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016932389
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016
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The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information
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the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made.
Managing editor: Margit Maly
Illustrator: Rina Piccolo
Cover Illustration: Rina Piccolo
Printed on acid-free paper
Springer Berlin Heidelberg is part of Springer Science+Business Media
What Do You Get When You
Collide Two Physicists and a Cartoonist?
If you remember your college, or high school physics textbook like I remember mine, you’ll agree that
it was the heaviest of all your books to carry, and the
most difficult to understand. A quick glance through
the pages of this book – the one you’re looking at
now – will show you that it looks nothing like your
college, or high school textbook. It’s way too fun
looking. Flip through it and you’ll find two dogs, a
cat, and quarks with three eyes. You’ll see cartoon
electrons, and comics about Special Relativity. Oh,
and let’s not forget the actual science. Explained in
plain, everyday language that even a cartoonist like
me can understand, co-authors Boris Lemmer, and
Benjamin Bahr will show you what anti-matter has
to do with bananas, and why you feel bloated on
an airplane (clue: it’s not because you ate bananas).
They’ll crack open an atom, and make you question
the stability of the ground beneath your feet. They’ll
tell you how to create matter out of energy. They’ll
even have you wondering about a possible other
you, in a possible other universe, reading another
book eerily like this one.
As a cartoonist and writer, I am a natural wonderer, and although like many people I find physics
difficult, the stuff of black holes, worm holes, and
sub-atomic strangeness has always intrigued me.
The opportunity to work with Boris, and Benjamin
– physicists devoted to de-coding nature’s biggest
puzzles – has made me a better wonderer, and a
shade brighter. Thanks to these gentlemen, I now
understand things like surface tension… and find it
as mind-boggling as dark matter. (Thanks, guys, for
adding to my crazy mental catalogue of things I love
to wonder about.)
If you’re like me, an avid wonderer who enjoys having your mind blown by the often bizarre nature of
reality – and you like cartoons – then seek no other
book than this one.
So, what do you get when you collide two physicists and a cartoonist? You get quarks, quirks, and
an enjoyable exploration of the fascinating realm of
Measure for Measure On the Units in Science
I – Rocket Science
Auroras An Exciting Glow for Humans and Atoms
Light Ripples in the Electromagnetic Field
Invisibility Cloaks Walk Like a Magician
The Doppler Shift The Stretching of Waves
Lasers High Quality Light Offering new Possibilities
Vacuum and Air Pressure Molecules on the Move
Fluid Flow and Turbulences Nothing You Should Test on a Highway
Why Does a Plane Fly? How to Guide the Air to Keep You up
Surface Tension Minimal Surface for Maximum Comfort
Non-Newtonian Fluid Is It Liquid? Or Is It Solid?
Rocket Maneuvers Navigating within Nothing
Kepler’s Laws The Basic Rules for the Movement of Planets
Conservation Laws Nothing Gets Lost in Nature
The Voyager Probes Where No One Has Gone Before
Birth of the Solar System A Star Is Born
Genesis of the Moon A Mini Big Bang Close to Earth
Extrasolar Planets Is Anybody out There?
II – The Cosmos
Spectral Classification A Who Is Who of Stars
Red Giants and Planetary Nebulae The End of a Main Sequence Star
Supernovae Going out with a Bang
White Dwarfs and Type Ia Supernovae Corpses of the Suns and Standard Candles
Black Holes Once You Go Black, You Never Come Back
The Big Bang The Horrendous Space Kablooie
Timeline of Our Universe From the Big Bang to the Present
The Cosmic Microwave Background The Oldest Photons in the Universe
Large Scale Structure of the Universe A Network Made of Stars
Galaxy Types Looks Is Everything
Relative Space and Time Why you Can’t Make Light Faster by Pushing it
The Theory of General Relativity Curved Space and Warped Time
Curved Space Time Getting the Right Angle
Gravitational Lensing Mirages in the Night Sky
Dark Matter More than Meets the Eye
Dark Energy The Revival of Einstein’s Biggest Blunder
III – Quantum Mechanics
Wave-Particle Duality Is It a Wave or Particle?
The Double Slit Experiment On the Weirdness of the Quantum World
Heisenberg Uncertainty You Cannot Have It Both Ways
Schrödinger’s Cat Dead and Alive at the Same Time
Feynman Paths Reality as the Sum of Possibilities
Quantum Tunneling Where There Is a Wave Function, There’s a Way
Radioactive Decay About the Life of Nuclei and Their End
Alpha, Beta and Gamma Rays Radioactive Rays
Nuclear Fusion Energy Source for Dinosaurs and Future Humans
Superconductors Super Highways for Electrons
Superfluidity The Creepy Kind of Fluid
Spin Particle Dances in Discrete Steps
Entanglement A Spooky Action at a Distance?
Quantum Teleportation There and Back Again
Qubits How to Build a Quantum Computer
IV – Particle Physics
Atoms vs. Elementary Particles Crack and Check, Crack and Check …
The Neutrino So Light and so Hard to Catch
Standard Model of Elementary Particles So Far the Best Manual for Our Universe
Antimatter More Science than Fiction
Particle Decays The Particles’ Short Lives and Interesting Heritages
Feynman Diagrams Particle Skribblings with a Serious Meaning
The Strong Interaction Keeping Our Atoms Stable
The Weak Interaction Weak but with Unique Power
E=mc² Energy and Mass – Almost the Same
The Higgs Mechanism Origin of Our Particles’ Masses
The Structure of the Proton Or How to Get Mass without a Higgs
Particle Accelerators Time Machines and Big Bang Creators
Particle Detectors Showing the Invisible
Cosmic Radiation Sent from Unknown Accelerators Far Away from Us
Neutrino Oscillations Particles Changing Personalities
Radiation Therapy Particles on a Mission against Evil
V – Beyond the Boundaries
of Our Knowledge
Exotic Matter Different from Everything We Know
Before the Big Bang A Bounce?
Quantum Gravity Where Is the Quantum Theory of the Fourth Force?
Black Hole Evaporation Planck Stars Instead of a Singularity?
Wormholes Shortcuts through Space and Time
Tachyons Actually Faster than Light
Warp Drive Surfing on a Space Time Wave
Supersymmetry A Beautiful Solution to Many Problems
String Theory A Way to a Theory of EverythingTM
Extra Dimensions Tiny Spaces Hiding Out
Many Worlds The Cat Is Alive in Another Universe
The End of the Universe And Then?
He can explain the Uncertainty Principle, but is himself uncertain
as to what to do with a hairbrush. He can find his way through a
Feynman Path, but is hopelessly lost in a shopping mall parking
That’s Erwin – our theoretical physicist at Princeton. Only a brilliant
guy like him can get away with applying the Many-Worlds Theory
to laundry day. As he puts it, “I’m satisfied with the probability that,
if not in this reality, then at least in some other alternate reality – my
cardigan is being washed.”
As a young pup in his dad’s garage, he built rockets that touched
the edge of space. No small wonder that Maxwell – his paws on
switches and dials, his head in the stars – was destined to explore
Today, at MIT, where Maxwell spends his time, you’ll most likely
find him inside a lecture hall giving a spirited talk on cosmic voids,
inside a lab tinkering with gadgets and screens, or in the local pub
discussing wormhole navigation with colleagues over a pint. And
oh, he has a special place in his heart for women mathematicians
– perhaps one in particular.
The beauty of the night sky is as important to her as the accuracy
of a mathematical proof. Behind Emmy’s passion for numbers is,
you might say, a personal quest to uncover the rational elegance
in the natural world around her.
When she’s not running computations in her office at Oxford, you’ll
find Emmy on a dinner date with Maxwell, or debating the existence of gravity mediating particles with Erwin.
If an atom were the size of a football field, this little guy – the Proton – would be smaller than a spider on that field. Made up of two
UP Quarks, and one DOWN Quark, the Proton may not be an elementary particle, but his role in the quantum world is enormously
important. It’s this little fellow that makes up every nucleus in every
atom in the vast universe. He’s a happy particle, being always
Most of the time, you’ll find this negatively charged particle spinning in his
home shell – or orbit – inside an atom. We’ve got a lot to thank him for. Think
about it – if it weren’t for him and his pals we would not have electricity. With
his truly magnetic personality, you’ll rarely find the Electron alone, but always
seeking other particles, and fellow Electrons, to hook up with. It’s this binding and arranging with his clan that determines all chemical reactions in the
Never was there a more charming team of particles than this one – the team of Quarks. There are – as
far as we know – six players in the Quark lineup, named Up, Down, Charm, Strange, Top, and Bottom.
With whimsical names like these, you’d think Quarks are the silly clowns of the subatomic world – and
you’d be wrong. As elementary particles that cannot be further broken down, these characters are the
building blocks of several other particles, like Protons, Neutrons, and Hadrons. Silly clowns they are not!