Welcome to “Ask Me Anything,” a new Hippo Reads series dedicated to following knowledge to the ends of the Earth. This is your chance to explore everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a particular topic, but never had the chance (or audacity!) to ask. At Hippo, we’re always asking questions to which we don’t have the answers. We have a feeling our readership also has a lot of burning questions about the world. As such, we’ve created a new venue for you to ask your most pressing, most bizarre, most creative questions of a vetted Hippo academic.

YOU ASK THE QUESTION, WE’LL SOURCE THE ANSWER

Here’s how it works:

  • On Monday, we post an open call for questions along with an introduction to that week’s hand-selected expert.
  • You submit your questions—using the form below—by Friday of that week.
  • We forward a selection of your questions to our expert.
  • The expert considers them. His or her answers run in a post the following Friday.

We encourage you to share this campaign—and your questions!—via email and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.), spurring a lively conversation. As many of us remember from G.I. Joe cartoons, “knowing is half the battle” (we’re still unsure what comprises the other half).

THE INAUGURAL HIPPO READS EXPERT IS:

David Kaiser,

Theoretical Physicist & Historian of Science

MIT

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Introduction by Benjamin Winterhalter

I first encountered David Kaiser through his appearance in a recent NOVA special (Brian Green’s “Fabric of the Cosmos,” not to be confused with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos”). He’s a distinguished professor at MIT, where he teaches both physics and the history of science, and he serves as the department head of that university’s program in Science, Technology, and Society. Beyond Professor Kaiser’s many awards—which include one from the History of Science Society for his first book and a MacVicar Faculty Fellowship for excellence in undergraduate teaching—he also loves sharing his interest in science with the public. He’s published approachable, exciting articles about physics in a wide variety of popular venues, including Scientific American, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. His most recent book—the dreamy, engaging How the Hippies Saved Physics, a chronicle of the strange relationship between the Bay Area counterculture and the quantum revolution—should not be missed. Neither should his appearances in the NOVA special, for that matter.

In a recent interview with Professor Kaiser, I was struck by his welcoming demeanor. He treated me—a relative physics novice and general science outsider—with a kind of warmth that my half-baked thoughts probably didn’t really deserve. He courteously mapped the words from my mangled questions onto cogent, interesting topics in contemporary physics, and displayed an impressive degree of patience with my out-there curiosities. That’s exactly why I thought he would be an impeccable choice for our inaugural Ask Me Anything. He’s not only one of the top scholars in his field, but a great person to talk to.

Perhaps the best way, however, to communicate his openness to you, dear Hippo reader, is to show you. Here, then, is a teaser question, intended to demonstrate that you that you really can Ask Him Anything:

Q: I understand the idea that forwards time travel is theoretically possible, but what about backwards time travel? How could such a thing occur? Doesn’t it lead to all sorts of paradoxes—multiple “yous,” for example?

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUBMISSIONS!

SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED. WINNING QUESTIONS WILL BE ANNOUNCED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2014. 

What would you like to ask Professor Kaiser? Here’s your chance to engage with one of the world’s top theoretical physicists. Don’t be shy…

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Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via flickr

  • Richard Langston

    What is the wave length of the electrons in a hydrogen atom and how do I duplicate it

  • Richard Langston

    And what is the diameter of the circumstances of the electron path in a hydrogen atom

  • Richard Langston

    Now that I think about it hydrogen is too unstabil for my needs lets run heleium
    diameteer and freekqquencie
    2/3s Crown Royal. 1/3 Fireball no chaser requiredddd

  • SoundOfReason

    Can’t we explain that ‘Dark Matter’ does not really exist at all by saying that anti-matter could be throwing off our observational calculations of mass? Couldn’t it be that some parts of the universe have huge amounts of anti-matter? Does anti-matter have gravitational pull or counter gravitational pull?

  • Alok Kumar

    If power radiated (hence energy lost) due to GW (gravitational wave) is 200 watt (joules/sec),then why doesn’t the earth even appears to fall towards the sun as the earth is loosing energy just like electron loosing energy in the form of EM radiation in Rutherford’s Model of atom( though it was replaced later by Bohr’s model)?

  • James Tagge

    I do not have the math background
    for this field of study, but i do recognize contradictions when i see them. I
    devour documentaries on these topics, thus my question;

    Alan G. has claimed that there is a
    multi verse, consisting possibly of infinite pocket universes. Well this is
    impossible by virtue of his own proclamations of physics. Infinity is NOT a
    number or value, it is a concept, an abstraction. It cannot exist in
    materiality. Note, the reduction of materiality to the fullest leaves us with a
    vibrating energy quanta, that of which all else is composed. So,
    “quanta” is what?…a finite, deliniateable measure of
    “stuff” or “something”. To be so, it may possess no
    infinite qualities. In that it is that which composes all else, how can those
    composite entities manifest infinite qualities. They cannot. So, Mr. G says
    that these universes are popping in and out of existence continually and that
    this process will continue eternally. Well that is sequence, which is linear
    and thus cannot ever, ever reach/achieve infinity. Please explain if you would.

    Next he claimed that the universe
    was forced to expand rapidly via inflation, a process driven by monopoles which
    could only exist in the immense heat of the pre-inflation “stuff”
    which expanded. He further stated that after inflation, the monopoles decayed
    and the universe, by then a centimeter in diameter cooled such that the
    temperature across its scope was uniform. Were this not the case, we would not
    see the uniformity we do now. So, if this is so, the monopoles he claimed could
    only exist in the immense heat prior to the expansion could not continue to
    exist to create these pocket universes. Yes?

    Additionally, his claim that the
    monopoles which have a half life would continue to exist (even if we ignore the
    temperature issue) would divide eternally which is also impossible. This is
    like saying that Zeno’s paradox has no resolution. For example, in this
    paradox, a man walking a finite distance, were he to be stopped at the half
    point each time it was reached, would never end up at the end. This is
    resolvable in a few ways, but one, most applicable here is that were the
    distance continually halved, eventually, it would shrink to the size of less
    than one of the sub atomic particles of which he was composed. He would thus no
    longer be moving at all. So the halving, analogous to the half life of the
    monotopoles would end, i.e., the monopoles would become smaller than a single
    particle of which they are composed. So eternal halving is impossible as
    infinity is materially non existent.

    I find it odd that threse
    rhetorical acrobatics are nothing more than an attempt at escaping admitting
    the necessity of recognition of intelligent design in the precision of the
    cosmological constant (120 decimal places). Can you enlighten?