Weak Forms and Strong Forms

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language affects thought — how we speak influences how we think. Or, at least, that’s one form of the hypothesis, the weak form. The strong form of Sapir-Whorf says that language determines thought, that how we speak forms a hard boundary on how and what we think. The weak form of Sapir-Whorf says that we drive an ATV across the terrain of thought; language can smooth the path in some areas and create rocks and roadblocks in others, but it doesn’t fundamentally limit where we can go. The strong form, in contrast, says we drive a steam train of thought, and language lays down the rails. There’s an intricate maze of forks and switchbacks spanning the continent, but at the end of the day we can only go where the rails will take us — we can’t lay down new track, no matter how we might try…

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Warp Speed

Warping space and time ain’t hard to do. You’re doing it right now, in fact. Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that everything – you, me, even the Earth itself – warps space and time, simply by existing. This astonishing idea turns 100 years old today, and to celebrate, I recorded a short video with the BBC explaining how Einstein discovered general relativity. I hope you enjoy it!

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Book trip!

I got a book deal a few months ago! My book is about the sordid untold history of quantum physics, exposing the shocking secrets behind the strangest theory in all of physics. It’s going to be published by Basic Books, the same people who publish the Feynman Lectures and Gödel, Escher, Bach, among other things. This is really exciting – I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time.
As part of my research, I’m doing a sort of Grand Tour of Europe for the next month, interviewing people for my book…

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Back to the Future

Why is it easy to break an egg, but impossible to un-break it? More generally, why is the past so different from the future? We can’t travel into the past, but we’re inexorably carried into the future. We can remember the past, but we can’t reliably predict the future. But strangely, the fundamental laws of physics work just as well backwards as forwards – so why do we perceive an arrow of time? That’s the subject of my new feature article for BBC Earth….

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