Astronomy? Astrology? No Difference in the Dark Ages.

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I hope my post on Unusual Historicals won’t drive my scientifically minded friends too crazy. I’m using the term astronomy to describe a natural philosophy closer to today’s astrology. But early medieval scholars called their study of the universe astronomy.

They saw similar phenomena as today’s stargazers do—eclipses, comets, planets, constellations—but it was for a different purpose. Well, sort of. Astronomers throughout the ages sought explanations for their observations. Today’s scientists look at forces such as gravity. In the Middle Ages, scholars were trying to figure out Gods’ will and believed unusual events in the sky were omens.

See my post for more on how Carolingians saw the universe.

Ninth century diagrams

Ninth century diagrams show the division of the day and the week (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

When a Writer Must Imagine the Unthinkable

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I’m nervous about my post in English Historical Fiction Authors. In an eighth-century German community, a young disabled beggar killed her newborn, to the horror of the villagers and a group of missionary nuns from Britain.

More than a millennium later, I’m as appalled as they are, yet I try to explain why the girl would do such a thing. It would be easier for me to paint the teenager as a fiend and not speculate on her motives. But I’m a novelist, and my job is to put myself inside the heads of other people, even those whose actions disgust me.

When I think of the young mother, I don’t see a monster. Rather I see an outcast with no friends or family or even a midwife, someone who might have been so deep in the throes of depression that she truly believed her baby better off dead. Her deed is still heinous, but trying to understand her makes her human.

For more, see my post on EHFA about the baby in the river.

Studies of Beggars and Vagrants

Studies of Beggars and Vagrants, between 1465 and 1559, by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Heisenberg and Schroedinger Develop Equally Valuable Ideas but Criticize Each Other

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In this installment on the history of atom theory, physics professor (and my dad) Dean Zollman features Erwin Schroedinger—best known for his thought experiment involving a box and a cat. Schroedinger found a way to visualize quantum ideas. Heisenberg, who developed a more complex approach, was not pleased.—Kim

By Dean Zollman

Dean ZollmanAs I discussed last time, Heisenberg developed his ideas without any direct reference to wave-particle duality that had been postulated by Louis de Broglie. A different approach was taken by Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961). He took the wave ideas to heart and began working on a theory in which an electron in the hydrogen atom behaved somewhat as a vibrating string. As shown in the diagram below, a string which is fixed at both ends can support only certain vibrations which are related to the length of the string. Thus this phenomena seems to have some relation to the Bohr atom with its limit on the number energies.

Three Different Modes of Vibrations

Three different modes of vibrations for a string which is held fixed at both ends. (By Christophe Dang Ngoc, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Schroedinger needed to combine this idea with the de Broglie hypothesis to obtain a mathematical formulation for atoms and other small objects. As with Heisenberg, Schroedinger’s breakthrough would come when he took time away from his daily grind. However, his motivation was quite different from Heisenberg’s hay fever. I will rely on Arthur I. Miller, a historian of science, to describe it.

“A good friend of Erwin Schroedinger recalled that ‘he did his greatest work during a late erotic outburst in his life.’ The epiphany occurred in the Christmas holidays of 1925 when the thirty-eight-year-old Viennese physicist vacationed with his former girlfriend at the Swiss ski resort of Arosa near Davos. Their passion was the catalyst for a year-long creative activity.”

(Most historians suspect that Schroedinger’s wife, Annemarie (1896-1965), would have been aware of this liaison. Schroedinger was a well-known womanizer.)

Erwin Schroedinger

Erwin Schroedinger in 1933 (Nobel Foundation, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Schroedinger constructed his equation by using de Broglie’s concept and analogies with optics and other wave phenomena. The result was a differential equation in which one can enter information about the energy of the particle. Then solving the equation yields a wave function which provides some information about the particle’s motion. I am being deliberately vague because at the time it was not clear to Schroedinger or his colleagues exactly what information the wave function was providing.

Schroedinger on the Austrian 1000 shilling note

Prior to the creation of the euro, Schroedinger appeared on the Austrian 1000 shilling note. (By Oesterreichische Nationalbank, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Visualization

Schroedinger’s equation was more appealing to physicists than Heisenberg’s matrix formulation. First, differential equations, while they can be difficult to solve, were well known entities. Newton’s Second Law is an example of a differential equation which physicists had been dealing with for about 200 years. Second, it was much easier to use in calculations than the matrix approach.

As I mentioned last time, using matrices Wolfgang Pauli needed 40 pages of calculations to obtain numbers for the energy levels in the hydrogen. With the Schroedinger approach, a couple of pages is sufficient. The solution, the wave function, can be visualized. For example, the sketch below shows part of the wave function solution for a beam of electrons striking a very thin metal plate. The top drawing represents the electron energy (blue line) with the thin metal represented by the black line. The bottom drawing is the wave function when the information from the top drawing is put into Schroedinger’s equation.  (These drawings are from one of my teaching projects, Visual Quantum Mechanics.)

Shroedinger equation

Part of a wave function. (From the Quantum Tunneling program of Visual Quantum Mechanics.)

In the early days, the wave function was thought to represent the location of the charge on the electron or the distribution of the electric charge in space. Neither were very satisfying. Eventually Max Born suggested that the square of the wave function represents the probably of finding the electron at each point in space. That interpretation of the wave function did not have a strong theoretical foundation but it stuck and made calculations using Schroedinger’s equation very valuable and useful in a variety of areas of physics and chemistry.

In describing both Heisenberg’s and Schroedinger’s approach I have used words such as developed or constructed; I have avoided derived. In physics and mathematics, we generally think about fundamental laws being derived. We start with some principles that are well established, bring them together, maybe make a few assumptions, and derive some new ideas.

For both the matrix and wave approach to quantum physics, this was not the case. To get to useful results, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, and their colleagues used a variety of analogies and other operations that made sense but could not be derived. Their work is the basis for essentially all of the physics and chemistry related to very small objects. Yet, it cannot be derived; it just works.

Rivalry

Within a few years it was clearly shown that the two approaches were equivalent and led to the same conclusions. However, that did not make Heisenberg and Schroedinger friends. Publicly and privately, they criticized each other. A statement from Schroedinger about the origin of his work says,

My theory was inspired by L. de Broglie … and by short but incomplete remarks by A. Einstein. … No genetic relationship whatever with Heisenberg is known to me. I knew of his theory, of course, but felt discouraged, not to say repelled, by the methods of transcendental algebra which appeared very difficult to me and by the lack of visualizability.

Schroedinger was repelled by matrix mathematics (which he called “transcendental algebra”) and the lack of a visual connection. Heisenberg, in a letter to Pauli, was somewhat stronger in his views and Schroedinger’s reliance on visualization.

The more I reflect on the physical portion of Schroedinger’s theory the more disgusting I find it. What Schrodinger writes on the visualizability of his theory is probably not quite right. In other words, it’s crap.

Of course, the letter was written in German. The translation here comes from a chapter by Arthur I. Miller. I have seen the last word (crap) translated in a variety of waysfrom poppycock to bullsh**. The German word was Mist which is generally translated as manure. In today’s usage, at least among my German friends, crap is a good translation. Some of the others are too mild, and some are too strong.

Both Approaches Have Their Place

While feelings ran high in the 1920s, both approaches are now considered very valuable. Physicists choose which to use based on what type of problem they need to solve. For most teaching situations, the wave function approach is introduced first because of its visualization capabilities. However, in some recent advanced undergraduate courses instructors have been starting with part of the matrix method.

Most importantly, quantum physics was a revolution in the way we think about matter. It provides the foundation for our understanding and allows engineers and scientists to develop and design many of our modern devices. What started with the ancient Greeks’ attempts to understand matter reached a milestone thousands of years later with the development of quantum physics.

There are still some fundamental unanswered questions about quantum physics. Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) famously said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” But it has worked well for almost 100 years to explain many phenomena related to atoms, molecules, and solids.

When I began this series almost four years ago, I started with ideas from a short lecture that I had given at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1990s. Based on that talk, I expected to write about six to eight posts and be done. But I found a lot of interesting distractions along the way. Now that I have finally reached the quantum revolution, I will take a break. A lot of interesting developments have occurred in the past 90 years. Before I think more about them, I will pause for a while.

Dean Zollman is university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University, where he has been a faculty member for more than 40 years. During his career he has received four major awardsthe American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal (2014), the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teacher Scholars (2004), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Doctoral University Professor of the Year (1996), and AAPT’s Robert A. Millikan Medal (1995). His present research concentrates on the teaching and learning of physics and on science teacher preparation.

Previously

What Are Things Made of? Depends on When You Ask.

Ancient Greeks Were the First to Hypothesize Atoms

The Poetry of Atoms

Atom Theory in Ancient India

Religion, Science Clashed over Atoms

Medieval Arabic Scholarship Might Have Preserved Scientific Knowledge

Rediscovering a Roman Poet – and Atom Theory – Centuries Later

Reconciling Atom Theory with Religion

Did Atom Theory Play a Role in Galileo’s Trouble with the Inquisition?

Did Gifted Scientist’s Belief in Atoms Led to His Obscurity?

Does Atom Theory Apply to the Earthly and the Divine?

A Duchess Inspired by Atoms

Separating Atoms from Atheism

Isaac Newton: 300 Years Ahead of His Time

Issac Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone

When Chemistry and Physics Split

Redefining Elements

Mme Lavoisier: Partner in Science, Partner in Life

With Atoms, Proportionality and Simplicity Rule

Despite Evidence of Atoms, 19th Century Skeptics Didn’t Budge

Mission of the First International Scientific Conference: Clear up Confusion

Rivalry over the First Periodic Table

The Puzzle of Dark Lines amid Rainbow Colors

The Colorful Signature of Each Element

Light Waves by the Numbers

Even Scientific Dead Ends Can Contribute to Knowledge

Discovery of the Electron Took Decades and Multiple Scientists

‘Wonders of the X-ray’

The Accidental Discovery of Radioactivity

Marie Curie: A Determined Scientist

Pierre and Marie Curie Extract Radium – and Pay a High Price

Scientists Delve into Radioactivity and Make Their Own Discoveries

The First Attempts to Visualize Atoms

Did Busy Work Lead to Models for Atoms?

Why Does Ice Melt? The Answer Lies in Physics.

Einstein Explains How a Dim Light Can Release More Energy Than a Bright One

How Bohr’s Famous Model of the Atom Was Created

Bohr’s Model of the Atom Answers Fundamental Questions – but Raises More

Bohr’s Model of the Atom Draws Critics

‘A First Feeble Ray of Light’ to Explain Electrons’ Orbits

Two Labs across the Atlantic Prove That Electrons Behave Like Waves

A Mathematical Approach to Atoms That Works but Is Complex

Dark Ages Slavery: Commerce vs. Religion

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Every once in a while, a historical novelist comes across something that makes her realize her invention is more plausible than she originally thought.

In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (to be rereleased in November), I made up one of the terms for the peace treaty after the 772 war between the Franks and the Saxons: free Saxons would remain free. My heroine, Leova, is betrayed by her relatives when she’s sold into slavery, and that condition makes that part of the plot possible. Otherwise, Pinabel, the Frankish count who buys them, could just grab them without any help from treacherous relatives.

Later, Pinabel grumbles to a merchant, “The priests, soft-headed fools, persuaded our king to forbid us from taking free Saxons. I argued against such idiocy, but my words only vexed him. I had to comply with the terms of the treaty, lest I lose his favor—and the bishopric I want for my sister’s son.”

At the time I wrote that, I rationalized that King Charles (Charlemagne) might agree to such a condition as a goodwill gesture that would also make the missionaries’ work easier. As I did some research for my post about slavery on Unusual Historicals, I found that if the treaty prevented enslavement, churchmen would be behind the move. To them, Saxony was not only land, it was a battlefield for souls, and they could not convert people shipped off to Muslim lands or owned by non-Christians.

Visit Unusual Historicals for more about why the clergy disapproved war captives becoming slaves.

Medieval Peasants

From A History of Medieval and Renaissance Europe for Secondary Schools, published 1920 (Internet Archive Book Images, no known copyright restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

Coming Aug. 3, 2016: ‘The Cross and the Dragon’

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My debut novel, The Cross and the Dragon, will be reintroduced to the world on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, under my own imprint.

TCATD_FINAL_SMALLWhen all the rights to my books reverted to me in April, the path that made the most sense was to go indie—in other words, take on the role of publisher as well as author and promoter. The vast majority of people who’ve read The Cross and the Dragon and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar loved them. So at this moment, I no longer want or need to prove myself to agents and editors.

This process is exciting and nerve-wracking for the same reasons—I make the decisions about the story, cover, prices, release date, and promotion, starting with this announcement about The Cross and the Dragon and the reveal of the beautiful new cover, designed by Jessica Kerkhoff.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a little something on what The Cross and the Dragon is about:

Francia, 778, the tenth year of Charlemagne’s reign: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge—a novel reviewers call “addictive,” “a delightfully entertaining and thrilling read,” and “a powerful tale.”

To the readers who supported me when The Cross and Dragon was first published by buying the book, writing a review, or spreading the word, you have my deep gratitude. And if you’ve been interested in the novel but didn’t get around to ordering a copy, here is your chance. Ebooks are available for preorder on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. Print copies will be available on the launch date, and if you’d like a friendly reminder, email me at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Cross and Dragon‘s companion, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, will be rereleased in November. It can be preordered at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes and will be on Amazon in the coming weeks.

Ugly Petras: Outcast but Free

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Today, I am happy to welcome Marina J. Neary back to Outtakes as she introduces her latest release, The Gate of Dawn, a dark folkloric thriller with pagan elements. Here, she shares a dark Lithuanian tale with moral underpinnings and emotional justice.

By Marina J. Neary

Marina Neary author photo 2016I wanted to thank Kim for hosting me. I have very much enjoyed her Carolingian novels, particularly her depiction of the religious atmosphere of early Christianity and residual paganism. The Baltics were among the last European regions to accept Christianity.

Much of the Lithuanian folklore is centralized. Like in any other tradition, some of the folklore is local and regional, confined to the villages in which they originated. It’s not hard to conceive that similar horror tales generated in different locations. They represent collective phobias. Abominations like rape, deformity, and child abandonment are universal.

The tale of Ugly Petras is one of those fairy tales. I learned it from my paternal grandmother who lived on the border between Lithuania and Belarus. The tale actually originated in the western part of Lithuania that was under Prussian rule in the 19th century. I incorporated it into my latest novel The Gate of Dawn, set in 1880s Lithuania that was under the rule of Czar Alexander III. Please read the excerpt below. A young man is telling a chilling tale to a girl after he had just seduced her. A very interesting choice of pillow talk material!

Lithuanian bog,

A Lithuanian bog, by Šarūnas Šimkus (released to the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

***

“Once upon a time, there was a landlord. Let’s call him Adomas. His frigid and barren wife could not produce him an heir, so his attentions shifted onto a comely maid named Greta. Before long the girl fell pregnant. The landlord’s wife, a staunch keeper of morals, kicked Greta out of the house, to set an example for the rest of the servants. For months the hapless girl roamed the countryside, moving from village to village, hiding in the barns by night, eating whatever scraps were discarded. One midsummer morning she made a nest in the bog and birthed a boy as handsome as the young woodland god Velnias. She named him Aras, meaning Eagle. As soon as she clutched the hungry babe to her breast, another wave of pain came, and her body expelled a hideous being, her second son. Even the mischievous bog nixies scattered at the sight of him. Every limb was crooked, every feature was deformed. Greta fled in terror with Aras in her arms. She left her handsome son at the doorstep of the church and ran off, never to be seen again. That day Adomas came to mass. When the landlord beheld the boy’s features, he recognized him as his own. His wife did not object, though she looked particularly sullen that day.

“The deformed child was found by a witch named Vaida who lived in a cottage near the bog. He was so perfect in his ugliness that he made her black heart sing. She rejoiced in him more than Adomas rejoiced in his handsome son. Old Vaida adopted him and named him Petras, for the lad was sturdy as a rock. She taught him all her wicked tricks, all her pernicious spells. He knows how to conjure the water sprites and make them dance to his song. To this day Ugly Petras haunts the countryside, rummaging the barns and the chicken coops, where his mother once found refuge. His first retaliation was against his natural father, Adomas. The haughty landlord took leave of his senses and hanged himself on a cherry tree.

“But the handsome twin proved to have a noble and charitable heart. And though Aras never met Ugly Petras, he sensed that he had a brother, and always left a pitcher of ale and a slice of ham on the porch for him. Petras gobbled up the treats and cast spells of protection upon his brother’s estate. Since then no drought, no pestilence has plagued the land.”

***

Despite the gruesome images, I find the tale strangely life-affirming. It’s a celebration of brotherhood. Conceived in violence, separated physically and socially, the two brothers share a tacit bond. It really makes the reader wonder, which brother was more fortunate and in control of his destiny. Was it Aras, confined to a life of conformity as young lord of the manor, or Petras, banished from society and therefore freed from the constraints?

About The Gate of Dawn

Gate of Dawn cover2Welcome to 1880s Vilnius, a volatile Northeastern metropolis where Balts, Germans, Poles, Russians, and Jews compete for a place in the sun. After sustaining fatal burns in a fire instigated by his rivals, textile magnate Hermann Lichtner spends his final days in a shabby infirmary. In a hasty and bizarre deathbed transaction he gives his fifteen-year-old daughter Renate in marriage to Thaddeus, a widowed Polish farmer who rejects social hierarchy and toils side by side with his peasants.

Renate’s arrival quickly disrupts the bucolic flow of life and antagonizes every member of the household. During an excursion to the city, Renate rekindles an affair with a young Jewish painter who sells his watercolors outside the Gate of Dawn chapel. While her despairing husband might look the other way, his servants will not stand by and watch while their adored master is humiliated.

Taking us from the cobblestone streets of old Vilnius, swarming with imperial gendarmes, to the misty bogs of rural Lithuania where pagan deities still rule, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of rivalry, conspiracy, and revenge.

It is available at Amazon and other vendors.

About Marina J. Neary

A self-centered only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of 13. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some 30 miles away from her hometown. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Who Was My Hessian Ancestor?

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I chose to feature Hessians in today’s post for English Historical Fiction Authors to better understand one of my ancestors, Johann Gebel.

He had a decision to make, one that affected the family for generations: does he stay with the Hessian army or does he desert and forsake his home and his parents across the Atlantic?

We don’t know a lot about Johann. Even the spelling of his name varies. Nor is there direct evidence that he was a Hessian soldier, but circumstances point to his service in this army of conscripts who faced harsh discipline. Johann was born February 11, 1756, in Waldeck, one of the six principalities to rent troops to the British. He was 20 when America declared its independence. If he was healthy and “expendable,” he was a prime candidate for the army.

According to family lore, Johann did not want to fight. Possibly, he saw this as a war among foreigners, and it had nothing to with him or the defense of his home and country.

There are variations in what happens next. He was shipped across the Atlantic by himself, or he was one of three brothers who deserted, or he was one of seven brothers who split up to fight for the Americans. The first story is most plausible to me. He somehow wound up in Havana as a prisoner of war and deserted the Hessian army.

Maybe the promise of freedom lured him. He would be out of jail and free of the beatings in the military. Plus, he had a shot of being a respectable citizen rather than an expendable conscript.

After the war ended in 1783, he was living in the States and married Elizabeth Bens Martzall (or Marzell), perhaps in 1789. They had a son, John Gable, six years later; the anglicized version of the name shows they were assimilating to the young country. Johann moved around in Pennsylvania a few times before finally settling in 1803 in Warwick Township in Lancaster County. He would remain there until his death at age 96 in 1852.

Hessians

By Richard Knötel (January 12, 1857–April 26, 1914) (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Loving History with Its Wonders—and Its Horrors

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I am happy to welcome Barbara Gaskell Denvil to Outtakes as she rereleases Fair Weather, a novel about a dream-haunted writer who time-travels to 13th century London, which has a dark, mysterious, and sometimes dangerous hero. Here is her essay about her love for history, both the good and the bad.—Kim

By Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Barbara Gaskell DenvilWe owe so much to the long struggle of those who lived, suffered, and battled in the past, who strived to achieve their best, and finally died within their own developing lands and the limitations and restrictions of their society. Whatever level of civilisation we can now claim, is all thanks to those long gone. Past religious barriers and bias have led to our modern religious tolerance and freedom. Past prejudice and ignorance has led to our growing sexual equality. Past levels of poverty and suffering have led to our higher standards and increasing comforts. We are who we are, because of those who lived and fought in the past.

As the author of historical fiction, I do not denigrate those who struggled long ago by denying their pain. In my books, I do not avoid the misery and difficulties. I do attempt to describe accurately the life and times of those who died in terrible circumstances. Yet we all tend to over-romanticise the past, and I see nothing wrong with this either. So much remains a mystery, and until they invent a time-machine—please, please, can I have the first ticket?—we cannot really be sure what any famous character was like or how people actually lived.

But should we look away from the shadows? I have read many books which describe the plague as little more than a sneeze before dropping dead, so ignoring the truths of that absolute horror. Executions, for instance, were brutal affairs conducted in public. How people could ever have wished to watch a hanging and quartering, I cannot imagine—or the burning alive of a heretic. But these things happened and I will honour the victims by not ignoring their agony in my books.

Siege of Bedford Castle

Matthew Paris’ depiction of the siege of Bedford Castle and the execution of its garrison (1224) (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

So I face both the pain and the pleasure. I imagine food tasted better and more natural—and yet it could cause dysentery and death. Clothes were more beautiful, but they were also extremely expensive. Ordinary people could afford only a simple tunic. The four-poster bed looks amazing and many of us dream of sleeping in one. Yet feather mattresses were lumpy and often damp, were a terrible job to turn, and even in Georgian times, the poor slept only on straw. Castles were impressive and not the bare crumbling ruins we see today. They were plastered inside, hung with tapestries, their vaulted ceilings and beams often carved or painted. But they were also draughty, and the fires smoked appallingly. As for toilets and clean running water? Well, you already know, I’m sure!

So my books do not skim over the wonder or the horror, and I want to take my readers by the hand and lead them through those cobbled lanes, sit by the guttering candle flame, smell the great throbbing cities, gaze at the soaring cathedrals, and follow the ordinary people who cope with the glory and the sorrows of centuries now gone.

My new novel Fair Weather does all of this and more, for it is a time-slip story, and so I am able to compare past and present through the eyes of my heroine, who travels back, and then of my hero—who travels forward.

About Fair Weather

FW CoverMolly just wants to sleep at night, but the dreams won’t leave her alone. The light goes out, while distant echoes of thunder diminish into the night. Molly has dreamed of it before, but this time her eyes are open and she’s wide awake. The man is bending over her but she can only see his shadow.

Then everything changes. It is a world of buzzing chatter, markets, the calls of birds, bright sunshine, and the cobbled alleys of old London. But when Molly turns and blinks, everything dissolves into shadows once more. And she hears the siren of police cars, and they are coming closer.

An identical murder in the distant past of her dreams joins the two worlds in equal danger. Molly travels time but is followed by some horror that kills and mutilates at will. And the man, his voice the rustle of dead leaves, is always there. Yet Molly discovers far more than fear and misery. She discovers a whole new life, and a love she could never have imagined. She no longer wants to return—but she must.

Fair Weather is available on Amazon (U.S.)  and Amazon (U.K.).

About Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Born in England, Barbara grew up amongst artists and authors and started writing at a young age. She published numerous short stories and articles, and worked as an editor, book critic, and reader for publishers and television companies. She broke off her literary career to spend many hot and colourful years sailing the Mediterranean and living in various different countries throughout the region.

When her partner died, she needed a place of solace and came to live in rural Australia, where she still lives amongst the parrots and wallabies, writing constantly, for her solace has now become her passion.

With a delight in medieval history dating back to her youth, she now principally sets her fiction in medieval England. She also writes fantasy, tending towards the dark. Within these two genres, she now writes full time.

You can connect with Barbara on her website or her Amazon author page.

A Mathematical Approach to Atoms That Works but Is Complex

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In this installment on the history of atom theory, physics professor (and my dad) Dean Zollman discusses how Werner Heisenberg—he of the Uncertainty Principle—decided to take a mathematical approach to something he couldn’t observe. For those who need a refresher, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is that we cannot know both the position and momentum of a particle precisely, and that the more we know about one, the less we know about the other.—Kim

By Dean Zollman

Dean ZollmanIn the last post, I discussed an experimental confirmation of Louis de Broglie’s hypothesis that matter could behave as waves do. In that case, Clinton Davisson and Lester Germer observed interference effects that could occur only if matter had wave-like behavior. In this post, we will back up in time just a little and consider the first of two theoretical developments that also occurred in the mid-1920s. The second approach will be discussed next time.

In 1925, Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) was conducting research at the University of Goettingen in Germany. He was working under the direction of Max Born (1882-1970) and trying to resolve some of the mysteries that recent experimental discoveries had revealed. He had just spent about eight months working with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. Thus, he was building on Bohr’s work and trying to find a fundamental basis to explain the Bohr Model of the Atom and the discrete spectrum of the hydrogen atom. Heisenberg had concluded that he needed to “reinterpret” classical mechanics in order to bring quantum ideas in to the picture.

Werner Heisenberg

Werner Heisenberg in about 1927

Heisenberg’s basic approach was to avoid ideas such as orbiting electron because they were not observable. Instead, he pursued a mathematical theory. At one point in a letter to Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), he stated, “My entire meager efforts go toward killing off and suitably replacing the concept of orbital paths that one cannot observe.”

To do so, he looked first at a situation that was simpler than an atom—a certain kind of oscillating object whose behavior was not quite periodic. Heisenberg and his colleagues at Goettingen made some progress. They were able to base their theory on a new set of mathematical operations. While this approach showed some promise, it did not involve Planck’s constant and thus did bring in the latest quantum interpretations.

Max Born

Max Born; in addition to being a Nobel laureate, he was Olivia Newton-John’s maternal grandfather

While working intensely on this issue, Heisenberg suffered an extreme attack of hay fever. He needed to get away from pollen, so on June 7, 1925, he left for the island of Helgoland. This German island in the North Sea has very little vegetation and therefore very little pollen. As he recovered from the hay fever, Heisenberg also had very little distractions. So, he was able to develop a mathematical approach to quantum physics.

When Heisenberg returned to Goettingen, he presented the ideas to Max Born and his young assistant Pascual Jordon (1902-1980). They recognized that Heisenberg’s formulation was quite similar to a relatively new mathematical concept called the matrix. So, they expanded the ideas to create a matrix approach to quantum physics.

Pascual Jordon

Pascual Jordon in the 1920s (unknown photographer, Mondadori Publishers)

While Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics worked to obtain observable results, it was very difficult to use to complete calculations. For example, Wolfgang Pauli obtained the energy levels in the hydrogen atom using matrices and thus connected it back to Bohr’s ideas and the spectrum of hydrogen. However, it took him 40 pages of calculations to get to a result that could be observed in an experiment.

One of Heisenberg’s biographers, David Cassidy, states, “The new mechanics was (and is) nearly incomprehensible to the technically uninitiated.”

Unfortunately, that statement does seem to be true. Part of the reason is that matrix mechanics, as it became to be known, is not easily visualized. During the years that I have been teaching quantum physics to non-science students, I have not found an acceptable way to present this approach to students who have not studied the detail of matrix algebra.

Fortunately, a different method that was developed about the same time is more easily visualized. We will look at that approach and learn about Erwin Schroedinger in the next post and the rivalry that developed between Heisenberg and Schroedinger.

Public domain images via Wikimedia Commons.

Dean Zollman is university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University, where he has been a faculty member for more than 40 years. During his career he has received four major awards — the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Oersted Medal (2014), the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teacher Scholars (2004), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Doctoral University Professor of the Year (1996), and AAPT’s Robert A. Millikan Medal (1995). His present research concentrates on the teaching and learning of physics and on science teacher preparation.

Previously

What Are Things Made of? Depends on When You Ask.

Ancient Greeks Were the First to Hypothesize Atoms

The Poetry of Atoms

Atom Theory in Ancient India

Religion, Science Clashed over Atoms

Medieval Arabic Scholarship Might Have Preserved Scientific Knowledge

Rediscovering a Roman Poet – and Atom Theory – Centuries Later

Reconciling Atom Theory with Religion

Did Atom Theory Play a Role in Galileo’s Trouble with the Inquisition?

Did Gifted Scientist’s Belief in Atoms Led to His Obscurity?

Does Atom Theory Apply to the Earthly and the Divine?

A Duchess Inspired by Atoms

Separating Atoms from Atheism

Isaac Newton: 300 Years Ahead of His Time

Issac Newton and the Philosopher’s Stone

When Chemistry and Physics Split

Redefining Elements

Mme Lavoisier: Partner in Science, Partner in Life

With Atoms, Proportionality and Simplicity Rule

Despite Evidence of Atoms, 19th Century Skeptics Didn’t Budge

Mission of the First International Scientific Conference: Clear up Confusion

Rivalry over the First Periodic Table

The Puzzle of Dark Lines amid Rainbow Colors

The Colorful Signature of Each Element

Light Waves by the Numbers

Even Scientific Dead Ends Can Contribute to Knowledge

Discovery of the Electron Took Decades and Multiple Scientists

‘Wonders of the X-ray’

The Accidental Discovery of Radioactivity

Marie Curie: A Determined Scientist

Pierre and Marie Curie Extract Radium – and Pay a High Price

Scientists Delve into Radioactivity and Make Their Own Discoveries

The First Attempts to Visualize Atoms

Did Busy Work Lead to Models for Atoms?

Why Does Ice Melt? The Answer Lies in Physics.

Einstein Explains How a Dim Light Can Release More Energy Than a Bright One

How Bohr’s Famous Model of the Atom Was Created

Bohr’s Model of the Atom Answers Fundamental Questions – but Raises More

Bohr’s Model of the Atom Draws Critics

‘A First Feeble Ray of Light’ to Explain Electrons’ Orbits

Two Labs across the Atlantic Prove That Electrons Behave Like Waves

What If the Abolitionist Had Telekinesis?

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Awash in Talent Blog Banner

I’m happy to welcome author Jessica Knauss to Outtakes as she introduces Awash in Talent, three interconnected novellas of people coping with special abilities. Here, she explains the need for an alternate history.—Kim

By Jessica Knauss

Jessica Knauss Author PhotoAwash in Talent follows three narrators through beautiful Providence, Rhode Island, as they deal with the ups and downs of the rare Talents: telekinesis, firestarting, and the ability to see people’s thoughts. As I wrote the novel, the paranormal elements demanded an alternate history.

Providence is so awash in history that I consider the four years I lived there research for Awash in Talent. As Patricia the psychic so joyfully remarks in the final novella, you can’t walk five paces on the East Side without stumbling over a historical marker.

The alternate history of my paranormal Providence follows real history until the late 19th century, when the three Talents came to light. No un-Talented people think of them as strange now. Early on, major adjustments were made in order to segregate Talented children during their school years, and complex legislation watches over Talented adults. Otherwise, there’s a 10 percent chance anyone you might meet on a paranormal Providence street could have one of the three Talents.

I plan to explore that history in the sequel to Awash in Talent. This first book is most concerned with the present situation of the Talents, and, to say it one way, their prehistory. Just because the Talents weren’t discovered before 1870 doesn’t mean Talented people didn’t exist. I thought they must’ve been using their special abilities although they didn’t tell anyone about them: a secret history.

Most of the prehistorical burden in Awash in Talent falls on one remarkable man. In real history, Moses Brown (1738–1836) was one of the wealthy Brown brothers, who founded what would become Brown University. Moses broke away from the family to become Rhode Island’s most influential abolitionist.

Moses Brown

1857 portrait of Moses Brown by Martin Johnson Heade (Image courtesy of the Brown University Portrait Collection, Brown University, Providence, R.I., public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Moses donated the land the Moses Brown School occupies and served as its treasurer until his death at age 98. It maintains its reputation as a fine institution of learning. In my Providence, the school has morphed into the Moses Brown Academy for Telekinesis, the most desirable place for a child to learn about his or her Talent. Kelly the firestarter looks on with envy during an unforgettable visit that changes the course of the second novella.

We learn why Moses Brown’s school specializes in telekinesis in the final novella, when Patricia muses on her favorite misfit Brown brother: He may have been telekinetic! I enjoyed imagining what someone with that power could do for the abolitionist cause. “The stories go that at slave auctions where Moses was present, the shackles mysteriously lifted off the men and women as they were brought to the display area,” Patricia tells us.

When I choose which parts of history to change for my paranormal Providence, I honor real historical research. I also claim issues to highlight and explore in the story. If Moses Brown, defender against slavery, had a Talent, who’s around now to defend Talented people?

About Awash in Talent

So much Talent can kill you.

Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island, home of telekinetics, firestarters, and psychics!

Emily can’t escape her annoyingly Talented telekinetic healer sister without committing a crime.

Kelly must escape her pyrokinesis school and bring Emily’s sister to Boston—her mother’s life depends on it.

Appointments with Emily might drive her psychic therapist insane.

With so much Talent, sometimes it’s all you can do to function in an un-Talented society.

Awash in Talent will be released June 7. It is now available for preorder on Amazon.

Jessica Knauss was born and raised in Northern California but has wandered all over the United States, England, and Spain, including four wonderful years in Providence. She’s been a librarian, a Spanish teacher, and an editor. Get updates on her writing at:
JessicaKnauss.com
Jessica’s blog
Facebook
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Jessica’s Amazon Author Page

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