Greetings, salutations, and a raised glass of your beverage of choice! Welcome to Cocktail Party Physics — serving up physics with a twist since, well, today around 4:45 PM EST.
What is Cocktail Party Physics? It started out as a witty aside, when an interviewer asked me for a quick description of my first book, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics. The book essentially mixes concepts in physics with art, literature, history, pop culture, and even the odd current event in 38 short essays — a format I dubbed "cocktail party physics," since it gives you a little bit of everything: it’s like tasty tidbits, or tapas, for the brain.
And that’s what I hope this blog will turn out to be: a collection of interesting ideas and observations culled from the latest science news — not served up as something scary and separate (as is often the case when it comes to physics), but as part of the natural order of things, a key component of the broader cultural context. "Cocktail party physics" is generally a perjorative term among scientists, inplying a lack of depth or substance to the discussion. I’m reclaiming it with a positive spin. Not every discussion about science needs to be an earnest, pedagogical event. There’s no reason why a bit of light and fun can’t be brought to bear on deep issues, especially when it comes to physics, easily among the most esoteric and intimidating of the scientific disciplines. Hence the origin and raison d’etre of the Black Bodies book.
It’s my belief that physics has been marginalized far too long, for any number of reasons, not least of which is the way it’s often presented to the non-scientific general public. It’s a vital, fascinating field, but many people would never know it, because too often, physics news is served up cold and colorless, in dry, jargon-filled prose. You won’t find that here (at least I hope not). My goal is to add spice, color, and the odd bon mot witticism or controversial opinion to the factual mix. Ultimately, it should be about a free exchange of ideas. Physics needs to reclaim its rightful place in the Grand Salon of Human Culture. Cocktail Party Physics is as good a place as any to start the reclamation process.
I’m new to blogging, so the menu offerings will be sparse at first: the odd post, a few lists and links, all presided over by the silent-yet-sophisticated Virtual Hostess, Jen-Luc Piquant. As things develop, I hope to add more fun features, including physics-themed recipes for drinks and funky finger food for physics-philes and -phobes alike. Comments, feedback, emails, in-depth discussions, and heated debates are welcomed, and even encouraged, in the spirit of good cocktail parties everywhere. Stay tuned!