Phys. Perspect. 20 (2018) 1–3 2018 Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 1422-6944/18/010001-3 https://doi.org/10.1007/s00016-018-0217-z Physics in Perspective Physicists at Play A much-circulated photograph (ﬁgure 1) shows Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr crouching side-by-side, ﬁxated on a small spinning top. It is a tippe top, a simple toy that raises some not-so-simple physical questions. When spun with sufﬁcient angular momentum, it will invert itself and start spinning on its stem, raising its center of mass (and so its potential energy) in the process. But where does that extra energy come from? Has one of our most sacred conservation laws been defeated by a mere toy? Few physicists can resist such a stumper, as indicated by the rapt and slightly bemused expressions of Pauli and Bohr. In this issue, Jean-Franc¸ois Gauvin gives us another example of physicists at play. Gauvin describes a set of ‘‘quantum toys,’’ small boxes embedded with var- ious optical polarizers that render tactile one of the most abstract aspects of physics—the matrix formalism of quantum mechanics. Harvard University physicist Costas Papaliolios developed these toys on the basis of Julian Sch- winger’s quantum formalism, in the conviction that play can serve pedagogy. These devices represent an
Physics in Perspective – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 20, 2018
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