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Sean Carroll


22 Nov 2018, 22:59 UTC
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

This year we give thanks for an historically influential set of celestial bodies, the moons of Jupiter. (We’ve previously given thanks for the Standard Model Lagrangian, Hubble’s Law, the Spin-Statistics Theorem, conservation of momentum, effective field theory, the error bar, gauge symmetry, Landauer’s Principle, the Fourier Transform, Riemannian Geometry, the speed of light, and the Jarzynski equality.)
For a change of pace this year, I went to Twitter and asked for suggestions for what to give thanks for in this annual post. There were a number of good suggestions, but two stood out above the rest: @etandel suggested Noether’s Theorem, and @OscarDelDiablo suggested the moons of Jupiter. Noether’s Theorem, according to which symmetries imply conserved quantities, would be a great choice, but in order to actually explain it I should probably first explain the principle of least action. Maybe some other year.
And to be precise, I’m not going to bother to give thanks for all of Jupiter’s moons. 78 Jovian satellites have been discovered thus far, and most of them are just lucky pieces of space debris that wandered into Jupiter’s gravity well and never escaped. It’s the heavy hitters — the four Galilean satellites — that we’ll be ...

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