Chroniques / Chronicles

Journal La Recherche, décembre 1999 - avril 2001

Mange ta soupe !

La Recherche, 341, 2001. (texte)

Redécouvrons de bon coeur !

La Recherche, 340, 2001, p.24
Is an old field such as Fluid Mechanics bound to produce mere rediscoveries ? A polygonal hydraulic jump is an counter-example : a qualitatively new behavior emerges from old equations. Seemingly new questions in one field may be well-known in another. At the branching point between diverging arteries, sclerotic plate formation is favored near the stagnation point. They in turn alter the complex pulsatile flow. And the artery walls remodel their shapes if the stresses induced by the flow are modified. The good old stagnation point is now brand new and complex !

Leçons d'un pendule

La Recherche, 338, 2001, p.22
(texte). Because they should test modern theories, experiments on gravitation now need to test possible discrepancies from the inverse square law and a possible dependence on the nature of the attracting bodies. The torsion pendulum built by a group at the University of Washington can teach us a few lessons of scientific investigation.

Le chercheur est-il dopé ?

La Recherche, 337, 2000, p.36
Why do researchers like to work at night or have their own very special habits ? Because they aim for mad ideas : maybe the Moon is falling towards the Earth, maybe sand piles and crumpled paper are analogous ? Once a piece of work is completed, however, it all appears very reasonable again, and one might think that it is all written beforehand. But you know it by now : only madness is written beforehand.

Quelles règles du jeu ?

La Recherche, 336, 2000, p.20
Researchers enjoy discussions very much. They free their imaginations. Is it a play or a game ? What are the rules ? The playground must be a new one, otherwise it is no research. But it must also be relevant : it should open some new territories, and the path should be easy or transposable. The main rule for research is thus to find the funniest playground : new, relevant, elegant. And to find it, perhaps we should talk ?

Terra incognita

La Recherche, 335, 2000, p.24
Smear a thin film of toothpaste on a plate and let it dry : you can soon see more and more cracks develop. The veins of leaves display the same patterns. Just like stress for the cracks, there must be also a tensor quantity that determines the growth pattern in leaves, says a French research team. But which quantity ? The striking similarities between some marsupian mammals and their placentary counterparts are clearly correlated to the ecological environment rather than to filiation. But how ? Interdisciplinary research is today's source of great discoveries : an analogy between research fields that split apart a long time ago may have deep implications.

Vivre la Physique

La Recherche, 334, 2000, p.26
(texte). In a living species, the presence of a characteristic is an indication that it has some utility, although it may not be easy to discover what utility. In physics, the very existence of an established theory, although it may well be proven false in the future, also indicates that it contains something robust. But what ? Examining former theories may help identify it and go beyond the present theory.

Escalade adhésive

La Recherche, 332, 2000, p.24
While adhesives have been produced for decades industrially, the understanding of adhesion mechanisms is yet on its way : advances have been brought successively by complementary viewpoints from different disciplins.

Philosophie à la cuisine

La Recherche, 331, 2000, p.102
(texte). If scientists share their secrets only between themselves, science will remain as mysterious as technology to the public and to the decision makers. There lacks a place where the public and the scientists could discuss important scientific and technological issues. La Recherche could be that place. Rather than special issues, there could be a regular forum on important topics. The public, the engineers and scientists from other disciplins would soon participate !

Le café est servi !

La Recherche, 330, 2000, p.26
(texte). The degree of simplicity of a physical description is not a matter of philosophy. It results from an evolution. If it is too simple, it does not adequately describe observed behaviours. But if it is too complex, it is not understood by the community and does not survive ! Discussions around a cup of coffee help it be understandable !

Quelle contingence ?

La Recherche, 329, 2000, p.26
(texte). Physicists and chemists are still looking for a convincing reason why DNA is right-handed rather than left-handed. Why should there be any reason at all ? If life appeared only once, the question is in fact almost meaningless. Don't forget, however, to check for handedness when you uncover an isolated biotope, on Earth or elsewhere. You never know !

Séminaire planétaire

La Recherche, 328, 2000, p.14
Could the internet deeply alter the scientific publication system ? In research fields where experiments are very numerous, the referees bring important elements to both experimentalists and theorists : their contribution will probably be retained. But published texts are short and miss details or sideways reflexions that you can hear in an informal talk. The internet could host appendices to published articles and turn them into a world-wide seminar !

La mue du thésard

La Recherche, 327, 2000, p.24
The young researcher's mountainous path.

Improbable rapprochement

La Recherche, 326, 1999, p.28
Is a sand pile analogous to a crumpled sheet of paper ? A comment on T. Witten's recent lectures in Paris.

diffusion/chroniques.txt · Dernière modification: 2018/08/03 12:33 par cgay
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