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bio website nathanielvirgo.com
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I'm a post-doctoral researcher with a wide range of interests. My career is in complex systems science (or maybe cybernetics) and the origins of life, but I also have research interests in

  • the foundations of statistical mechanics and its relationship to information theory
  • Earth systems science
  • non-equilibrium thermodynamics in general

I'm also generally interested in the foundations of quantum mechanics and in black holes, though I wouldn't say I'm an expert on those things.

It's probably worth noting that despite the fact that my research is in physics-related areas, all my degrees are in other subjects. If I occasionally seem to start talking in an alien language, this is probably why.


Mar
12
revised Is there any anti-gravity material?
soft question tag does not apply
Mar
11
comment Good ways for learning and cramming formulas?
Then again, it's years since I last took an exam. Maybe what I'm talking about only comes with a lot more practice than is possible at pre-university level.
Mar
11
comment Good ways for learning and cramming formulas?
@user4678 if you practice deriving them enough, you should be able to do it in your head in seconds. It's not about writing out the full derivation, it's about having such a clear understanding of where the formula comes form that the formula itself just becomes obvious. As Stan Liou says, just using them will help with this as well. Sooner or later they will just become second nature.
Mar
11
comment Good ways for learning and cramming formulas?
I'm afraid that for the most part we learned them by deriving them. Always know the reason; never just cram the formulas. If you do you might pass the exam, but you'll find it hard to make progress afterwards. Maybe not so much help to you now, but you asked how we learnt all those formulas, and for most of us that's how it is.
Mar
11
revised Why is $\left.\frac{\partial C_V}{\partial V}\right|_T$ different in these derivations?
fixed markup in title
Mar
10
comment Is it possible that the universe in its entirety is discrete rather than continuous?
Depends what you mean by discrete. After measurement, charge is always an integer, so it's discrete in that sense. (The same is not true of mass or energy. But then again, any finite system has a discrete set of possible energy levels, even if they're not integers.)
Mar
10
comment What is the resolution to Gibb's paradox?
Please read a paper called "the Gibbs Paradox" by Edwin Jaynes. It is available online, but I can't easily post a link because posting from a phone. It resolves the paradox in a very nice way, and from the arguments in your question I think you will like it.
Mar
9
asked Experimental results regarding non-extensivity in small systems
Mar
9
revised How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?
corrected the calculation section. (I now realise it would be better to do the full calculation without the approximations - if I get a chance I'll change it - but I think this is ok.)
Mar
8
comment How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?
@Gerard yes, I think that is by far the best way to think about it.
Mar
8
revised How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?
answered the last part of the question.
Mar
8
answered How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?
Mar
8
comment Does this type of phase transition exist?
I don't see your point in your first comment. Of course it does, but what does that have to do with anything? I've corrected the trivial error you pointed out in your second comment.
Mar
8
revised Does this type of phase transition exist?
added 1 characters in body
Mar
7
comment How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?
@JohnRennie it's easy enough to create irreversibility when compressing a gas. You just move the piston fast enough to create pressure waves. This takes more energy than compressing slowly, so when the waves have dissipated the temperature will be higher. (The point is, irreversible compression creates more heat than reversible compression, not less.)
Mar
7
comment Thermodynamics of zinc chloride to zinc
This might be a better fit for Chemistry stack exchange
Mar
7
comment Numerical Ising Model - Wolff algorithm and correlations
@DavidZ From the summary in the meta-question: "we seem to be taking the position that questions about the interpretation or justification of an algorithm or its results, or about physically motivated algorithm design, are okay". If any question ever fell in to that category, this one does.
Mar
7
comment Numerical Ising Model - Wolff algorithm and correlations
@DavidZ is this the relevant discussion? meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/43/… It seems to me from the accepted answer and the question itself that they are specifically *ex*cluded.
Mar
7
comment Numerical Ising Model - Wolff algorithm and correlations
Of course we agreed as a community that software questions are off topic. However, a question about results obtained using a particular algorithm is quite different from a question about a particular piece of software.
Mar
7
comment Numerical Ising Model - Wolff algorithm and correlations
@DavidZ as a statistical mechanics expert, numerically simulating the Ising model is one of the first things I think of when someone says "physics". The help centre says questions about "experimental designs and results" are on topic, and while one can get into philosophical arguments about whether computational results are "empirical", it would seem absurd to me to say that an algorithm for probing the implications of the Ising model is any less on-topic than an experiment to measure the correlations in a real spin system. Or a more analytical approach for that matter.