Photos of physicists' blackboards

NewImageNewImage Alejandro Guijarro's "Momentum" photography series depicts chalkboards at quantum mechanics research institutions. I've noticed several mathematical errors but I'm sure the physicists will catch them eventually. "Momentum" (via Imaginary Foundation)



  1. My favourite is Feynman’s last blackboard instructions.  It’s the screensaver for my car’s GPS.

    G’head, do a GIS.

  2. Ah! One of my favorite things when studying physics was the fact that physicists abhor whiteboards. Beautiful and complicated blackboard equations and drawings made me feel like “I made it”. In my old school we had a couple of extra blackboards in the hallways so that students could work out problems or just have fun. Sometimes they were a sight to behold.

    1.  Really? Don’t think I’ve seen anyone in my physics department who prefers blackboards over white. The blackboards only ever get used once all the whiteboards are full up

      1.  I used to prefer blackboards because you can see how much chalk you have left. Try that with a marker. Then I left a sheet of paper on the table during class and when I picked it up saw a perfect chalk outline from all the dust in the air. Dreams of silicosis filled my head, and whiteboards began to look pretty good. Plus the colors are ten times better. Until I noticed the black eraser dust that comes off of them. No idea what that is but I’m pretty sure it came out of a refinery. And if you don’t erase them today, you have to use acetone to get the crap off.

        These days I hide in the corner and hope nobody notices.

        1. Chalk is mostly calcium carbonate and binder. I doubt it has much silica but I could be mistaken. Whiteboard dust is probably pretty nasty.

  3. Is that one on top legit?  It looks exactly like a hollywood prop master’s idea of a physicist’s blackboard.

    1. I think it’s legit. You would have to be a theoretical physicist to connect the ideas represented in those diagrams and equations (gravitational entropy, holography, cosmological constant). In fact, it looks uncannily like some of the things I’ve toyed with in the past year. I’d love to know whose board that is.

  4. I saw David Bohm speak shortly before he died. He *demanded* a chalkboard. Then the only thing he put on it was what looked like 37% of a drunken Kilroy. The grad students had that as a poster in the hallway for years afterwards.

  5. In another life I took a course in “Introductory Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics”. The prof was a quiet guy pushing seven feet tall, stooped over, I suppose, from a lifetime of bashing his head on doorways. He filled blackboard after blackboard with equations and diagrams, without using any notes. None. He had it all in his head.

    1. If you’re a Physics prof, teaching “Introductory Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics” is probably like us teaching, I don’t know, long division to an eighth-grader.  Many geeks could do that off the top of their heads.

  6. When filming in the Philips Semiconductor labs in Eindoven we had a person who would follow us around to selectively erase diagrams and equations from whiteboards. I wondered how he could  spot the trade secrets.

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