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Physics Week in Review: February 23, 2013

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Here’s all the cool physics news you missed this week:

Soon we could all emulate Peter Parker’s tingly Spidey-sense with this snazzy prototype for a SpiderSense suit using sensors and ultrasound to detect when objects get too close.

Want to know the geographical origin of your shiny gemstones? These physics techniques can help.

Scientists have simulated the way magnetic fields behave in dying stars.

What does space smell like? Now you can sniff a Cosmic Candle to find out.

Photo credit: Corrie White

Gorgeous! Fluid dynamics in action! Artist Corrie White uses dyes and droplets to capture fantastical liquid sculptures at high-speed.

Physics Buzz takes you on a tour of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

If you’re feeling philosophical about the arrow of time, Raymond Tallis shares a chapter from his forthcoming book (in 2014) Of Time and Lamentation.

Over at Science-Based Life, Kyle Hill explores the mystery of the lady who was impossible to lift. It’s reminiscent of Lulu Hurst (the “magnetic lady” or “Georgia Magnet” and Annie Abbott ( “The Little Georgia Magnet”), both of whom traveled the world in the late 19th century amazing audiences because big powerful men couldn’t lift them. Hill explains the secret, which comes down to basic physics:

[T]here are two reasons why the bodybuilders couldn’t lift the woman. First, as she moves her body further away during the second attempt, she is effectively tripling her weight. For example, if she is six inches away from the lifter’s shoulders in the first attempt and a foot and a half away in the second, the rotational force needed to lift her up goes from 56 foot-pounds to 168 foot-pounds.

Let Chris Rowan of Highly Allochthonous enlighten you on the asymptotic curve that describes the diminishing returns on lecture preparation.

io9 pays tribute to one of the unluckiest men in physics, Julius Robert von Mayer, who figured out the first law of thermodynamics one year before Joule’s famous experiment.

George Musser Jr. reports on the latest volume of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, showing “that his deep concerns with the quantum predated his well-known duels with Niels Bohr and played a major role in shaping the emerging theory.”

The hunt for dark matter is getting deep as China launches world’s deepest particle-physics experiment.

“I spy with my bionic eye” — No, it’s not the Six Million Dollar Man, but this new implanted bionic eye could help the blind to see.

Big news for Star Trek fans: turns out it’s more dangerous to be a Yellow Shirt than a Red Shirt. No, really: someone did the math (a Bayesian exploration).

“Slow Derek” is an animated short film about an office worker who struggles to come to terms with how fast Earth is truly spinning:

Fighting with someone on the Internet? This mathematical model describes how online conflicts can be resolved — at least on Wikipedia.

Arrays of carbon-nanotube transistors can detect prostate cancer with a much higher sensitivity than conventional techniques.

Hey, remember that meteor that exploded over Russia last week? Want to know what it sounded like? Well, technically you can’t because it’s in infrasound, but the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (TBTO) has released audio in which the data has been modified (sonified) so we can hear it:

Jennifer Ouellette About the Author: Jennifer Ouellette is a science writer who loves to indulge her inner geek by finding quirky connections between physics, popular culture, and the world at large. Follow on Twitter @JenLucPiquant.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. ianlib 11:00 am 02/24/2013

    Excellent compilation of physic events. Let us hope that the nanotubes will replace the flawed PSA test for prostate cancer quickly. The test has a 70 percent false positive rate and is causing over diagnoses and too many dangerous biopsies. The Family Physicians Association do not even recommend the PSA test any more and either does the creator of it.

    Link to this

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