The big physics news this week was the latest results from ESA’s Planck mission, but there was plenty of other good stuff circulating around the Interwebz.
While everyone else was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with ruminations on beer and snakes and all that jazz, Matt Francis decided to celebrate the accomplishments of an Irish mathematician: “On October 16, 1843, the great Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton was walking along the Royal Canal in Dublin. He had been pondering for a long time whether complex numbers could be extended to higher dimensions. During his perambulation, he realized the answer was “yes”, and carved his solution on the Brougham Bridge.”
Voyager 1 has left the solar system! No it hasn’t! Yes it has! The Atlantic‘s Rebecca Rosen explains the confusion. “The official position remains that the spacecraft has not yet crossed over into interstellar space.”
It’s about time! Physicists Confirm They Have (Finally) Found And Killed The ‘God Particle.’ The Onion hits it out of the park yet again.
Why Should You Think Like a Scientist? Because “I don’t know” is not enough, says Chad Orzel.
CERN hosted FameLab 2013, a blend of science fair and talent show in which young scientists present their research in three minutes. This year’s participants included particle physicist Piotr Traczyk, who built his own CMS-detector-inspired electric guitar (I blogged about his project at Discovery News last year). He placed second with his explication of how scientists at the Large Hadron Collider search for missing bits of the Standard Model of particle physics using jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Retired Stanford astrophysicist Peter Sturrock’s new book takes a statistical approach to the Shakespeare authorship question and, after presenting evidence, asks readers to decide for themselves. Cuing cries of outrage from the humanities sector — “Man, physicists think they know everything!” — in 3, 2, 1….
What “The God Particle” Hath Wrought: Sean Carroll (a.k.a. The Time Lord) laments one of the worst paragraphs ever written about the Higgs, courtesy of CBS.com: “Originally I thought the journalist was just making things up, but it turns out that it’s Michio Kaku’s fault.” And over at Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Faye Flam asks a provocative question: Michio Kaku Says Higgs Boson Caused the Big Bang. Should Reporters Trust Him?
Did you catch Ed Yong’s terrific feature on swarms in Wired this week? Swarm science is the New Black but some folks were into swarms before they were cool — like Islands & Rivers, makers of this awesome video called “Murmuration”:
Speaking of swarms, there is an excellent explication of the hard-to-define concept of emergent phenomena over at Wiring the Brain in the context of a discussion on the genetics of emergent phenotypes.
Here’s Kyle Hill with breaking news from the Fortress of Solitude: Superman explains why he didn’t destroy that Russian meteor before it hit: “It’s all a matter of physics.” And it looks like Hill is giving Jim Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, a run for his money with this post on teaching physics with Batman: “Find out how fast Batman and The Joker are going post-POW.”
Quantum Reality Poll Redux: Young Guns and the measurement problem. Remember when quantum physicist Maximillian Schlosshauer (University of Portland) and his colleagues published a poll of physicists, philosophers, and mathematicians on their views of quantum mechanics and the nature of reality? Christoph Sommer (University of Munster, Germany) has posed the same questions to graduate students. Per Physics Buzz: “While the students’ philosophical views often mirror those of their older counterparts, they diverge on several key questions from the 16-question poll on the foundations of quantum mechanics.”
“By symmetry we can predict that you want me.” Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal offers pick-up lines to snag a physicist: “It would make things simpler….” Call it the spherical seduction.
I was blown away by these stunning light-and-shadow sculptures by artist Diet Wiegman. Per the folks at This Colossal: “Approach a sculpture by … Wiegman and you might be left scratching your head at this random assembly of trash and objects, but shine a light on this same pile of detritus and suddenly a perfectly formed shadow appears: the unmistakable form of Michael Jackson, Michelangelo’s David or even a faithful recreation of the Earth’s surface as it reflects off a metal tray.” Check it out:
Sacrilege! The Virtuosi re-evaluates the values of the tiles in Scrabble™: “These point values were based on the English lexicon of the late 1930’s. Now, some 70 years later, that lexicon has changed considerably, having gained many new words (e.g.: EMAIL) and lost a few old ones. So, if one were to repeat the analysis of the game designer in the present day, would one come to different conclusions regarding how points should be assigned to various letters?”
Fun with metrics: This handy calculator lets you convert the square footage of your home into Tetris blocks. According to real estate company Movoto, it takes 1,351,458,219 Tetriminos to build an average two-story, 2,500-square-foot house.
Did first century Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Hanania know about Halley’s comet? Astrophysicist Mario Livio says it depends on how you interpret a key Talmudic passage.
The Mathematics of Averting the Next Big Network Failure. “In a system of interconnected networks like the economy, city infrastructure or the human body, [this] model indicates that a small outage in one network can cascade through the entire system, touching off a sudden, catastrophic failure.”
Hawking is a biopic from director Stephen Finnigan, focusing on the life of physicist Stephen Hawking. The documentary premiered at the SXSW 2013 Film Festival.
So, this happened: Morgan Freeman joined some of the world’s top physicists at an award ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland for the Fundamental Physics Prize. Per Freeman: “You can think of this as the Oscars, but instead of movie stars, you’re with the greatest minds in the world.”
Cara Santa Maria of Talk Nerdy To Me always asks the Big Questions: What’s the deal with cryonic preservation? Is it pseudoscience? Would you be frozen for a chance at immortality?
Whoa! Check out this Faraday-caged quadrotor hovering between 2 Dual Resonant Solid State Tesla Coils at the 2012 Western Winter Teslathon.
I, Quantum Robot: a practical use of the combination of quantum computing and robot technology.
“From janitor to chemist, the women of Oak Ridge worked hard and talked little.” A wonderful new book by Denise Kiernan explores on how women helped build the atomic bomb. Also, Ann Finkbeiner uncovers another little-known tale from the atomic age regarding a patent clerk named Captain Paul P. Stoutenburgh. “On April 1, 1946, he apparently shot first his wife and his 12-year old daughter and then himself.”
Making Lines into Stars, Botany to Cosmology — featuring the “living/anthropomorphized” agates of 17th century polymath Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher. Also: Stanford is crowdsourcing the correspondence of Kircher (h/t: Brain Picker)
Slate dug up a needlepoint pattern from 1811 to teach girls about the solar system, with a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost: “These are they glorious works, parent of good.”
Scicurious brings the Friday Weird Science with a look at a new study on liquor preferences. Not all liquors are created equal, prompting a burning question: Bourbon or Vodka? Pick your poison. (I’m more of a vodka person.)
Set phasers to “Sweeeet!” Using a nanoscale drum, scientists have built a laser that uses sound waves instead of light like a conventional laser. They call it a phaser. Because We Are All Star Trek Now.
FInally, I give you Doctor Who pontificating (kinda) on Phyiiiisics!: “I hope you’re getting all this down.” Go forth and be edified.