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Physics Week in Review: May 25, 2013

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


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Nature Education launched its expanded SciTable blog network this week, including this post by undergraduate Bruce Braun on searching for Dyson spheres: “Dyson Spheres are hypothetical mega-systems which surround a star in order to absorb energy. Think of it as a curved array of solar panels with the sun in the center, except that the panel units could be composed of many individual satellites, called “Dyson Rings”, or take a solid “shell-like” structure which make up the sphere.” Bonus: a post on exploring the mystery of time.

Strange Dark Matter Interactions Could Create Galactic Disks and Dark Light.

Source: American Physical Society/Physical Review Letters.So. Very. Awesome. Physics Create the First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom’s Orbital Structure. The full paper is here.

Looking at Art Through Different Eyes—Like a Bee. Charles Falco’s IR (and UV) photography.

Is Nature Unnatural? Decades of confounding experiments have physicists considering startling possibility: universe might not make sense. Also: Waiting for the Revolution: An interview with the Nobel Prize-winning physicist David J. Gross..

Measuring nothing would be a sad prospect for most scientists, but not physicists trying to probe the quantum vacuum.

Tragedy hit Moore, Oklahoma, when a massive tornado leveled the town. At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal offered a helpful backgrounder to cover people’s most frequently asked questions.

There was big news in mathematics this week, namely the appearance of a new paper claiming a breakthrough in understanding one of mathematics’ oldest problems, the twin primes conjecture.

From Discovery News: “The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has recreated the world’s tiniest droplets of a primordial state of matter that last existed moments after the Big Bang, some 13.82 billion years ago. This surprise result was achieved by firing proton “bullets” into lead ions, creating a subatomic blood spatter-like effect.”

Hills and other topology can have interesting and complex effects on a flowfield.

Image: Gavin Peters. Via Wired Science and CollectSpace.com

Wired Science dug up some fascinating photos showing efforts to preserve historic Apollo rocket engines.

Sigh. The E-Cat people are back with the usual big claims of cold fusion. Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang once again leads the charge to put those claims in the proper perspective. “If this were an undergrad science experiment, I’d give the kids an F.”

In large earthquakes, the Earth moves for almost everyone. “If you leave a GPS receiver in a fixed location for days, months and years, it is precise enough to measure motions on the millimetre scale, allowing us to track strain building up across active faults, and even the incremental drift of the tectonic plates themselves across the Earth’s surface.”

Behold, The Mechanical Beauty of Early Automatons.

Can science bake a better apple pie? Students in this UCLA college class learn about the physics of food.

There’s a derelict atom smasher nestled in the middle of suburban Washington DC: The old Atomic Physics Observatory.

What do Morgan Freeman and Jon Stewart chat about when they hang out? Cosmology.

Bernard Vonnegut, brother to Kurt, was scientist who asked the question: How does one measure the wind speed inside a tornado?

I was pleased to see a new post over at You Are Not So Smart, tackling the issue of Survivorship Bias. We think we should study the successful in order to be a success, when in fact we should be examining failures. It’s a seriously great read. “You succumb to survivorship bias because you are innately terrible with statistics.”

Via National Geographic, we found this wonderful video of someone juggling three Rubik’s cubes…. while solving them:

Like tons of other hardcore fans, we went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness last weekend. My verdict: a fun popcorn action movie that satisfied as long as you didn’t think too hard about the gargantuan plot holes and nonsensical “science.” io9 wrote this entertaining Spoiler FAQ detailing the most obvious issues: “Look, you’re getting very upset, and this is just the first scene of the movie.” (Gene Roddenberry, who cared about plausibility, might just be turning in his grave.) Meanwhile, Gizmodo asks the Big Question: How Much Would It Cost to Build the Starship Enterprise? Grand Total: $478,947,711,160. And Jag Bhalla looked at the Cognitive Science of Star Trek: Kirk, Spock, emotion and reason.

How to Sell a Particle Accelerator: Positron-Electron Love Explosions. Competition heats up for bldg next collider.

Skeletons and monstrous lambs: remembering the historians of the Royal Society.

Mind. Blown. Physicists show they can entangle two photons that don’t even exist at the same time.

Interplanetary GPS: Spacecraft could determine their position in the solar system using signals from pulsars.

Deciphering the Strange Mathematics of Cicadas: “There is safety in numbers; or at least, survival in numbers.”

The world’s most powerful artificial tornado is part of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Over at The Crux, Amir Aczel reveals how he rediscovered the oldest zero in history. “The oldest zero in India with a confirmed date is from the mid-ninth century, and found in the Chatur-bujha temple in the city of Gwalior.”

Body Tracking Hardware will make the follow up to Second Life very different to the pioneering virtual world.

The Zen Master of Statistics: Last year, Time called Hans Rosling one of 100 most influential people in the world.

Upon request, Ed Yong provided a handy guide for scientists on giving comments (on other people’s studies) to journalists, inadvertently sparking yet another round of accusations of “Journosplaining.”

How Fast Does the Earth Rotate? Really, really fast, says Universe Today’s Fraser Cain.

How Benjamin Franklin Invented A Weight Loss Program, Using Balloons (and a footman).

Check out the Art of Science, A Princeton University Art Gallery Featuring Artistic Science Photos and Diagrams.

I loved Sabine H.’s review of Lee Smolin’s new book, Time Reborn, over at her Backreaction blog, because it captures what is simultaneously most maddening and endearing about physics: they love to argue and nitpick, but it comes from a genuine passion for their subject and a desire to always enhance their understanding. “Oddly enough however, I enjoyed reading the book. Not despite, but because I had something to complain about on every page. It made me question my opinions, and though I came out holding on to them, I learned quite something on the way.” The Time Lord (a.k.a. Sean Carroll) also shared his thoughts on the book with Edge.

The Boston Globe looks at disaster networks: “What’s the value of  … being able to find loved ones and reach out to strangers immediately?”

A preliminary analysis from the IceCube detector reveals more than two dozen neutrinos of unknown origin.

The Big Bang Theory filmed its season finale, and the Hollywood Reporter was on hand with a behind-the-scenes diary of the taping — including a nod to the show’s science advisor, UCLA physicist David Saltzberg.

Finally, here are ten reasons why time travel is no good, helpfully explained by puppets:

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. David Cummings 11:05 am 05/26/2013

    I was very much intrigued by one of the article’s linked in this blog (“Is Nature Unnatural?”) https://www.simonsfoundation.org/features/science-news/is-nature-unnatural/

    It’s an excellent discussion of the latest thinking regarding the Multiverse Hypothesis.

    Thanks for linking to it in your Physics Week in Review.

    Link to this

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