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Physics Week in Review: September 7, 2013

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


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Yes, summer is officially over, but there was still plenty of physics goodness out there this week.

The Man Who Invented Modern Probability – Chance encounters in the life of Andrei Kolmogorov.

Graphene Gets Serious: “Imagine 1 marshmallow, 100 pieces of dried spaghetti, and a roll of masking tape lying on a large table.”

If human history turns on the tilt of the multiverse, can we trust our ideas of achievement, progress and morality?

Can Sesame Street Science engage parents? “It’s the adults who are afraid of science and math and engineering.”

Turbulence ahead: Interstellar wind changes direction, blows faster, reveals our changing galactic environment.

The 20 big questions in science. From the nature of the universe (that’s if there is only one) to the purpose of dreams, there are lots of things we still don’t know – but we might do soon. A new book seeks some answers.

Four classic problems about numbers that everyone can understand but no one can solve (yet).

That Big G is a rascal. New Measurement of Newton’s Gravitational Constant Comes Up Higher Than Expected; read the paper in Physical Review Letters.

Credit: Fong Qi Wei. http://fqwimages.com/time-dimension/

Time Is a Dimension, Photo Collages Show the Passage of Time in a Single Location.   “Singapore-based photographer Fong Qi Wei has created “Time is a Dimension,” a series of photo collages made from slices of time at various locations. The composites were made from sequences of two to four hours, usually during sunrise or sunset.”

Global Patent Map Reveals the Structure of Technological Progress. By mapping the way patents cite each other, network scientists have been able to study how different technologies rely on each other and how new technologies emerge.

Continuum VFX reel shows the secrets of creating Vancouver in 2077.

The origins of space and time. Many researchers believe that physics will not be complete until it can explain not just the behaviour of space and time, but where these entities come from.

Could lemur hibernation answer space travel questions?

How One Nuclear Missile Base Is Battling Ground Squirrels. In Montana, ground squirrels have been tunneling under a Air Force base’s fences and setting off intruder alarms, prompting researchers to look for a solution.

“Evolution is littered with examples of opportunism. Hosts infected by viruses found new uses for the genetic material the agents of disease left behind; metabolic enzymes somehow came to refract light rays through the eye’s lens; mammals took advantage of the sutures between the skull bones to help their young pass through the birth canal; and, in the signature example, feathers appeared in fossils before the ancestors of modern birds took to the skies.”

Dark Energy Survey begins: Over the next five years, scientists will capture some of grandest images of cosmos ever seen.

“What We Still Don’t Know”: Martin Rees Tackles Deepest Scientific Questions in Documentary. “The Universe is still a place of mystery and wonder.”

Legislation proposed by physicist turned House Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) Seeks to Bar N.S.A. Tactic in Encryption.

Astronomers have discovered a population of planetary nebula all mysteriously pointing in the same direction.

A Fermilab physicist and TED artists created a short animation about the most famous description of the Higgs field:

Here are the key details on NASA’s new mission to study the moon’s atmosphere (launched on a modified Peacekeeper missile).

Pitch/Fork: The Relationship Between Sound And Taste.

On the Persistence of Bad Luck (and Good) – “It is a real phenomenon, and this can even be proved mathematically.”

A Feynman poem about the emergence of complexity and consciousness.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.

Electric fish may hold answers to better understanding of sensory abilities and movement.

1-millimetre cross-section of a paint sample found on the demolition site of a building from the Victorian era. Credit: Oxford Instruments.

Atomic Force Microscopy provides amazing nanoviews of bleached hair, a fleck of Victorian paint, and one of the creatures that helped build the White Cliffs of Dover.

Upgraded Fermilab neutrino beam back in business. After more than a year of improvements, Fermilab’s accelerator complex has begun sending neutrinos to experiments at the lab and in Minnesota.

When physicists play Pictionary. Drawing an elephant with four complex parameters. “This paper describes in great detail how to draw an elephant using mathematical equations. The solution involves a series of clever tricks, a couple of Fourier series, and results in a fairly cute elephant.”

VMatter announces an Indiegogo campaign for an amorphous metal chef’s cutlery line.

Neil de Grasse Tyson on the Art of the Soundbite: “A few words that are informative, make you smile, and are so tasty you might want to tell someone else — there is the anatomy of a soundbite.”

Mathematical structure and multiple choice: ruminating on sonnets and decision trees.

Stop pretending we aren’t living in the Space Age. Per io9′s Annalee Newitz: “You people need to shut the hell up, and this gorgeous picture of Saturn taken by Cassini is just one reason why.”

Cognitive Science Meets Pre-Algebra:  interleaving mixes distinct but related problems  in homework assignments.

“Science, as we know, is not just some body of facts.  It is a detailed process of observation, experiment, interpretation, review, and even a little bit of luck and chance.  And unlike a linear list of instructions, it is an ongoing, iterative process that can jump to any other step in the process.”

Is the “STEM crisis” a myth sustained by those who benefit from a glut of sci/tech workers? A provocative argument.

Virgin Galactic Rips Through Stratosphere at supersonic speeds, Again.

Sliding On Tennis’ Hard Courts Inspires Awe, Poses Risks.

The quasar and its Fata Morgana: image of distant quasar splits into multiple images by effects of a cloud of ionized gas.

From the Walkie Talkie to the Death Ray Hotel: buildings turn up the heat. The ‘Walkie Talkie’ office block that melted parts of a Jaguar parked outside it is not the only building that has been found to concentrate the sun’s rays to dangerous effect.

How to Open a Bottle of Beer With a Frisbee. Two guys demonstrate how to open a bottle of beer using a carefully thrown Frisbee at full speed and a second time in slow motion.

Credit: Alberto Seveso. http://burdu976.com/

Check out Alberto Seveso’s gorgeous high-speed photos of ink diffusing in water.

Philosopher Huw Price is sad that there are still Heraclitans lurking in the corners of physics. “Some Heraclitans are so sure of their ground that they insist that if Einstein is right – if the distinction between past, present and future is not objective – then time itself is an illusion.”

How Flake-Handling Trick Will Enable Graphene’s Next Revolution. The ability to stack graphene sheets on top of each other should make possible an entirely new class of devices that exploit previously inaccessible physics, say researchers.

“Deaf” Frog Hears By Using Its Mouth As An Echo Chamber. “Gardiner’s frog doesn’t have a middle ear or an eardrum. It ought to be deaf. And yet, it sings. ”

Quantum Steps Towards the Big Bang. “Oriti imagines space to be made of tiny cells or “atoms of space”, and a new theory is required to describe them.”

The (London) Underground Map of the Elements highlights some key characteristics of the chemical elements.

Goethe’s Theory of Colors: The 1810 Treatise That Inspired Kandinsky & Early Abstract Painting.

Nothing is as it Seems: The Art of Illusion at Science Gallery.

The Steely, Headless King of Texas Hold ’Em: “Gamblers might win a given hand out of sheer luck, but over an extended period, as the impact of luck evens out, they must overcome carefully trained neural nets that self-learned to play aggressively and unpredictably with the expertise of a skilled professional.”

Strange and Wonderful History of Diving Suits, 1715 to Today. “Long before we had spacesuits, we had diving suits.”

Finally, check out Atom-Lapse by filmmaker Richard Bently: A Timelapse of André Waterkeyn’s Iconic Atomium Building, designed by engineer André Waterkeyn for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium.

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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