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Physics Week in Review: October 19, 2013


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This has been an extremely difficult week for many of us in the science writing community. Actually, that’s an understatement. It’s been utterly shattering. What’s that? You missed the drama and want a recap? Honestly, I’m exhausted and I just can’t right now. Suffice to say that this was the only acceptable outcome. I may have more to say about this later, but for now, let’s have some science-y links, shall we? Other things were happening, after all.

Because I think we could all use a drink, here’s some cocktail recipes inspired by The Walking Dead. Related: Why Do Bartenders Use Egg Whites In Cocktails? Mmm. Now I want a pisco sour. Or a whiskey sour. I make a mean whiskey sour.  Or if wine is more your thing, here’s Vino Sans Snobbery: A Charming Illustrated Scratch-and-Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert.

Precise measurements reveal that this is the world’s fluffiest bunny.

This week we marked Ada Lovelace Day, in honor of the daughter of Lord Byron who many consider to be the first tech visionary. The idea is to highlight historical and current role models of women in science. (I was going to blog about Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, but the fall of the Blogfather sapped my time and energy. She was awesome though.) Peter Coles chose Emmy Noether; others reflected on astronomer Annie Jump Cannon and Mary Somerville. And the Mary Sue pointed us to A Bunch of Rockin’ T-Shirt Designs Featuring Lady Scientists to mark the occasion.

The Artist of the Unbreakable Code: Composer Edward Elgar still has cryptographers playing his tune.

Neutrino experiment intensifies effort to explain matter-antimatter asymmetry. Scientists are searching for a type of radioactive decay inside highly shielded Germanium discs that are suspended in nested tanks of water and liquid argon deep under a mountain in Italy.

The Physics of Friendship, Art Show Tribute to The Big Bang Theory at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California. As Sheldon would say, Bazinga!

The one place where it’s possible to truly see the night sky.

Credit: Robert Wechsler, http://robertwechsler.com/

Geometric Coin Sculptures by Robert Wechsler. “Wechsler used a jeweler’s saw to cut precise notches in coins from various currencies and then joined them together in several geometric forms.”

“Physics: What We Do and Don’t Know,” by Steven Weinberg.

Black hole hair and the dark energy problem.

Crowd-sourcing eighteenth-century science: the Great Fireball of 1783.

Mathematical study of photosynthesis clears the path to developing new super-crops.

Student tries to get Internet to do her homework summarizing recent article by Ed. Yong himself weighs in and soon others join the fun.

Microscopic graphene flakes were isolated in 2010: now research looks for practical applications, per Nobel Laureate Andre Geim.

Why you should work on the foundations of quantum mechanics as much as you please.

Maxwell’s Knots: New solutions to Maxwell’s equations capture knotted & linked field lines that could be.

What Is It Like to Be a Mathematician? Puzzles, paintings, bridges, and power.

Ever wonder how transmission lines are repaired? Introducing high flying linemen.

Science Chamber of Horrors: The Worst Part of Going to Space? Your Fingernails Come Off.

Why Study Logic? Let them count the ways.

Philosophy of Tickling: “tickle as precarious bridge between touchy physics and an improbably volatile metaphysics.”

Writer Automaton: a 240 year old doll that can write, created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a Swiss watchmaker (with video).

New LUX results to be announced on Oct 30. May either resolve or make more confusing the 10 GeV dark matter mystery.

This Is How Cats See the World.

Science Facts for Future Intolerable Pedants,” courtesy of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Quantum Holographic Critical Criminology. “The paper considers the criminological implications of ‘backward time referral’ along with ‘spin networks’ and ‘molar assemblages.’ In doing so, it not only cites the works of Freud, Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan, Delanda, Bruza, Kitto, Dirac, Marcer, Schempp, and Bergson, but also Einstein, de Broglie, Schroedinger, Jung, Penrose, Wheeler, Pribram, Witten, Erikson and many more.”

Mark Twain Plays With Electricity in Nikola Tesla’s Lab.  Bonus: “Sweet Home Alabama” played on Tesla coils.

Why millions love Elise Andrew’s science page. Andrew’s entertaining and informative Facebook page, I Fucking Love Science, is adding up to 15,000 followers a day.

There was a fight over the Nobel prize for the Higgs boson–years before there was a Higgs boson to fight over. Related humor: Peter Higgs spends Nobel money on pimped-out SUV: “I’ve dropped some serious Nobel cheddar on this bad boy.”

Ooh! Shrimp fight! For SCIENCE! Predators vs. alien: European shrimps win predatory battles with an American invader.

Can a new mathematical model predict endgame of empires? Peter Turchin says his work shows why the US is in crisis.

That Algorithm Just Doesn’t Get Us Artists, Man. “Personalization algorithms might just be getting our fundamental values, esp our openness to change, wrong.”

An Astonishing Look Inside Google’s Quantum Lab. Related: D-Wave Quantum Computer’s Solution Raises More Questions.

Riddle of the Odorless Incense: third in a series of seven fables/lessons/meditations on probability.

Sex in Space: What would happen if a woman got pregnant in space? Is it even possible?

How to Read a Scientific Paper (about that researcher with a nematode in his mouth). Deborah Blum demonstrates once again why she’s one of the best science writers working today.

Don’t tell an atheist she’s not an atheist. “the appropriate response is, “Fine by me.””

Suicide Machines, Kinetic Sculptures That Slowly Destroy Themselves.

More than money or equipment, physics teachers need time.

And Let There Be “Molecules” of Light.

The Real-Life Scientist Who Inspired Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle — physicist Irving Langmuir.

It’s that time of the year: highlights from the archives of the Gallery of Fluid Motion.

Physics Abstract of the Week: the splash dynamics of the male urine stream.   Yes, there is a Law of Urination. Regardless of bladder size, all mammals pee for approximately 21 seconds (with video).

Macro or Micro? Test Your Sense of Scale.

CERN laboratory offered a private tour to a dozen Twitterati, who broadcast the experience to a much larger crowd.

Feynman said nobody understands quantum mechanics. Now learn it by playing Minecraft. You heard me: Google Is Teaching Quantum Physics to Minecraft Addicts.

Gravity and Reality: Discovery News looks at History’s Worst Space Disasters. Related: now you can play around with gravity yourself. The real gravity, or at least a computer simulation thereof.

Hard Sci-Fi Movies (AKA What Happens When Reality Screws Your Trope).

The nuclear physics letter that was ghost-written for Einstein.

Finally, a cassette player serves as a time machine in the tender short film Record/Play.

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. Adrian Morgan 8:07 am 10/20/2013

    The “play around with gravity” site has been around for years. As a challenge for readers who haven’t seen it before, see if you can create a moon: a small object in a stable orbit around a larger object, which in turn is in a stable orbit around a still larger object.

    It CAN be done, I promise you, but it isn’t easy, and there’s a trick to it that I won’t give away right now. The following link is a screenshot to prove it’s possible.

    http://outerhoard.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/moons.jpg

    Link to this
  2. 2. Henryphysicsorg 7:08 am 10/21/2013

    Also you can add negative mass in the gravity game.

    Link to this

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