ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Physics Week in Review: November 23, 2013

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


Email   PrintPrint



Jen-Luc Piquant is currently shivering her pixelated heart out in Merry Olde England, where the Time Lord is among the finalists for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books; the festivities take place this Monday. While we’re gone, you can check out my new article in Smithsonian, detailing JPL engineer Adam Steltzner’s ingenious ideas for a sky crane system that proved crucial to landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and there’s lots of celebratory fun stuff floating around the Web, such as the 14 Strangest Moments in Doctor Who Alt-History, or the BBC’s nifty interactive map of the Doctor’s travels through time.  Or check out this Doctor Who 50th Anniversary prequel.  Also: “I am definitely a mad man with a box.” A Stunning Animation Celebrating the History of Doctor Who by artist and filmmaker Richard Swarbrick (h/t: Laughing Squid) Google Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ With a Google Doodle Game.  Finally, there is The Doctor Games, All 13 Doctors Fight to the Death in a ‘Doctor Who’ Spoof of The Hunger Games.

This week also marked Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, and yes, there is a physics angle: Sharing spacetime coordinates with Abraham Lincoln and Matt Damon. “How significant is it if you share one, two, three, or even four coordinates with a famous person?”

More physics angles on US history: A physicist examines the Kennedy assassination film by Luis Alvarez. From the abstract: “Among the subjects treated are (1) the timing of the gun shots, (2) a theoretical and experimental investigation of the ’’backward snap’’ of the President’s head immediately after he was killed—yielding the surprising result that it was consistent with a shot fired from the rear, (3) the speed at which the camera was running, and (4) a previously undetected deceleration of the President’s automobile just before the final shot.”

15 Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids: “Time to get messy, light some stuff on fire, and use food products in ways they were never intended.”

Spectra Heats Up:   Fun comic about thermodynamics featuring the American Physical Society’s superhero (PDF).

How was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explained in his lifetime? A 1923 silent film provided clarity and humor.

Space buffs were glued to their monitors earlier this week as NASA launched its MAVEN mission. MAVEN and Curiosity Are A Match Made On Mars, Per Discovery News: “One is a six-wheeled nuclear-powered rover, the other is an orbiting solar-powered climate satellite. The two robots couldn’t be more different — except they have one thing in common: Mars’ blighted atmosphere. And on Sept. 20, 2014, the pair will become the next interplanetary ‘power couple.’” Also: Why are MAVEN and Mars Orbiter Mission taking such different paths to Mars?

Together and Alone, Mathematicians Team Up on Closing the Prime Gap (the twin primes conjecture).

Crashing market, hidden dragon: Taming the catastrophes that defy known mathematics.

Out of the chaos of birds in flight, gorgeous, geometric patterns emerge and coalesce.

“Up to Their Tricks Again”: Chad Orzel’s New Favorite Physicist Story (featuring James Chadwick).

Comet watchers from Max Planck Institute and US Naval Research Laboratory have dueling theories about Comet ISON. Related: STEREO-A Spacecraft Spots Comet ISON Swimming Through the Solar Wind.

Mock data, real science: Through mock-data competitions, astrophysicists check their work.

The 1700-year-old Lycurgus cup inspires search for new ways to exploit nanoparticles and their interactions with light.

My Virtually Speaking Science co-host Tom Levenson chatted with MIT string theorist Allan Adams this week on “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” Adams works at the intersection of fluid dynamics, quantum field theory and string theory.  His latest work uses the physics of black holes to study turbulence in quantum liquids. And Tom says Adams “is that rarest of rare birds, a string theorist whose work has some connection to the observable world.” Give it a listen.

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher captures tears of grief, joy, laughter and irritation in extreme detail. Above: Tears of timeless reunion, photo © Rose-Lynn Fisher, http://rose-lynnfisher.com/, courtesy of the artist and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.

The Microscopic Structures of Dried Human Tears: Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher captures tears of grief, joy, laughter and irritation in extreme detail.  Related: Christian Ehrenberg’s images of microscopic organisms in the mid-1800s are both art and ground breaking science.”

The Fundamental Physics prize continues to be bad for physics, says The Curious Wavefunction.”The frontier of physics, at least in the public imagination, now consists mainly of complicated symbols written on paper and tossed around in erudite debates. Whether these symbols have much to do with reality is at best a secondary concern and more typically a clerical distraction.”

Peter Coles issued a bloggy challenge: can we explain the negative pressure property of dark energy easily in layperson’s terms?  The Time Lord accepted: Why Does Dark Energy Make the Universe Accelerate?  So did Galileo’s Pendulum: If gravity is an attractive force, how can the Universe be expanding? And what does dark energy have to do with it?

Can we unify quantum mechanic and gravity? Sabine Hossenfelder explains all in this free issue of Physics World.

Building detector parts for a new neutrino experiment (NoVA) gives students an edge in the post-graduation job hunt.

In the first century AD, Scribonius Largus applied electric torpedo fish to body for relief of headaches, gout, hemorrhoids.

The Physics of Flying Fish: “In .05 seconds, the fish achieved accelerations of up to five times earth’s gravity.”

A poet (math-daughter) speaks of math’s beauty, pays tribute to her father’s legacy.

Polish Concert Pianist Builds a ‘Viola Organista’ Based on a 500-Year-Old Sketch from Leonardo Da Vinci. SO COOL!  Per This Colossal:

“[A]fter an estimated 5,000 hours of work over three years and nearly $10,000 invested in the project, Polish concert pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki has unveiled his own version of the viola organista. Not only is the new instrument gorgeous, it’s fully functional and Zubrzycki demonstrated it in public for the first time at the 5th International Royal Krakow Piano Festival a few weeks ago.”

This week’s Headdesk Moment: European Journalists Blame ‘Anti-Gravity’ Spot On Magic, Not Physics.”On a road out in the Polish countryside, things appear to roll uphill, including bottles of water and even entire cars. What’s going on? The people of Europe demand an answer for this very strange physical phenomenon.” Hint: it’s not because of witches.

The position of the Scotch egg in modern physics.

Check out this video visualization of sorting algorithms.

Benford’s law describes the frequency of leading digits. Can it negate cheating?

28 neutrinos from outside the solar system open new era in astronomy.

Observations of a rare cosmic explosion challenge scientists’ theoretical understanding of how gamma-ray bursts work.

Why Biology Students Have to Learn Calculus.

Ironing Out the Myth of the Flat Earth: “medieval people did not actually think the world was flat.”

Catastrophe theory and what it tells you about sleep and the economy.

Chaotic physics in ferroelectrics hints at brain-like computing.

Universe’s Largest Structure is a Cosmic Conundrum.

The winners of 2013′s Dance Your PhD Competition have been announced!

Credit: Visarute Angkatavanich, http://500px.com/bluehand

Photographing The Flowing Fins of Siamese Fighting Fish: gorgeous work by photographer Visarute Angkatavanich.

Universal Law of Commuting Discovered in African, European and US Mobile Phone Data. Commuters in Africa, Europe and the US all follow the same fundamental pattern of travel between work and home, confirming a theory first suggested 20 years ago.

What you would see if you sent a cell phone through a pneumatic tube system. Boing Boing editor Maggie Koerth-Baker found herself with some time on her hands while waiting for induced labor to kick in at a Minneapolis area hospital. “How do you entertain yourself between the insertion of the IV line and the beginning of serious contractions? Turns out, you go on a lot of short walks, you watch some TV, and (if you’re lucky) you convince the nurses to let your husband “mail” his cell phone from the labor/delivery department to the post-natal department, using the hospital’s pneumatic tube system.”

Three Scenarios For Funding Interstellar Travel. “Mankind’s only chance for survival in the coming millennium is to spread out into space. So argues British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and a score of other eminent physicists, rocket scientists and intellectuals in Starship Century, a collection of essays and science fiction edited by brothers James and Gregory Benford.”

Cosmological Data Hint at a Level of Physics Underlying Quantum Mechanics  Network.

Does the visible photon have a counterpart, a dark photon, that interacts with the components of dark matter?

In the short film “Somewhere,” by Nicholas Menard, an astronaut ventures alien worlds, but all he can think of is what he left behind.

Overcoming brittleness: New insights into bulk metallic glass.

You Can’t Take a Bullet for Someone Hollywood-Style, Because Physics Forbids Such a Sacrifice.

Scientists use humongous muon detector to confirm existence of Moon.

Moon dust piles up 1 inch every 25,000 years, way faster than expected. It’s a scientific puzzle, and a practical problem.

How did Mars go from warm and wet to dry and desolate? Ethan Siegel on the leading theory, and how we’ll test it.

New model uses friction to explain sudden jump in viscosity in rapidly flowing suspensions of hard particles.

The Mess at Fukushima, and The Need for a Scientific Lens.

I give you Neil deGrasse Tyson: Buzzkill of Science — a new segment on the Daily Show.

Unlike Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Bang Theory understands dimensional analysis.

Pop star Bjork Explaining Television Is Everything You’d Imagine Bjork Explaining Television to Be.

Tic-Tac-Toe Puzzles (and the Difference Between a Puzzle and a Game).

2B or not to be: can physics and theater really collide?

Roboexotica 2013, A Cocktail Robotics Festival in Vienna, Austria.

Podcast: Gauss’ missing brain. “A mix-up that appears to have taken place in the 1860′s put Gauss’s brain the wrong jar.”

Where’s Waldo? That’s Easy. A Foolproof Strategy for Locating the Stripe-Loving Cartoon Man. Using SCIENCE!

A New Kind of Food Science: How IBM is Using Big Data to Invent Creative Recipes.

Particle physics cupcakes! Source: Maddiebird Bakery, http://www.maddiebird.com/

Speaking of food science, Chicago-based Maddiebird Bakery created these particle physics cupcakes.  WANT! ALL THE NOMS! Pictured (at left) are the QED Lagrangian equation, four particle models depicting quarks, gluons, and quark-antiquark pairs, two Higgs boson entries from the Standard Model, and the Higgs Lagrangian equation.

An Infinite Staircase by David McCracken: “The welded aluminum steps appear to create infinite path into the sky.”

Poker, Psychology and the Science of Tells.

This real-life MacGuyver builds weapons with things you can buy in airport terminals, past security.

The Broad Experience: Episode 30: Women in academia. Also: astrophysicist Katie Mack explores the two-body problem in academia.

A touching short film about Mandelbrot and how he discovered fractals.

Cassini vs. Curiosity: Who Will Suffer the Space Budget Axe?

Making Tesla a saint makes us all dumber. Per Gizmodo:

“Tesla wasn’t a god who died a penniless martyr. He was a man who lived an interesting and full life, celebrated in his own time. When Tesla’s 1899-1900 notebooks from Colorado Springs were discovered in the 1950s, the Tesla Museum in Belgrade actively sought to suppress their publication because they would bust the myth that he never worked things out on paper. The notebook wouldn’t be published until 1978, after much in-fighting at the museum. When we reject new evidence that may paint historical figures as more fully formed human beings, everyone loses.”

A Cuddly, Crocheted Klein Quartic Curve.

Metamaterials Could Be Key to High-Tc Superconductivity. In the same way that metamaterials steer light around objects to hide them, they might also steer electrons through crystal lattices with zero resistance, say physicists.

Quantum Field Theory, String Theory, and Predictions (Part 7).

How to Create Motion in Still Photographs Using the Parallax Effect.  …

ESTIMATING: The Math Tao of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“Mathematical constraints can help create beautiful music.” Vi Hart performs her “self referential string quartet” and more.

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.





Rights & Permissions

Add Comment

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Dinosaurs

Get Total Access to our Digital Anthology

1,200 Articles

Order Now - Just $39! >

X

Email this Article

X