ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Physics Week in Review: February 1, 2014

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


Email   PrintPrint



The big news this week — for me, at least — was the release of my new book, Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the Science of Self, which traces various scientific strands that weave together to make us the people that we are. Over at Psychology Today, Gayll Nalls posted a transcript of our chat during the FQXI conference in Vieques, Puerto Rico, earlier this month (which explains my beachy, make-up-free, tousled hair appearance). You can read a shorter interview over at Oprah.com. The Time Lord did his promotional part, the Atlantic excerpted part of the chapter on virtual/online identity, and I also wrote a piece for Slate: “Ten Things I Learned About Me (and Maybe You, Too) While Writing About the Self.”

Thanks to that Atlantic excerpt, I heard about a wonderful project related to this notion of what our “stuff” says about our selves: “Significant Details is a series of interviews with women in science. … All interviews start from a specific object, a ‘significant detail’ from the women’s scientific life. They can be scientific objects or something completely different that is related to science only by the women’s experience.”

Of course, no sooner had the book been published, when the Time Lord and I took off for two and a half weeks in Southeast Asia — just in time for the lunar new year (welcome to the Year of the Horse) –  with spotty Internet access. So there will be no Physics Week in Review the next couple of weeks. Sorry! Jen-Luc Piquant will be back on the job with her usual roundups come February 22. In the meantime, here’s a whole bunch of stuff to fill the time this weekend.

Photo by Sean M. Carroll

We’ll be missing the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, but look for lots of terrific blog posts on related science, starting with this one: Engineering The Ideal Olympian: Superfast Fitted Ski Suit.  Related: Impossible Figure Skating Moves from the Movies.

Black Holes, Quantum Information and Fuzzballs: String theorist Micha Berkooz on Hawking’s new paper. In 1976, Stephen Hawking opened a can of worms. Now he’s trying to put them back. Related: A Brief History of Mind-Bending Ideas About Black Holes. Also, Matt Strassler insists (correctly, of course) that news of black holes’ death has been exaggerated.

Physicists can’t find natural magnetic monopole so they make their own, in a Bose-Einstein sort of way.

Physics Buzz eats some crow and now agrees: 1+2+3+4+ . . . does not equal -1/12.

Experiments with elastic rods hanging under their own weight explain the shape of curly hair.

Schrodinger’s Rats and the Search for Ultimate Reality: an excerpt from Trespassing on Einstein’s Law, by the amazing Amanda Gefter.

Might the Infinity of the Universe Have a Tangible Effect on Daily Life?

How is the Universe bigger than its age? 13.8 billion years old, yet we see for 46 billion light-years. Here’s how.

Even the most boring collisions at the LHC tell us something about the universe – this time about cosmic rays.

How Radioactive (In Units of Bananas) is the Room You’re Sitting in Right Now?

Bouncing Beethoven Off the Moon: “‘Earth – Moon – Earth,’ by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. Paterson translated Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into Morse code and bounced it off the moon via Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) transmission.  The artist explained:  ‘The moon reflects only part of the information back – some is absorbed in its shadows, ‘lost’ in its craters … Returning to earth fragmented by the moon’s surface, it has been re-translated into a new score, the gaps and absences becoming intervals and rests. In the exhibition space the new ‘moon–altered’ score plays on a self-playing grand piano.’” There is an audio clip here.

Has Anyone Ever Flipped Heads 76 Times in a Row? The mathematics of the coin toss.

Perfecting the Art of Sensible Nonsense: A new cryptographic scheme obfuscates computer programs by transforming them into something akin to a jigsaw puzzle in which random elements make each individual piece look meaningless.

To Eliminate Feedback, Engineers Invented the Acoustic Equivalent of One-Way Glass.

How to Save Your Scroll: Mathematical formula shows best way to prevent ancient scrolls from deforming.

Physics philosopher and musician Steve Weinstein On Wormholes, Punk Rock and his New Album, Last Free Man.

Most Destructive Space Battle Rocks Virtual Universe. The equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars was lost in the EVE Online universe as thousands of gamers were thrown into the “The Bloodbath of B-R5RB.”

NOISE, A Short Film That Explores White and Black Noise Through Motion Capture.

A silk coat for nanodiamonds makes sleek new imaging and drug delivery tool.

How A New Science of Cities is Emerging From Mobile Phone Data Analysis. Now you can see a city ‘breath’.

A dark-energy detector under development at Fermilab uses new technique to generate images of astronomical objects.

28 years to the day after the Challenger Shuttle tragedy, Phil Plait explains why we *must* continue exploring space. Related: Discovery News reviews Challenger: An American Tragedy.   Also: After the explosion, Richard Feynman famously set out to find what went wrong.

The forces on an object in flight come from the distribution of pressure on the surface.

The NSA can collect user information from Angry Birds.

A turkey’s wattle inspires a biosensor’s design.

How to Pack a Telescope for a Trip to Space.

Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow? The new issue of Nautilus is all about Time. A few highlights: Developing the DeLorean: Literature and Science, working together to travel through time.  The Metaphysical Baggage of Physics, in which physicist Lee Smolin argues that time is more fundamental than physical laws.  Finally, there is The Quantum Mechanics of Fate – How time travel might explain some of science’s biggest puzzles. And so much more!

Check out the latest trailer for the much-anticipated reboot of Cosmos, featuring Neil de Grasse Tyson:

Meet Borophene, a Two-Dimensional Nanomaterial that Could Rival Graphene.

Alice in Quantumland: A Charming Illustrated Allegory of Quantum Mechanics by CERN Physicist Robert Gilmore (and one of my personal favorite popular physics books of all time).

Galileo’s Moon Drawings, the First Realistic Depictions of the Moon in History (1609-1610).

Your Space Babies Would Die of Fungus! what the negative effects of fruit flies born into space could mean for humans.

Detailed measurements of Earth’s gravitational field, including variations in time, from the GOCE satellite.

Lawsuit by “self-described scientist” Alleges NASA Is Failing To Investigate Alien Life. Those slackers.

George Johnson’s “eloquent hate letter to the tumbleweed”:  How Tumbleweeds Spread Radiation From Old Nuclear Sites.

A mathematical look at frog choruses: a further attempt to understand croaking. SCIENCE!

Credit: Caleb Charland, http://calebcharland.com

Back to Light: Artist Caleb Charland Uses Fruit Batteries to Illuminate Long-Exposure Photographs. “The artist uses nails inside fruit connected with copper wire to create functional batteries. Harnessed to a small lightbulb, the current is sufficient enough to provide illumination for long exposure photographs. Effectively, the organic batteries create enough voltage to light their own portrait.”

An early camel-driven solo internet from 10th century… if you define “internet” as transporting device for data.

3-D Printed Crime Scenes Are Coming to a Courtroom Near You.

The shortest science paper ever published had no words and was utterly brilliant. Plus other amusing abstracts, including one on those infamous faster-than-light neutrinos a couple of years ago. “A group from the H.W. Wills Physics Laboratory in Bristol and the Indian Institute of Technology wondered, “‘Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?’ Their abstract succinctly and bluntly answered that question: ‘Probably not.’”

Essen’s clock: making every second count.

The Physics of Angry Birds Telepods – hint: converging lenses are involved.

Our Quantum Reality problem. What really happens in Schrodinger’s box?

“To step into Galileo’s villa is to step into a place of intense personal tragedy and great scientific achievement.”

William Shakespeare, the ‘king of infinite space’: Was the Bard a science-fiction writer 200 years before Mary Shelley?

The Math Aficionado’s Guide to High-Fives: math with animated GIFs! “The Asymptote. This representation of one of the coolest behaviors a function can have is also good for germaphobes afraid of physical contact.”

Why ROYGBIV Is Arbitrary – Apparently it’s all Isaac Newton’s fault.

If Birds Left Trails Like Tracer Bullets, It’d Look Like This: “Dennis Hlynsky, a photographer/filmmaker and professor at Rhode Island Institute of Design, has been filming various bunches of birds — murmurations of starlings, murders of crows, and others — with a technique that shows each bird’s trail, in images, from the preceding two seconds.”

Fun for kids and adults: Make paper models of Platonic solids and learn why there are only five of them.

“No sooner do the scientist and poet recognize a common awe of the cosmos, they must part for different missions.”

Falsification and chemistry: What’s the rub?

“What if she drinks in progressively smaller sips? Will the cup slowly empty, or will some fixed quantity of liquid always remain?” The Mathematician and the Unfinished Coffee.

Watch the next big neutrino experiment come together:  A video from Fermilab highlights some of the many steps needed to build the largest neutrino experiment in the United States.

With bold isometric forms created from bright neon tape, New York City artist Aakash Nihalani creates playful outdoor installations.

Snow rollers are nature’s snowballs, formed when high winds roll a chunk of snow along the surface.

A New Scientific Model that Defines Alien Intelligence.

Finding Ada: The story of Joan Feynman, geomagnetics scientist.

This Astronomical Watch Shows Our Solar System Orbiting the Sun. I would so buy for the Time Lord if I had a spare $250K.

The financial future of the International Space Station.

“Calculus, Latin for pebble, a chip off the old block tumbled over/time and distance.” Poetry by Mary-Sherman Willis.

Credit: Arie vant Riet, http://www.x-rays.nl

Haunting X-Ray Photographs of Plants and Animals by Netherlands-based physicist and photographer Arie van’t Riet.

Want to figure out how moles move? X-ray them moving through couscous!

Winner of The Quantum Shorts 2013: The Knight of Infinity.

Einstein’s Girl: An Interview with Gia Mora, Singer, Actress and Writer. You can read Jen-Luc Piquant’s own review of the fabulous Miz Mora here.

When it comes to calculating pi, two wrongs might make a right.

Beings Not Made for Space: swelled heads, atrophied limbs, radiation threats all take their toll on human body.

What happens if you get too close to a black hole? Ask the experts.

What works for girls in the physics classroom?

A photographic tour of LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory from the folks at Physics Buzz.

Kelvin, Rutherford, and the Age of the Earth: I, The Myth.

“John R. Huizenga, a physicist who helped build the world’s first atom bomb, solve dozens of atomic riddles and debunk claims that scientists in Utah had achieved nuclear fusion in a jar of water, died on Saturday in San Diego. He was 92.”

Why do wet fingers turn wrinkled? The debate goes on; this time, there’s a physics perspective.

Can’t get enough of the free will or no free will debate? Here’s Daniel Dennett being all intelligent about it.

Where can our ideas about quantum information processing take us? John Preskill contemplates an answer.

The Future of Transportation is Here With Donkey Kong Barrels.

Physicists say energy can be teleported ‘without a limit of distance.’

How online gamers are solving science’s biggest problems.

A Wearable Book Feeds You Its Characters’ Emotions As You Read.

Measuring the Strength of a Magnet – bigger isn’t necessarily stronger.

Finally check out this jaw-dropping new footage from Felix Baumgarten’s record-breaking 2012 sky dive from 24.2 miles above Earth. Try not to vomit:

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

Comments 1 Comment

Add Comment
  1. 1. jtdwyer 7:53 am 02/2/2014

    Stop the hyperbole! The “Dark Energy camera” is simply the camera developed for use in the Dark Energy Survey. Now it’s the “Dark Energy Camera”… I wonder if it can see ghosts, too?

    Link to this

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

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X