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Physics Week in Review: March 1, 2014

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


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It’s been a busy week. Tuesday evening, I gave a lecture based on the new book (Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self) at Seattle’s Town Hall.  And later today, I’ll be appearing at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, so if you’re in the area around 3:30 PM, stop in and say hi. But Jen-Luc Piquant still managed to gather a collection of great physics links.

The Time Lord has been even busier. Last weekend we went to New Orleans so he could debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig; he shared his own take on how the event went, and you can watch the videos now, too, and make your own call.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, but Predictable World:  Scaling the Patterns of Ancient Urban Growth.

A Fluid New Path in Grand Math Challenge, featuring the Cat in the Hat. Per Quanta: “UCLA mathematician Terence Tao “has shown that in an alternative abstract universe closely related to the one described by the Navier-Stokes equations, it is possible for a body of fluid to form a sort of computer, which can build a self-replicating fluid robot that, like the Cat in the Hat, keeps transferring its energy to smaller and smaller copies of itself until the fluid ‘blows up.’”

Also in Quanta this week: Physicists Eye Quantum Gravity Interface. Gravity curves space and time around massive objects. What happens when such objects are put in quantum superpositions, causing space-time to curve in two different ways?

Falcon Physics: The Science of Diving Peregrine Falcons. “By combining their wind tunnel analysis with the data from the video footage, the researchers created the most comprehensive analysis of a peregrine falcon dive to date, including factors such as lift, drag, acceleration, and trajectory.” Bonus: via Twitter  I learned about the great video footage (via a bird-sized headcam) of falcons in flight taken by Haverford physicist Suzanne Amador Kane.

How the refrigerator got its hum: Forget spaceships, washing machines and fridges are where stories of the revolutionary possibilities of innovation lie.

The Future of Particle Physics: “If we want to continue to probe smallest constituents of nature, we have to think big and plan for the long term.”

Physicists solve 20-year-old debate surrounding glassy surfaces.

Courtesy of: Andres Wanner, http://www.pixelstorm.ch

Imagine the Beam: A former physicist, Andres Wanner uses accelerator data to create artistic visualizations.

The Amazing Physics of Water in Trees.

Roentgen Objects, or, a Device Larger Than the Room That Contains It.

Einstein’s lost theory uncovered: Physicist explored the idea of a steady-state Universe in 1931.

A Star in a Bottle: plan to create new energy source could save planet from catastrophe. But time is running out.

A mathematical model of Pride and Prejudice. Oh, those catastrophic bifurcations! Scourge of lovers everywhere. Per the abstract:

“The analysis shows that the story is characterized by a sudden explosion of sentimental involvements, revealed by the existence of a saddle-node bifurcation in the model. The paper is interesting not only because it deals for the first time with catastrophic bifurcations in romantic relation-ships, but also because it enriches the list of examples in which love stories are described through ordinary differential equations.”

New exhibition at the British Library celebrates the ability of a gorgeous graphic to tell the story of data.

Top 5 facts about Imaginary Math (A Synopsis).

Opening next week! Particle Fever, the Long-Awaited Documentary That Follows Six Scientists During the Launch of the Large Hadron Collider.

There’s a Tiny, 60-Mile Black Hole Inside the Galaxy You Can See with Binoculars.

Workers at Nuclear Waste Site in New Mexico Inhaled Radioactive Materials.

Device-makers align around a wireless charging technology that works through tables to charge multiple devices.

These are the top five science experiments involving pop tarts.

“As far as universal limits go, the speed of light gets all the glory. But did you know there is a different speed limit for particles? It’s called the GZK limit, and some people think it has already been exceeded. Which has some pretty weird implications for the laws of the universe.”

A Harvard astronomer has a provocative hunch about what happened after the Big Bang. Fantastic article by io9 editor Annalee Newitz, moonlighting for Slate.

The physical limit of trick shots in billiards.

CERN challenges students to design a particle physics experiment.

Former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy Dreams of a More Musical Subway.  Per the Wall Street Journal:

“[Murphy] has worked out a unique set of notes for every station, one of which would sound each time a passenger swipes his or her MetroCard to catch a train. The busier a station becomes, the richer the harmonies would be. The same notes would also play in a set sequence when the subway arrives at that stop. Each of the city’s 468 subway stations would have note sets in different keys.”

Take a Psychedelic Trip through a World of Morphing Fractals by Alexandre Lehmann:

Giant laser could arrange particles into enormous space telescope. All we need is 200 square kilometers of solar panels to power it.

Zero Point, A Film About Virtual Reality Made Specifically for the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset.

Saturn, Where Are Your Rings? when Earth crosses this ring plane it appears as though the rings disappear.

Once time travel becomes common, drunken assholes will abuse it.

Smile Hydrogen Atom! You’re on Quantum Camera!

The Stories That Galaxies Tell: Peculiar shapes were the key to realizing that galaxies merge.

A Scientific Look (using structural analysis) At Why You Hate Hawaiian Shirts.

Watch the Colorful Dance of a Hundred Thousand Asteroids.

Fermilab’s CDF and DZero experiments have discovered the last predicted way to produce the top quark.

Mysterious Quantum ‘Dropletons’ Form Inside Semiconductors Shot With Lasers. Say hello to a new quasiparticle, the unexpected quantum ‘dropleton’.

This Week in Game Theory: Seinfeld’s Kramer was right—math shows that Ukraine really is the weakest territory on the Risk board.

And here is this week’s <headdesk> moment: Run! Hide your children! Protect them from math with letters!

The Washington Post‘s Joel Achenbach moonlights at Smithsonian with a few thoughts on the legacy of Carl Sagan: “No one will ever match his talent as the “gatekeeper of scientific credibility.”

Under the Dome: The Tragic, Untold Story of the World’s First Planetarium.

Source: Anita Chowdry, http://www.anitachowdry.com/geometry/4581153223

20th-Century Math Hidden in 15th-Century Art. Artist Anita Chowdry “noticed the patterns [in Islamic illuminated manuscripts] are strongly reminiscent of fractal geometry and the famous images produced by Benoit Mandelbrot’s research on the topic in the late 1970s and 1980s. Upon realizing this, she embarked upon a journey to incorporate her knowledge of the ancient art of manuscript illustration with modern mathematical concepts and technology. The result is a spectacular collection of images and object.”

Could A Skyrim Shout Ever Knock Someone Over?

Space Elevators Are Totally Possible (and Will Make Rockets Seem Dumb).

How Black Holes Led to the Creation of Web Browsers.

An idler’s guide to physics (part 2).

Knotted Needles Make Knitted Knots: “The (5,3) torus knot cowl is where it’s at.”

Can Quantum Communication Work For Underwater Vehicles and Sensors? Chinese physicists say quantum key distribution is possible through clear ocean water at distances of up 125 metres and at data rates capable of sending a secure video feed.

Singing in Space: Ham radio users have been listening to earth’s “song”–known as “chorus”–for years.

Inspired by a folding technique called rigid origami, researchers have demonstrated foldable silicon solar cells.

Physicists find a new ‘state of matter‘ in the eyes of chickens.

John McNally’s top 10 true or false science facts: Does a Polo mint really light up when broken in half?

Beautiful Microscopic Time-lapse Video of Individual Snowflakes Forming.

Take a close look at Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man’s groin: he had a hernia.

Math Magic: Magic squares, magic Circle of Circles, Magic Spirals.

How to measure the mass of a single electron, to an accuracy of one part in a trillion.

Ignoring Science and Common Sense, Hawaii Wants Warning Labels on Cell Phones.

Expanding the dialogue on diversity, privilege, and the pursuit of science: “There hasn’t been nearly enough conversation about the roles that privileges play in science career access….”  Related: Astronaut Mae Jemison Says Smart Things About Women In STEM

Surprises in physics: From black bodies to the accelerating universe.

Burning Bright: Tigers and Fireflies and Bioluminescence.

Here’s a helpful, if non-comprehensive, list of working physicists on Twitter: Particle Physicists and Cosmologists on Twitter.

Feynman’s ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom’ Excites Brooklyn Start-up to create a new kind of optical imaging.

Reflections on Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” at 150.

Where Time Comes From: a video tour of  a set of atomic clocks on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Not every disagreement is a logical fallacy. “All too many people behave as if they are experts in everything.”  And a few of the comments on the post aptly demonstrate this.

To knot fluids, researchers used 3D printing to create twisted hydrofoil shapes.

"Primordial Mount Fuji," by Yasuo Nomura, http://yasuonomura.com

Theory of Everything: the mathematical art of Yasuo Nomura.

Physicists propose a modular quantum computer architecture that offers scalability to large numbers of qubits.

The New York Times did a Q&A with Alan Alda, Spokesman for Science.

What Cold War nuclear weapons can tell us about art fraud.

Robot Suits Could Make An Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) League Blood-Free. Well, where’s the fun in that?

Point/Counterpoint of the Week: some different media takes on this issue. Astronaut’s Near-Drowning Could Have Been Avoided, says Discovery News (among others). But per the Los Angeles Times, NASA is still not sure why astronaut’s helmet filled with water.

The Hidden Physics in MythBusters Bullet Baloney. Related: Could The MythBusters Shoot a Cannonball Made of Ice?

Chasing the Parallel Postulate: one of 5 postulates is not like the others in Euclidean geometry.

Take a dynamic tour through this tiny town to see what can happen when engineering and artistry collide.

Ancient Aliens, the Antikythera Mechanism and Agile software development? There appears to be a link.

Astronaut Watches Stunning Moonset From Orbit.

The Most Killer Speaker System in the World is for Rocket Science.

Matt Strassler continues with his epic series on Quantum Field Theory, String Theory and Predictions (Part 9).

New Sounds, Old Voices: Carl Haber’s lab has been able to play many old recordings for first time in over 100 years.

Scientists twist sound with metamaterials: Introducing the world’s first acoustic field rotator.

Sea Sapphire: Glowing Shrimp. The tiny shrimp sparkles like the blue gem when hit by light at the right angle.

Finally, for your weekend listening pleasure, where is They Might Be Giants with “Meet the Elements” (a BB Video), a classic from 2009:

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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