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Physics Week in Review: June 28, 2014

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


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Confirmed: That Was Definitely the Higgs Boson Found at LHC — you know, in case you were still wondering. Related: New result from LHC strengthens the case that the Higgs interacts with both types of particles in the Standard Model. Also: The Higgs Boson Should Have Crushed the Universe: inflation “really throws a wrench into the Cosmic engine.” Finally, physics are now measuring the lifetime of the Higgs boson.

Speaking of the Higgs, if you missed it in the theaters, the Particle Fever Movie will soon be Streaming to a Device Near You.

Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy — so sayeth the Time Lord.  Related: Philosophy begins where physics ends, and physics begins where philosophy ends.

A brief foray into shameless self-promotion: I chatted with Simon Mercer of Radio New Zealand and appeared on the Agenda with Steve Paikin touting my latest book, Me, Myself and Why. And here’s a thoughtful review of Me, Myself and Why (along with Barry Dainton’s Self) in Prospect magazine, by Jim Holt.

Fluid Tests Hint at Concrete Quantum Reality: A droplet bouncing on surface of a liquid exhibits quantum-like properties, including double-slit interference, tunneling and energy quantization.

Avoiding “Sagan Syndrome.” Why Astronomers and Journalists should pay heed to Biologists about ET and the Fermi paradox. We’re likely to be the only technological civilization in our galaxy – for now.

Doc Brown and Optimus Prime could totes make a time-traveling Transformer.

Elastic invisibility cloak allows to hide from touching, similar to a pea under the mattress of a princess. Related: A Fascinating Light Refraction Experiment That Effectively Turns Beakers Invisible Using Glycerol.

21st Century Billboards: Chemists Develop Magnetically Responsive Liquid Crystals.

Dr Who meets Prof Heisenberg: Simulating time travel using qubits (quantum bits).  Related: The Timey-Wimey Spacey-Wacey explanation of relativity, via Doctor Who.

Trio of supermassive black holes offers new tool for studying cosmos.

Hey McFly! The Only Way to Make a True Hoverboard Is With Superconductors. Related: Back in March, Rhett Allain of Dot Physics also weighed in on the feasibility of hoverboards.

World Cup Physics! What is the angular size of a soccer goal from different locations on the pitch? Where can a human wall block a free kick? Also: Molecular footballs could revolutionize your next World Cup experience.  Related: The Technology Behind the World Cup’s Advanced Analytics. Lastly, the Problem With Possession: The Inside Story of Soccer’s Most Controversial Stat.

Art Meets Mathematics: Dizzying Geometric GIFs by David Whyte.

Scott Aaronson on quantum randomness: If there’s no predeterminism in quantum mechanics, can it output numbers that truly have no pattern?

The Space-Based Quantum Cryptography Race: Europe and China are gaining the upper hand in the race to bounce perfectly secure messages off satellites in low Earth orbit.

MIT invents a radical new way to heat buildings: a hyper-localized blast of heat that follows a person around like a spotlight.

Chasing the elusive arrow of time with computer algorithms.

Glowing firefly butts allow scientists to create LED bulbs that shine 55% brighter.

Dean Kamen’s “Slingshot” uses thermodynamics to make creating pure drinking water a self-perpetuating process. Related (kinda): The Thermodynamics of Pot.  In Some States, Cannabis Grow Houses Are a Burning Energy Issue. Researchers are discovering ways to grow marijuana more efficiently.

Image courtesy of József HAJDÚ and Ksenia Vytuleva.

A Series of Banned Rock and Jazz Records Pressed Onto Discarded X-Rays in 1950s Soviet Russia. Per Laughing Squid:

“With vinyl scare and various western music genres like rock and roll and jazz banned in 1950s Soviet Russia, enterprising music fans would create records using X-ray film discarded by doctors and hospitals. The records were cut with scissors — often unevenly — with a cigarette hole burned through the middle of the platter and the music itself pressed onto the film using a special recording device. The result is a “multimedia” record that, when held up to light, reveals the skeletal structure left over from the film’s original use.”

Shannon’s Information Theory: Without this equation there would have been no internet.

X-Rays in Perseus May Be the Signature of Dark Matter. Related: Just In Time For The World Cup, The Cosmos Scores A Dark Matter Own Goal.  Also: Dark Matter Halos Are Sad Would-Be Galaxies.

A Beautiful Idea: The Knight’s Magical Square Tour (1888), a math puzzler involving chess.

Our Boring Sky: what we really need is a moon with rings, says Adam Frank.

Are High Energy Neutrinos from Outer Space Really a Big Deal? Why these “ghost particles” matter.

Is Nuclear Power Ever Coming Back? Public fear, uncertainty, and doubt are still big issues for nuclear energy. Also: Nuclear Plant Construction Lags Behind Climate Plan. There won’t be enough to meet carbon emissions targets.  Related: A New Way to Verify Nuclear Weapons, fusing physics, cryptography to solve a nuclear inspection paradox: the solution may come from puzzle involving marbles.

2, 4, 6, 8, What Does Not Associate? “it can’t matter what order you combine your stuff in.”

Extra dimensions, gravitons, and tiny black holes:  explaining why gravity is so weak compared to the other forces.

Physicists find way to boot up quantum computers 72 times faster than previously possible.

Seven public domain physics comics worth reading.

“Painting bugs is a personal exercise for me.” An artist on why she seeks out mutant bugs to paint.

Masters of Their Art: National Gallery’s team of analysts put masterpieces under the microscope and protect them for posterity.

How physicists created spooky experimental music in a superconductor lab: The magnets used to crack the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity can be played like a theremin.

In case you’ve ever wondered, here’s Vsauce on What Would Happen if the Earth Stopped Spinning?

Scientist thrown out of classical concert by audience members after trying to crowd-surf.

When soy sauce squeezing residue (SSSR) explodes. “Some industrial food waste or recycled waste materials generate heat as a result of fermentation and oxidation, which leads to an increase in temperature during storage and transport, ultimately resulting in spontaneous ignition.”

Oppenheimer’s Folly: On black holes, fundamental laws and pure and applied science.

That’s So Random: The “Hot Hand” Fallacy and Why We Persist in Seeing Streaks.

The Open Science Grid enables faster, more efficient analysis of LHC data—and advancements in geology and medicine.

Molecular modeling and physics: A tale of two disciplines.

Happy 190th birthday to Lord Kelvin, the genius behind both the translatlatic telegraph and the refrigerator.

Who’s the greatest mathematician of them all? Mario Livio votes for Archimedes.

The Victorians Used To Use Uranium To Make Glowing Glassware.

Beat the summer heat with the science of ice cream.

A Physicist Says He Can Tornado-Proof the Midwest with Three 1,000-Foot Walls.

Can cellular automata model the algorithm of life?

Maths From An Extra Terrestrial Civilization: What Could It Be Like – And Would We Understand It?

Defying Gravity, a Businessman named Roger Babson Helped to Understand It. “’It seems as if there must be discovered some partial insulator of gravity which could be used to save millions of lives and prevent accidents,’ Babson wrote in a manifesto, Gravity — Our Enemy Number One.”

Super-stretchable yarn is made of graphene.

Credit: Cassandra Warner and Jeremy Floto of Floto+Warner Studio, http://www.flotowarner.com/71654-projects#0

Colorful Liquid Splashes Captured at 1/3500th of a Second Look Like Floating Sculptures. “Creating shapes of nature not experienced by the human eye, these short-lived anomalies are frozen for us to view at 3500th of a second.”

“Math is a lot like cooking. You do need to memorize a few basics, but [not] every recipe.”

Physicist Paul Dirac had a remarkable obsession with Cher and bought a TV just to watch her.

The 30-ton MicroBooNE detector, the cornerstone of Fermilab’s short-baseline neutrino program, is moved into place.

Mineral fodder: We may think we are the first organisms to remake planet, but life has been transforming earth for aeons.

Glass-coated nanotechnology hip op: Using the stuff of sand, silicon dioxide, for replacement bone prosthetics.

The Smallest Known White Dwarf in the Universe Is an Earth-Sized Diamond.

Why Do Jupiter’s Moons Still Shine When Eclipsed?

Road to Mars: after delay, JPL scientists prepare for a supersonic test over Hawaii.

Could We Travel To Another Galaxy Using Hypervelocity Stars? Er, maybe?

What exactly is a materials scientist, and what do they do? A podcast featuring Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World.

Revealing the ‘Scotch-tape’ technique mechanism: First in-tandem experimental and theoretical modeling of a famous ‘Scotch-Tape’ technique for making two-dimensional graphene-like nanosheets.

Accessed by a secret train, Britain built a Nuke-Proof Underground City.

Sophie Germain and the Chladni Experiment.

What do you mean, my wine is radioactive?!? Yes, radioactive dating is used to authenticate wine.

What is calculus? “A lot of physics is about understanding how things change.”

This Superluminous Supernova Does Not Care About the Laws of Physics.

Mathematical models explain how a wrinkle becomes a crease.

Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Psychedelic Gravity Map.  “If your eyes had the ability to see gravity, this is the view you’d get while flying over the moon.”

This Is What Math Equations Look Like in 3-D: a lot like Architectonic Forms. Per Wired

“By making models you can hold in your hands, Klein hoped to keep mathematics anchored to the physical world. “Collections of mathematical models and courses in drawing are calculated to disarm, in part at least, the hostility directed against the excessive abstractness of the university instruction,” Klein said at the 1893 Evanston colloquium. An image or an object does more than ease fear of the unseen, it makes the equation real. It puts a face to the name, so you know who you’re talking about.”

Happy anniversary Curiosity! Rover marks first Martian year on Mars.

Physicists Think They Can Solve the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology, and Black Holes in One Go.

Archaeo-astronomy steps out from shadows of the past.

Scale of the Universe Interactive Infographic Lets You Scroll From Subatomic Particles Up to the Known Universe.

Love in the lab: Close collaborators. Romance often sparks between colleagues, and scientists are no different.

Scientists Reveal Mechanism of Giant Plasma Solar ‘Rainstorms’: weather on the Sun can fluctuate due to interaction with the magnetic field.

Did A Medieval Mathematician Predict The Discovery Of America?

Efforts are already underway to ensure the data Large Synoptic Survey Telescope collects can be mined for scientific gold.

Kickstarter of the Week: “Black Rock Observatory,” A Functional Astronomical Observatory for Burning Man 2014.

This flying saucer convention from the 50s took place under a rock.

Zero Gravity: It May Not Be What You Think.  Related: Physicist suggests speed of light might be slower than thought. Also: (Super) Gravity: Meet the gravitino.

The creative brain and pen behind Cosmos: An interview with Ann Druyan. Related:  Kyle Hill’s interview with Ann Druyan, in which they cry over their favorite moment of Cosmos.

Women scientists take to their soapboxes on London’s South Bank.

Animated GIF of the Week: Teatime in a fractal universe.

The steam hammer phenomenon—and closely related water hammer—is a violent behavior that occurs in two-phase flows.

What Happens When you Play Music Through a Squid? “As it turns out, the chromatophore responds best to a heavy bass line.” For more on the iridescence of squid and other creatures, check out my post from 2012.  And please to enjoy this video of a chromophore vibrating to Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane:

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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