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Posts Tagged "Physics"

@ScientificAmerican

Physics, Metaphysics and Cosmology Collide in New E-Book, Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Parallel universes are a staple of science fiction, and it’s no wonder. They allow us to explore the question, “What if?” in a way that lets us step completely outside of the world we know, rather than question how that world might have turned out differently. For cosmologists, the question isn’t “What if the South [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Meet the Science in Action Finalists

Who will win the first $50,000 Science in Action prize, sponsored by Scientific American? This award, offered as part of the 2012 Google Science Fair, will recognize a student project that addresses a social, environmental, ethical, health or welfare issue to make a practical difference to the lives of a group or community, and that [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

2012 Google Science Fair Begins: What’s Your Question?

“As any adult knows, there’s one thing that any kid can do better than any grown up: ask questions. In fact, many studies have actually shown how kids are born scientists. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby first accidentally knock something off her high chair and onto the floor. She’ll look at it [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Defends Marie Curie—and Women Scientists—in 1911

One of the pleasures of editing a magazine like Scientific American, with its 166-year history as the country’s longest continuously published magazine, is getting a “you are there” view of science as it was whenever I take a spin through our digital archives. The other day, while reading some 100-year-old prose, I was reminded of [...]

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But Seriously...

Neil deGrasse Tyson at 85% the Speed of Light

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Slow-Motion

This video made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen in a long time. Okay, except for some Louis CK videos. But for a non-comedian (allegedly)… this is hard to beat. Not that the humor is entirely intentional by the speaker. I had previously seen the original video – of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about [...]

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But Seriously...

Chladni Figures: Amazing Resonance Experiment

Chladni plate experiment

When I first saw this video I thought it was fake. Perhaps an April Fool’s joke. But, not only is it real, it is a phenomenon that’s been known for hundreds of years. Why am I just hearing about it? (there’s also a full version in which you can hear the tones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yaqUI4b974) So, what [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Manh(a)ttan Recap: Cracking the Implosion Case [SPOILERS]

Boys and Their Toys: Lazar (Peter Stormare), Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) and Charlie Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman) testing the waters for shock wave control.

The beleaguered physicists in Frank Winter’s group finally get some good news on the implosion front in this week’s episode of Manh(a)ttan. It’s titled “The Understudy,” a reference to the fact that Jim Meeks, one of the scientists in Frank Winter’s group, has an understudy role in the base camp’s upcoming production of Our Town: [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: September 27, 2014

Planck’s full-sky map showing the projected dust contamination at 150 GHz. Credit: Planck collaboration.

The big physics news this week was the announcement of the long-awaited results from the Planck missions — and the news is not good for the BICEP2 collaboration: the Study Confirmed Criticism of BICEP2′s original Big Bang Finding.  They may have had space dust in their eyes. Researchers on the Planck mission say galactic dust [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Manh(a)ttan Recap: Sex, Lies, and Subterfuge [SPOILERS]

Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) and Lazar (Peter Stormare) face off against would-be blackmailer Javier Raoul Truiillo).

In physics, “spooky action at a distance” is a colloquial term for the famous EPR paradox, devised by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen in the 1930s to describe the bizarre implications of quantum entanglement. In essence, two particles that become entangled can be separated in space and yet still influence each other instantaneously, [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physicists on Ice: Exploring the Physics of Curling

Caltech's Clifford Cheung prepares to throw a curling stone.

Last Friday I joined a contingent of Caltech physicists (including the Time Lord) for an afternoon of curling — yeah, you heard me, curling — in honor of Caltech theoretical physicist Mark Wise‘s 60th birthday. Turning 60 is a big deal among physicists, often marked by a special conference commemorating the honoree’s work. Wise’s past [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: September 20, 2014

The aurora borealis shimmers above the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway on September 12, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

On the latest episode of the Know Brainer Podcast, I chatted with host Christina Ochoa about Self- Experimentation, Time and Identity, and Body Fluids in Art. It’s available on iTunes or via Libsyn direct feed for your listening pleasure. And check out prior episodes of this most excellent podcast. Everything was coming up Rosetta this [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Manh(a)ttan Recap: Dead in the Water [SPOILERS]

Charlie Isaacs (Ashley Zukerman) ponders whether to reveal his discovery of a critical flaw in the Thin Man bomb design on "Manh(a)ttan.

The British are coming! The British are coming! To Manh(a)ttan, that is. This week’s episode (“The Second Coming”) finds our intrepid community of physicists eagerly awaiting their own British invasion: the arrival of an elite contingent of some of the greatest scientific minds in Britain, come to join forces with the Americans (and European refugees) [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: September 13, 2014

"Halong Bay-0215," by James Proctor, http://jamesmakes.com

This week on Virtually Speaking Science, I chatted with Caltech’s Spiros Michalakis about quantum computing, quantum information, and when we might expect Google to have a quantum computer inside every self-driving flying car. Then there was a bunch of stuff about the implications for space and time being emergent that blew Jen-Luc Piquant’s mind and [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

New Bond Breaker Game Puts You in the Proton’s Seat

Source: Test Tube Games/CaSTL group, UC-Irvine

Admit it: haven’t you always longed to experience what it’s like to be a proton at the subatomic scale? No? Just Jen-Luc Piquant then. And now she can, thanks to a new game called Bond Breaker, released at the end of August simultaneously on the Web, and as apps for the iPhone and Android. The [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Manh(a)ttan Recap: Let’s Get Critical [SPOILERS]

Abby (Rachel Brosnahan) and Elodie (Carole Weyers) might just be More Than BFFs.

Things are heating up all over in this week’s episode of Manh(a)ttan (“The New World”). Not only is the X10 nuclear reactor in Tennessee firing up, romantic sparks are flying on several fronts, setting up a metaphorical chain reaction among all the convoluted personal relationships that one suspects will ultimately go critical. Let’s get right [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: September 6, 2014

A knitted fabric circuit board. A) A close up of the fabric over a finger; B) Front; C) Back; D) Cross-sectional view, plus illustration of the knit.  Qiao Li et al./Royal Society

The folks at TED-Ed asked for my recommendations regarding Math 101: A reading list for lifelong learners. I also have a post up this week at the NOVA physics blog: Quantum Physicists Catch a Pilot Wave. Also: Check out Natalie Wolchover’s great feature for Quanta on the implications of these experiments from earlier this year. [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Why Bother with Ordinary Fireworks When You Can Have Black Hole Fireworks?

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, one of the creators of loop quantum gravity, and his collaborator Hal Haggard have just come out with a new paper on black holes. Ever attuned to puns, Rovelli calls it the “fireworks” model, alluding to the firewall argument that has consumed black-hole theorists over the past two years. As if [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Physicists Think They Can Solve the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology, and Black Holes in One Go [Guest Post]

It’s lucky that debates over the meaning of quantum mechanics are so entertaining, because they seem to go on forever. The sundry proposed interpretations make the same experimental predictions, so many people fret that there’ll never be a way to decide among them. Fret no longer. Some “interpretations” aren’t really interpretations so much as separate [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Physicists Look Beyond the Large Hadron Collider, to the Very Large Hadron Collider

In 1954 the renowned physicist Enrico Fermi did a simple but depressing calculation about future particle accelerators. To create particles with an energy of 3 teraelectron-volts, he estimated, you’d have to build a ring 8,000 kilometers in radius at a cost of $170 billion. It was a rare instance of Fermi being wrong. The Large [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Time Machines Would Run Afoul of the Second Law of Thermodynamics [Guest Post]

Last year I got talking to theoretical physicist Aron Wall about the thermodynamics of quantum gravity. Now that’s a deceptively beautiful phrase: in four words, you get three of the deepest areas in modern science. Their union promises answers to such mysteries as the arrow of time and what the heck time actually is. And [...]

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Critical Opalescence

As Ice Forms, It Can Create Amazing Spirals

In our February issue, Scientific American had an article on the phenomenon of liquid-rope coiling—the way that viscous fluids curl as they fall onto a surface, forming what looks like a miniature basket. Dribbling honey onto toast is a classic example (not to mention a great way to liven up your breakfast with physics experiments). [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Gravitational Waves Reveal the Universe before the Big Bang: An Interview with Physicist Gabriele Veneziano

It’s not usually put like this, but the discovery of primordial gravitational waves two weeks ago has given us our first direct glimpse of a period before the big bang. The term “big bang” is sometimes taken to mean the beginning of the universe, and that’s the impression you get from diagrams such as the [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Amanda Gefter’s Ultimate Reality Party

Last night I had the pleasure of going to Amanda Gefter’s book party, celebrating the release of Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn. I first got to know Gefter a decade ago when she audaciously contacted Sci Am to pitch her first-ever science story, and I followed her later career at New Scientist with admiration. But nothing [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Cosmological Data Hint at a Level of Physics Underlying Quantum Mechanics [Guest Post]

Two weeks ago, I blogged about David Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics. Like Einstein and Louis de Broglie before him, Bohm argued that quantum randomness is not intrinsic to nature, but reflects our ignorance of a deeper level of reality. One physicist who has developed the idea further is Antony Valentini of Clemson University. Last [...]

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Critical Opalescence

The Wholeness of Quantum Reality: An Interview with Physicist Basil Hiley

One night in 1952, Richard Feynman and David Bohm went bar-hopping in Belo Horizonte. Louisa Gilder reconstructs the night in her brilliant book on the history of quantum mechanics, The Age of Entanglement. Feynman was on a sabbatical in Rio and, ever exuberant, raved about local beers, drumming lessons, and Brazilian girls. Bohm, teaching at [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Does Some Deeper Level of Physics Underlie Quantum Mechanics? An Interview with Nobelist Gerard ’t Hooft

VIENNA—Over the past several days, I attended a fascinating conference that explored an old idea of Einstein’s, one that was largely dismissed for decades: that quantum mechanics is not the root level of reality, but merely a hazy glimpse of something even deeper. A leading advocate is Gerard ’t Hooft of Utrecht University, who shared [...]

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Cross-Check

Physics Titan Edward Witten Still Thinks String Theory “on the Right Track”

Witten: "I hope the landscape interpretation of the universe would turn out to be wrong, as I would like to be able to eventually calculate from first principles the ratio of the masses of the electron and muon (among other things).  However, the universe wasn't made for our convenience."

At a 1990 conference on cosmology, I asked attendees, who included folks like Stephen Hawking, Michael Turner, James Peebles, Alan Guth and Andrei Linde, to nominate the smartest living physicist. Edward Witten got the most votes (with Steven Weinberg the runner-up). Some considered Witten to be in the same league as Einstein and Newton. Witten [...]

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Cross-Check

Quantum Gravity Expert Says “Philosophical Superficiality” Has Harmed Physics

Carlo Rovelli: "Theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy."

As readers of this blog know, late last spring I spoke at a cool conference in England called How the Light Gets In, where I hung out with all kinds of professional reality-ponderers. I’ve already posted Q&As with two fellow speakers I shared housing with: biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who urges scientists to take telepathy more [...]

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Cross-Check

Science “faction”: Is theoretical physics becoming “softer” than anthropology?

black hole illustration

Two recent science stories, one in anthropology and the other in physics, have me wondering which field is "hard" and which "soft." The first story involves the decision of the American Anthropological Association to delete the word "science" from its mission statement. That step provoked squawks from anthropologists who’ve struggled to counter the image of [...]

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Cross-Check

Cosmic Clowning: Stephen Hawking’s “new” theory of everything is the same old CRAP

I’ve always thought of Stephen Hawking—whose new book The Grand Design (Bantam 2010), co-written with Leonard Mlodinow, has become an instant bestseller—less as a scientist than as a cosmic, comic performance artist, who loves goofing on his fellow physicists and the rest of us. This penchant was already apparent in 1980, when the University of [...]

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Culturing Science

Why Do Sequences Think They Are So Special?

De_Revolutionibus_manuscript_small

We know that the living world depends on sequences of nucleic acids for its existence and ongoing operation. We also know that humans evolved the ability to create, manipulate, and copy acoustic sequences, and later to commit those sequences to the more permanent medium of writing. Finally, we know that our advanced technological civilization is increasingly dependent on storing, moving, and processing bit strings—sequences of zeros and ones. So what is it with sequences?

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

The image you see here is a computer-generated model of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which we call Sagittarius A*. More precisely, it is a model of the “shadow” that Sagittarius A*, with its mass of four million suns, should cast. The glowing blob in the lower right corner is [...]

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Doing Good Science

Book review: The Radioactive Boy Scout.

When I and my three younger siblings were growing up, our parents had a habit of muttering, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” The muttering that followed that aphorism usually had to do with the danger coming from the “little” amount of knowledge rather than a more comprehensive understanding of whatever field of endeavor [...]

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Doing Good Science

Help high school “nerds” visit the Large Hadron Collider.

composite-square-01

Last week, I got a really nice email, and a request, from a reader. She wrote: I am a high school senior and an avid follower of your blog. I am almost definitely going to pursue science in college – either chemistry, physics, or engineering; I haven’t quite decided yet! I am the editor of [...]

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Food Matters

Breaking Food Down

Original Image U. Huddersfield.

What is food? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry says “Something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies.” How beautiful. That statement captures much of the emotion and feeling surrounding food, yet it’s only part of the full definition. So where does food begin? As with most big questions, it depends who you ask. Let’s start down the reductive [...]

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Guest Blog

The Frustrations of Being Scientifically Literate

Life's dirty little secret. (Credit: Debaird via Flickr)

Editors note: Craig Fay will be appearing live at the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival in New York City May 14-18. Here’s a theory for you: ignorance is bliss. If that’s true then being scientifically literate has got to be one of the most miserable and frustrating things possible. And when you think about it that [...]

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Guest Blog

To What Extent Do We See with Mathematics?

Variable X

When I first became fascinated with mathematics’ tightly knit abstract structures, its prominence in physics and engineering reassured me.  Mathematics’ indisputable value in science made it clear that my preoccupation with its intangible expressions was not pathological.  The captivating creative activity of doing mathematics has real consequences. During my graduate school years, I began to [...]

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Guest Blog

Channeling Ada Lovelace: Chien-Shiung Wu, Courageous Hero of Physics

Linocut of Chien-Shiung Wu

Today marks the 5th Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women who have made important contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event is named for Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is often credited as the first computer programmer. Since its inception in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day [...]

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Guest Blog

Why Is Quantum Gravity So Hard? And Why Did Stalin Execute the Man Who Pioneered the Subject?

What is the hottest problem in fundamental physics today? Physics aficionados most probably would answer: quantum gravity. Of all the fundamental forces of nature, only gravity still stands outside the rubric of the quantum theory. The difficulty of quantizing gravity has led to radical theories such as string theory, with its bold predictions of higher [...]

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Guest Blog

The Power of Theory in Science

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."—Leonardo da Vinci It’s often lonely, these days, as a theorist. As soon as most people hear the word theory, in fact, they start thinking about something like this:  (Image credit: [...]

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Guest Blog

What Does the New Double-Slit Experiment Actually Show?

Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories in all of science; at the same time, it’s one of the most challenging to comprehend and one about which a great deal of nonsense has been written. However, a paper from Science, titled "Observing the Average Trajectories of Single Photons in a Two-Slit Interferometer", holds [...]

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Guest Blog

Physics and the Immortality of the Soul

The topic of "life after death" raises disreputable connotations of past-life regression and haunted houses, but there are a large number of people in the world who believe in some form of persistence of the individual soul after life ends. Clearly this is an important question, one of the most important ones we can possibly [...]

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Guest Blog

Invisibility: After several years of research, it’s just gotten weirder

Is it possible to hide something within an invisible cloak? It has already been over four years since the first groundbreaking theoretical papers on invisible cloaking devices were published, stirring up a near frenzy in the physics and optics communities. Since then, new results have come at a rapid and genuinely surprising pace, and news [...]

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Guest Blog

The Evolution of the Physicist’s Picture of Nature

Paul Dirac

Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article by Paul Dirac from the May 1963 issue of Scientific American, as it might be of interest to listeners to the June 24, 2010, and June 25, 2010 Science Talk podcasts, featuring award-winning writer and physicist Graham Farmelo discussing The Strangest Man, his biography of the Nobel Prize-winning [...]

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Life, Unbounded

This Is What We Don’t Know About The Universe

dont panic.001

In recent days I’ve had some interesting conversations. There’s a giddiness going around, related to an outpouring of science love – the kind you get from President Obama introducing TV science shows, the kind that has wonderful visuals, but is, well, a wee bit simplistic (a sin that none of us could ever, ever be [...]

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Life, Unbounded

In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

(James Gillray)

“Science is all metaphor” Timothy Leary We live in an elegant universe. The cosmos is like a string symphony. Genes are selfish. There is an endless battle between thermodynamics and gravity. Do you love these statements, or hate them? The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Subatomic to Superhorizon – Abandon All Hope!

Contemplating vastness

                      Grasping for an understanding of the true scale of the cosmos is a vital part of how we try to conceptualize reality and our place among it all. But it’s tremendously difficult, whether we’re seeking that ‘oh wow’ moment, or trying to gain intuition [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Calling All Sentient Lifeforms

Galileo spacecraft images us (NASA/JPL)

You may notice that today is the one year anniversary of the Scientific American blog network. You may also notice that across the blogs this morning is a shared theme; time for the readers to speak up. Inspired by the blogger Ed Yong, the Sci Am blogs are asking for your thoughts. Consider this an [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Hole

Hole ((c) C. Scharf 2012)

Every so often in the summer months I allow myself a bit of leeway with posts, because as fun as it is to write about real science, it’s also a lot of fun to write pure speculation. I particularly like speculation that takes extraordinary possibilities about our place in the universe, and cuts them down [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Encounter at Dawn: Stephen Hawking, me, and an ATM

A black hole lenses the light of the Milky Way in the background (Credit: Ute Kraus amd Axel Mellinger)

This weekend Stephen Hawking turns 70, an extraordinary physical accomplishment to add to an extraordinary list of physics accomplishments. Seeing this news reminded me of the the first time that I crossed paths with Hawking. I’d love to be able to say that it was in intellectual debate, an exchange of brilliant ideas, but in [...]

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Life, Unbounded

What next for neutrinos?

To catch a neutrino (MINOS)

For a ghostly type of particle, oblivious to even the massive bulk of a star or planet, neutrinos sure can generate a fuss. In the 1960s they created a stir by seemingly appearing from nuclear processes in our Sun’s core at a third of the anticipated rate – the so-called solar neutrino “problem“. In the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Superluminal muon-neutrinos? Don’t get your hopes up.

Ghosts in the aether (CERN)

The past 24 hours have suddenly been awash in neutrinos, in addition to the 65 billion passing through every square centimeter of your skin every second from the Sun’s core. Although hardly the stuff of planetary science or astrobiology I have found myself facing questions from a few people who wonder if faster-than-light particles could [...]

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Observations

Even Einstein Was a Fool in Love

Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Marić

NEW YORK—When it came to relationships, Albert Einstein was no Einstein. In fact, the famous genius’s romantic entanglements could rival the dysfunction of a typical Jerry Springer guest. That’s one takeaway of the performance piece “Dear Albert,” based on Einstein’s letters, which kicked off the World Science Festival on May 28. The staged reading, written [...]

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Observations

Why the Moon Looks Different in Winter [Video]

As we steel ourselves against the cold and curse the polar vortex for bringing these bitter winds upon us, it’s helpful to remember that winter can also be a magical time of fluttering snowflakes and beautiful evening skies. This Minute Physics video explains how the earth’s tilted axis makes winter the best season for viewing [...]

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Observations

Winners of the Dance Your PhD Competition Revealed [Video]

For the past 6 years, Science magazine and its publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have challenged researchers to explain their doctoral research through interpretive dance. This year, the winners of the Dance Your Ph.D. contest goes to Cedric Tan, a biologist whose postdoctoral research examines the relationship between sperm and the [...]

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Observations

Scientists Find First Neutrinos from Distant Space [Video]

IceCube

The world has heard the first faint whispers of the most powerful cataclysms in the universe. Scientists working on the IceCube experiment in Antarctica report that they have found 28 neutrinos that must have come to earth from explosions in the distant universe—the first time scientists have found neutrinos coming from outside our own solar [...]

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Observations

5 Unanswered Questions That Will Keep Physicists Awake at Night

Orion Nebula photo

Physics is all about probing the most fundamental mysteries in nature, so it’s no surprise that physicists have some very basic questions about the universe on their minds. Recently, Symmetry Magazine (published by two U.S.-government funded physics labs) asked a group of particle physicists to name the open questions in physics they most want answers [...]

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Observations

The Fingerprints the Higgs Leaves Behind

The Higgs at Last

Tomorrow, the Nobel prize in physics will most likely be awarded to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert. Along with other researchers, the two physicists are credited with the 1964 introduction of the then-theoretical Higgs field—a fluid that permeates every corner of the universe and gives each particle a distinct mass. The physical manifestation of this [...]

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Observations

Besides Higgs, Who Might Get the Physics Nobel?

Artist's impression of the planet around Alpha Centauri B

Tomorrow’s Nobel Prize in physics is widely anticipated to go to Peter Higgs, perhaps along with Francois Englert, for their nearly 50-year-old prediction of a new particle that we now call the Higgs boson. Last year’s discovery of the Higgs was one of the most important events in physics in recent decades; surely Higgs and [...]

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Observations

Particles and the People Who Love Them: Documentary Shows Human Side of Large Hadron Collider

Particle Fever poster

Full disclosure: I cried at a movie about particle physics. And I wasn’t alone. As the film showed footage of the July 4, 2012 announcement of the Higgs boson discovery, I noticed the woman next to me wiping her eyes just as I was doing the same. I was at a screening of the new [...]

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Observations

Why Friction Is a Drag: New Findings

Laboratory experiment to measure friction on atomic scale

Friction is both the boon and the bane of our everyday lives. It’s the force that drags against your car’s tires, making you use more gas to keep going. It’s also the force that allows your car to stop at all: Without friction, brakes would be dead weight. Although most of us take friction for [...]

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Observations

What You Need to Know about the Forthcoming Climate Change Report

ipcc-logo

Talk about management by committee: one group of more than 800 scientist authors to cope with more than 9,000 scientific publications on climate change and more than 20,000 comments from “expert reviewers” (plus another 30,000 or so from various other interested parties.) Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is into four days of wrangling [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Tiny Hairs Help Octopus Suckers Stick

octopus sucker hair

Just when you thought octopuses couldn’t get any weirder: It turns out that their suckers have an unexpectedly hairy grip. Octopuses can form an impressively tight grip—even on a rough surface. And recent detailed microscopic imaging of their suckers revealed an intricate landscape of fine grooves that make these improbable holds possible. But how do [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopus Suckers Have Groovy Secret for Strength

octopus sucker strength material tissue

Octopus suckers are extraordinary. They can move and grasp objects independently. They can “taste” the water around them. They can even form a seal on rough surfaces underwater. And as a many a diver, biologist and intrepid eater can attest, these little suckers are strong. This strength is astounding, especially considering that their tissue is [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

3-D Printed Octopus Suckers Help Robots Stick

octopus robot suckers

Legions of animal-inspired robots are being created to improve military missions and disaster response efforts—from crawling cockroach-like RHex bots to leaping Sand Flea robots and the speeding Cheetah machines. Now, a squishier source for smart robo-tech has joined the ranks: octopuses. Teams of researchers are already developing soft-bodied, octopus-esque robots for search and rescue. These [...]

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Oscillator

Fractal Bacteria

Figure from Rudge et al. "Cell Polarity-Driven Instability Generates Self-Organized, Fractal Patterning of Cell Layers"

Bacteria are single celled organisms that can do amazing things in multicellular groups, with complex coordinated behaviors emerging from the interaction of genetic networks, chemical environments, and the physics of cell growth. Last year I wrote about the work of Tim Rudge and Fernan Federici and their incredible images of bacterial growth patterns. Their paper, [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Macaque and Dagger in the Simian Space Race

Iranian Space Monkey Square

Why does the U.S. suspect Iran of faking their monkey space flight? Because we did it first. It was a blistering hot summer, as it usually is in that part of the world. The monkey’s arms and legs were tightly strapped to a metal chair as the forlorn creature was pushed into the narrow confines [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Throwing Rocks From the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean

"Father and Son" by Nathaniel Gold

I’m teaching my son to think like a scientist. He is two years old. We frequently go for walks together through the woods and along the coastlines of British Columbia where I allow his curiosity to run free. His current research project is throwing rocks into the ocean (this is just the exploratory phase mind [...]

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PsiVid

Meet ‘The Physics Girl’, Winner of Alan Alda’s “What is Color?” Video Contest

What is Color?

Imagine you are a 5th grader while watching this video. Would you love it? If it caught your interest, as it did mine, you are in good company. This is the winning entry for the 2014 Flame Challenge put on by Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science. The challenge this year was for someone [...]

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PsiVid

A Capella Science–Bohemian Gravity

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 8.25.23 AM

Who has not caught themselves singing along to Queen’s number one hit “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Perhaps we’ve made up words when we didn’t know them! But, have any of you attempted to explain string theory to the tune? I’ll bet it didn’t go as well as in this new version by Tim Blais of A Capella [...]

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PsiVid

A Capella Science-Rolling in the Higgs

A capella science

What a reddit find! Physics student Tim Blais has begun an odyssey of creating harmonically enjoyable science-packed song videos! On his Facebook page, he describes it as “An educational and utterly nerdy online video project.” I’m all for that! On his about page, we read: “A Capella Science is an online video project by Tim [...]

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Roots of Unity

Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin. Image: Smithsonian Libraries, via Wikimedia Commons. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Today is the 189th anniversary of the birth of William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin. I don’t usually make a big deal about 189th birthdays, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Lord Kelvin recently. Yesterday I came across this quote of his on Pat Ballew’s blog, which reminded me that it’s his birthday: [...]

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Roots of Unity

Time in 298 Words

Last year, in the inaugural Flame Challenge, Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University challenged scientists to explain what a flame is to an 11-year-old. This year, the subject was time. In particular, we were instructed to “Answer the question — ‘What is time?’ — in a way an 11-year-old [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: Hyperdimensional Suffering

Dali-Hypercubemini

As our month of SciArt of the Day winds down, I had to share this image. For me, this is a touchstone of what makes wonderful science-art: marrying metaphors from past and present, science and myth. The idea that art and science represent two cultures, as C.P. Snow described is a curious one. Art, or [...]

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Symbiartic

Hangin’ with Theoretical Physicists

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Nothin’ like a little light reading by the pool on a warm summer day…

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Symbiartic

We Blew a Bubble for a Man Named Edison

1937 advertisement for Corning's Pyrex

When you think of chemistry, no doubt images of scientists in white lab coats swirling beakers and test tubes come to mind. Ever wonder where those beakers and test tubes originated? If your answer is a big science catalog like Fisher Scientific or Chemglass or the like, you’re probably right… some percentage of the time. [...]

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Talking back

Higgsteria: We Didn’t Need No U.S. Supercollider

“Europe Overtakes U.S. in Physics Pursuing God Particle,” the headline blared. The Bloomberg News story declared that the home of Galileo and Newton has recaptured the lead in physics with its pursuit of the Higgs boson, a place in the scientific firmament that was once indisputably owned by the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin. The story [...]

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Voices

Female Physicists Worldwide Fight Sexist Stereotypes

Three physicists meet at the International Conference on Women in Physics August 5-8, 2014 in Waterloo, Canada.  Credit: Marina Milner-Bolotin/ICWIP

Women in physics tend to be outnumbered by men nearly all over the world. For a few days in early August, however, it didn’t feel that way when I attended the International Conference on Women in Physics in Waterloo, Canada. Hundreds of women from about 50 countries gathered there for talks, posters and brainstorming sessions [...]

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Voices

Channeling Ada Lovelace: Chien-Shiung Wu, Courageous Hero of Physics

Linocut of Chien-Shiung Wu

Today marks the 5th Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women who have made important contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event is named for Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is often credited as the first computer programmer. Since its inception in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day [...]

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