Welcome to another Friday Fodder: Sick Day edition! We have been blearily dosed up on Nyquil for the last couple of days, but that hasn't kept up from scouring the Interwebz for nifty physics links to share with you. This week's offerings include a timely top ten list, the physics of flying anvils, and the colorful post-mortem history of Albert Einstein's brain.
A Timely Top Ten. Over at Cosmic Variance, the Time Lord sums up a few of the highlights of our recently concluded FQXI conference on "Setting Time Aright." My personal favorite is #10: A lifespan is a billion heartbeats. "Remarkably, there exist simple scaling laws relating animal metabolism to body mass. Larger animals live longer; but they also metabolize slower, as manifested in slower heart rates. These effects cancel out, so that animals from shrews to blue whales have lifespans with just about equal number of heartbeats — about one and a half billion, if you simply must be precise. In that very real sense, all animal species experience “the same amount of time.”
And since we're on the subject of time, here's Metacritic's (2010) list of the Best and Worst Time Travel Movies -- based more on entertainment value than accurate science, but any list that includes Hot Tub Time Machine is okay in my book.
This Sucker's Nuclear. It might not be a time machine built out of a DeLorean, but I think Back to the Future's Doc Brown would appreciate this thorium-laser-powered nuclear car, the brainchild of inventor and entrepreneur Charles Stevens. "Stevens says that developing a compact turbine and generator set is proving to be more difficult than making the thorium laser itself. As Stevens is quoted in the story: “'We can build the laser, but the biggest problem has turned out to be integrating it efficiently with the turbine and generator,' he notes. LPS’ thorium laser itself is simply an adaptation of the MaxFeLaser, a design Stevens built in1985."
Tevatron's Last Days. The days are numbered for Fermilab's Tevatron collider, which will shut down at the end of this month after 26 years of smashing atoms and picking through the debris, marking a whole host of breakthroughs in particle physics along the way. But its data will live on, and Science News has a nice in-depth look at the accelerator's past, present and, yes, future, while NPR offers its own moving tribute.
Watch Out for Flying Anvils! Via the Mathlete of Physics Buzz, we learned of a new Science Channel show called Flying Anvils. Yes, anvils. Apparently, "Anvil shooting has been a sport for roughly 200 years. Rowdy blacksmiths used to shoot anvils to amuse crowds and scare of invading armies. Much like the Scottish Caber Toss it developed from a fun and useful activity into a serious sport. Flying Anvils filmed the national championship of anvil shooting, following several teams including two teams from the same family of anvil shooting legends, the Bollingers." And since the Mathlete served as science consultant, you can check out the science behind the spectacle, including the equations used to ensure those anvils stayed on their trajectory. Look out, Punkin' Chunkin', you got competition!
Are the Laws of Physics More Like Guidelines? The Guardian's Jon Butterworth offers three counterpoints to commenters who exhibit "a perception that fundamental physics is too theory-led, that we are obsessed with proving beautiful, reductionist theories and really we should just explore. And that we spend too much time arguing about untestable things."
Whatever Happened to Einstein's Brain? According to io9's Esther Inglis-Arkell, the great physicist had wanted to be cremated, brain and all. But Thomas Harvey, a pathologist in Princeton, performed an autopsy anyway, removing, photographing and preserving the brain. And he didn't want to share his findings, absconding with Einstein's brains after losing his job. Click through to the link to learn the rest, including this bit about Einstein's eyes: "Harvey removed them too, and they are still floating in a safe deposit box in New York somewhere." Ewwww.
While we're on the subject of Einstein, over at Physics World, Philip Ball explores the knotty history behind Einstein's most famous equation: did he really "discover" E=mc<2>, or does the distinction of recognizing the relationship between mass and energy belong to others, like Austrian physicist Fritz Hasenöhrl?
Gaming with the Stars. Via John Ptak, we were chuffed to discover a science-y board game dating back to 1804: Science in Sport, or the Pleasures of Astronomy; A New & Instructive Pastime. Revised & approved by Mrs. Bryan; Blackheath. Its purpose appears primarily pedagogical, exposing players to a bit of the rich history of astronomy in an entertaining fashion. "The object was to arrive at Flamsteed House (the original Observatory built by Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren), and by the course of victory the young player would become acquainted with elements of morals, ethics, natural philosophy ... plus of course some basics of astronomy." The winner would be declared Astronomer Royal... at least until the next game commenced.
Elementary, My Dear Watson. Okay, it's not physics, per se, but for several weeks now I've been following psychology grad student (and my fellow Sherlock fan) Maria Konnikova's fascinating series of Guest Blog posts at Scientific American on "Lessons from Sherlock Holmes." The latest installment: "The Situation is in the Mind of the Observer," illustrated by "The Adventure of Copper Beeches." Past links can be found at the bottom of the post. Start with "Don't Just See, Observe," and work your way through the whole set. It makes for a fun, informative read. And then, when you're done, you can kick back with a marathon DVD viewing of Season 1 of the BBC's spectacular 21st century reboot of Sherlock Holmes: