In honor of Tax Day in the US, here is a piece on the IRS’s Favorite Mathematical Law: Armed with Benford’s law, “the IRS can sniff out falsified returns just by looking at the first digit of numbers on taxpayers’ forms.” So, beware.
A Grand Theory of Wrinkles: A collaboration between mechanical engineers and mathematicians has revealed universal rules for how wrinkles form.
The Laws of Physics Do Not Apply to Legolas. “I am accepting of the awesomeness of Legolas. I mean, it’s just a movie, right? But my acceptance can only go so far.”
Calculating the Speed Limit of Quantum Information. “As described in a paper published in the current Physical Review Letters and authored by NIST scientists, the increase in speed allowed by quantum entanglement-based processing is more likely to be linear than exponential. This is the difference between a steady (if extremely steep) increase and a stratospheric upward curve.”
Astronomers Clash Over A Giant Telescope On A Sacred Hawaiian Mountain. Construction stopped Tuesday on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope in the face of protests from Hawaiians who believe its location is sacred. The fight has astronomers asking whether a pristine view of the stars trumps the beliefs of people on the ground.
The Atomic Energy Commission Once Put A “Nuclear Heart” In A Cow. “Unfortunately, the physicists and the physicians did not get along.”
Mixing Math and Magic: “What happens when a magician who does card tricks becomes a Stanford math professor? Persi Diaconis has used his intuition about card shuffling to help decode messages passed between inmates at a California state prison and to analyze Bose-Einstein condensation. He and his students and colleagues have successfully analyzed just about every type of shuffle people use in ordinary life, except one: “smooshing.” Now he is on a quest to solve it, which could help scientists better understand fluid mixing.”
The Universe Might Be Expanding a Lot Slower Than We Thought. Related: What if dark energy isn’t real? If our “standard candles” aren’t so standard, is dark energy still real? Supernova differences could change our understanding of dark energy. Also: What the hell are Baryon Acoustic Oscillations? They’re our best measurement of dark energy, even better than supernovae.
This is just SO COOL! Turn Songs into 3D-Printed Sculptures You Can ‘Listen To’ with Reify, “software that turns any snippet of audio–from rock music to spoken poetry–into curious objects 3d-printed from bronze, plastic, or even coconut husk.”
The Lady Gaga of French Mathematicians Comes Stateside: Mathematics, Cedric Villani says, is “the most hidden of all fields.”
Dark Matter May Not Be Completely Dark, New Study Concludes. I mean, it’s really dark, but not totally dark: “The “darkness,” in this case, refers to the matter’s ability to not interact with itself, or anything at all but gravity.” Could partially interacting dark matter have been discovered?
Related: What’s Making This Blob of Dark Matter Slow Down? Also: Searching for Dark Matter at the LHC. How Could the Large Hadron Collider Discover It? Also: Dark Matter Hunt Expands. XENON1T will join the hunt for dark matter this autumn.
In The Future, Spider Silk May Help Grow Your Replacement Heart.
A team of particle physicists wants your cellphone for their distributed cosmic ray detection network.
Physicists Battle over Meaning of “Incontrovertible” in Global Warming Fight. A semantic fight causes American Physical Society to change statement on climate change.
Mathematical Averages and the Landscape of the American Midwest: “Design With Co. … has put together an analytic landscape model called the Midwestern Culture Sampler…. a full square mile of the average geography and settlement patterns of the United States in their representative proportions.”
Can you solve the maths question for Singapore schoolkids that went viral? Albert, Bernard and Cheryl’s threesome sets the web aflutter. Related: How to solve Albert, Bernard and Cheryl’s birthday maths problem.
Let Saturn Ring. Some ripples in Saturn’s rings are induced by vibrations that reveal the planet’s interior structure.
SpaceX ALMOST Lands Rocket Stage After Successful Launch. Related: SpaceX Faces the Hard Truth about Soft Landings–They’re Tough to Do. With two partially successful landing attempts of its Falcon 9 booster, the private company inches closer to its goal of making a fully reusable rocket. Also: An Analysis of the Falcon 9 Crash Landing. Homework included. Bonus: Space X released video footage of the entire landing attempt, complete with tipping over and exploding. Extra bonus: “Launch and land and relaunch! (too hot)” Elon Musk Gon’ Give It to Ya in the SpaceX “Uptown Funk” Parody “Launch You Up”:
Visualization of the Week: You guys! Planetary Motion in Four Dimensions is Totally a Thing! “You probably know that planets go around the sun in elliptical orbits. But do you know why? In fact, they’re moving in circles in 4 dimensions. But when these circles are projected down to 3-dimensional space, they become ellipses!”
Granular Materials Could Thwart Missiles. The harder a projectile hits a granular substance like sand, the more that material acts like a solid, effectively repelling the intruder.
Lots of folks have been talking about a new paper in PNAS showing that women are less likely to be hired than equally qualified men when they apply for tenure track position, producing misleading clickbaity headlines crowing that gender bias in hiring is a myth. Like anything related to gender issues, discrimination, etc., these days, the discussion was sharply polarized. But here are a couple of good pieces offering some balanced perspective. First, remember that some good news about hiring women in STEM doesn’t erase sex bias issues. Then read Maria-Claire McShanahan’s fantastic in-depth analysis of the study itself — something few people commenting bothered to do — and the unfortunate media framing that followed. And heed her conclusion: “I would ask us all to take care in how we share this story and how we talk about it. Potentially interesting, sure, but also potentially damaging when presented as something that it isn’t.”
Three Easy Steps To Making Beer The Scientific Way.
Particle Physics On The Cheap. Students built a particle physics detector by disassembling and modifying a digital camera. Related: How It Works: The Large Hadron Collider. To chaotically combine particles, you need a lot of space — and a lot of power.
NASCAR Crashes and the Physics of Maximum G: “90Gs? No one could survive that kind of a hit.” Per Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, physicist and author of The Physics of NASCAR, “That’s actually not true. Trying to quantify a crash via one number is a nice attempt at simplifying things, but totally wrong.”
Finding The Speed Of Light With Peeps:
The Fermi Paradox, Mass Effect and Transhumanism. Maybe “we don’t see them because they have found staying at home far more interesting than zooming around as tourists.” Related: Where Would you Leave a Message From the Stars? Maybe in your DNA. Also: Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” II: Questioning the Hart-Tipler Conjecture.
The microscopic topography of ink on paper. Researchers have analyzed the varying thickness of printed toner in unprecedented 3-D detail, yielding insights that could lead to higher quality, less expensive and more environmentally-friendly glossy and non-glossy papers.
Five years after Apollo 13: Ars Technica looks at what went wrong and why. “You’ve probably seen the film–but the reality is a lot more complicated.” Well, yes — it usually is. This is a fascinating in-depth peek into history. Related: 45 Years Later: Apollo 13 Life Lessons. Also: The Checklist Of What Had To Go Wrong For Apollo 13 To Fail Is Insane. Bonus: Apollo 13 crew immortalized in custom Lego set that is now Go For Launch. Extra bonus: NASA Releases Astonishing GoPro Footage From Astronauts POV.
Gamma ray beams offer quick, low dose probe to detect nuclear contraband in shipping containers.
The Shortest-Known Paper Published in a Serious Math Journal: Two Succinct Sentences.
In The Future, Spider Silk May Help Grow Your Replacement Heart.
Signal-blocking architecture and the Faraday home.
Bright future for ‘dark sky’ sites as astrotourism grows in appeal. Kielder Observatory in Northumberland is top destination for the rising numbers of ‘darkness seekers’ who love astronomy.
Why Diamonds Are a Physicist’s Best Friend: Physicists spy on random motion of electrons with defective diamonds. Spurned electrons throw light on electronic noise at very small length scales.
Q&A With A Roller Coaster Designer: Alan Schilke designed the first wood-and-steel hybrid coaster to complete an inverted barrel roll.
A Crash Course on Derivatives: What is a derivative and why do you need it in physics? Rhett Allain of Dot Physics explains.
A ‘pin ball machine’ for atoms and photons. A team of physicists proposes the combination of nanophotonics with ultracold atoms for simulating quantum many-body systems and creating new states of matter.
First Quantum Music Composition Unveiled. Physicists have mapped out how to create quantum music, an experience that will be profoundly different for every member of the audience, they say. Related: The Best Ever Sludge Metal Song About Particle Physics: “Supercollider,” by Cavity. Also: Sonification of the Week: The Higgs Boson Discovery Played As Heavy Metal Music.
Like Punching a Dirt Wall: Physics Proves Grainy Soil Is Good At Stopping Missiles.
Mathematical games in Europe around the year 1000.
Scientists Figure Out a Non-Invasive Way to See What’s Underneath Famous Paintings.
The Roomba for Lawns Is Really Pissing Off Astronomers.
Bacteria Stick Together as Living Crystals. Rotating bacterial cells suck one another into a 2D crystal structure, an unprecedented pattern for living organisms.
How to Spot Distant Aliens Using Information Theory. Physicist outlines a way to find alien life, regardless of the form it takes.
This Monday, Neil deGrasse Tyson brings science to late-night TV. How’d he manage that? Related: The Scientifically Accurate Adventures of Captain Neutron. “Neil de Grasse Tyson probably shouldn’t write anymore comics.” by Clay Yount.
The International Year of Light: A wonderful 100th anniversary gift for Einstein.
A new physics institute is developing technology to efficiently capture carbon dioxide from thin air.
What Happens When You Put a Hummingbird in a Wind Tunnel? I’m guessing turbulence.
To boldly go where no body has gone before. Death in space: The ethics of dealing with astronauts’ bodies.
Seeing the CMS experiment with new eyes: a community-building arts initiative at Fermilab. At right: Artist Xavier Cortada worked with physicist Pete Markowitz of Florida International University to create these banners, part of an installation on the voluminous collisions recorded by the CMS experiment in the search of the Higgs boson.
Methane Storms And Titan’s Dune Direction Mystery.
The Hipster Paradox: Watch a mathematician explain why nonconformists end up looking exactly alike.
Wired Wood: 13 Handmade Versions of Electronic Gadgets.
A Scientific Look at the Possibility of NASA Accidentally Triggering a Zombie Outbreak.
Borscht by tube? Space menu served up to mark Soviet achievements. A vending machine in Moscow is giving diners the chance to eat like Russian cosmonauts.
Researchers make objects invisible without metamaterial cloaking. Related: Sight Unseen: The Hows and Whys of Invisibility. Fascinating review of new book by Philip Ball.
Magnetically Levitating Elevators Could Reshape Skylines.
How Your Morning Starts With Quantum Physics.
This Space Quilt Was Used To Illustrate 19th Century Astronomy Lectures.
Johann Heinrich Lambert on the Lambert quadrilateral, and Love and Hate in Geometry.
A Great Letter-to-the-Editor regarding a Fundamental Contribution to Particle Physics: James Chadwick introduces the neutron in 1932.
Subatomic Particles Over Time: Graphics from the Scientific American Archive, 1952-2015.
The wedding rings that went to Hubble. A personal token was sent to the space telescope to celebrate one astronomer’s contributions to its mission. There’s something in my eye…
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope begins construction; will take the most thorough survey ever of the Southern sky.
Wine Snobs Are Right: Glass Shape Does Affect Flavor. Scientists show glass geometry controls where and how vapor rises from wine, influencing taste. Related: An Elegantly Designed Set of Stemmed Laboratory Beaker Wine Glasses. And yes, there is a matching decanter.
Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python’s ‘The Galaxy Song.” Per The Daily What: “Monty Python and Stephen Hawking teamed up last year in a sketch for their reunion shows, in which Hawking ran over physicist Brian Cox in his wheelchair and flew off into space singing “Galaxy Song” from “The Meaning of Life.” Now they’ve decide to record a full version of the cover…”