Start your weekend with some data-driven eye candy. Artists Turn Tectonic Activity Into Surprisingly Soothing Data Visualizations with Bloom. "The horizontal position of each of the blooms is based on time, while its vertical position is based on the magnitude of the rate of change of motion detected at the seismograph. Large tectonic tremors create big blooms, small jitters are tiny buds."
Stephen Hawking made headlines yet again when he gave a talk this week at a Nordita (Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics) conference (held at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Switzerland to better accommodate his accessibility needs) exploring his black hole information paradox, announcing that he had solved the mystery. Eureka! Specifically, he has figured out a possible mechanism for how information might eventually escape (sort of) a black hole. (The Backreaction blog was there live-tweeting the discussion.) He's building on prior work positing that the information isn't destroyed, but rather gets encoded in some kind of structure at the event horizon, and is then carried out with the Hawking radiation as the black hole evaporates. To wit: "The information is stored in a super translation of the horizon that the ingoing particles [from the source star] cause," Hawking explained. "The information about ingoing particles is returned, but in a chaotic and useless form. For all practical purposes the info is lost." Alternatively, it may emerge into another universe.
Ah, but not so fast: he's still working out the devilish details with collaborator Andrew Strominger of Harvard. And while Hawking says that paper will be ready by the end of September, Strominger told the Los Angeles Times they're nowhere near done working on it, adding, "Stephen is very optimistic that it's all going to work perfectly. But physics is a hard mistress. You have to get all the calculations to work perfectly and everything has to line up." It's also worth remembering that Hawking is not the only physicist to have claimed to have solved the information paradox in recent years. A cautious observer would conclude, as Scientific American did, that Hawking's not quite solved it yet, because the mystery of black holes and information loss is too thorny for a quick resolution.
I've covered this topic extensively for Quanta: see here (firewalls) and here (fuzzballs), as well as this piece by K.C. Cole. Related: Medium's Ethan Siegel offers a handy backgrounder on Ten Things You Should Know About Black Holes. And what makes them different — or not so different— from everything else in the Universe. Also: Physicist Robert McNees Storified his series of 20 tweets on black hole entropy, for your reading pleasure.
The Shadow of a Black Hole. "Event Horizon Telescope astronomers have already achieved resolutions nearly good enough to see the event horizon of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. With the upgrades and addition of more telescopes in the near future, the EHT should be able to see if the event horizon size corresponds to what general relativity predicts."
New Experiment Closes Quantum Loopholes, Confirms Spookiness.
How quantum biology might explain life’s biggest questions. "How does a robin know to fly south? The answer might be weirder than you think: Quantum physics may be involved. Jim Al-Khalili rounds up the extremely new, extremely strange world of quantum biology, where something Einstein once called 'spooky action at a distance' helps birds navigate, and quantum effects might explain the origin of life itself."
A New Energy Plant In Hawaii Generates Power From Ocean Temperature Extremes."There's a big [temperature] difference between the warm, shallow seawater lapping up against a beach and the icy depths of the ocean." And that means energy can be harnessed for useful work. Yay, physics!
How Quantum Pachinko Makes Solid Matter Possible. Dividing the universe into fermions and bosons might seem arcane and arbitrary, but without that weird quantum rule, our macroscopic world could not exist.
A little light interaction leaves quantum physicists beaming. They "have taken a step toward making the essential building block of quantum computers out of pure light: h a specific part of computer circuitry known as a logic gate."
How do you go about embracing complexity? It's complicated (duh!), but two physicists offer a set of principles for where to start.
L is for LIDAR, a laser tool whose uses include scanning objects for cinematic special effects. "We’ve scanned horses. We’ve scanned dogs. The beauty of working in film is that one day we can be scanning a Roman villa, and that evening be scanning the set of some futuristic robot movie." For more about LIDAR, see my own 2012 post.
High-Tech Tools Used to Understand Medieval Manuscripts. "Fragile pieces of parchment can be difficult to study because of their age, rarity and susceptibility to contamination. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Gunnerus Library are developing new high-tech tools to unlock the secrets hidden in old parchment."
How That Spinning Spacecraft From The Martian Would Work for Artificial Gravity.
The Science And Fiction Behind Blade Runner, still widely regarded as one of the best science fiction films ever made.
The story of how a guitar got to the Space Station: A Larrivee Parlour floats weightless there. Astronaut Chris Hadfield visits Larrivée Guitar factory and talks about playing guitar in space.
Spiders Tune Their Webs Like Guitars. "How does a spider tell a potential meal from a potential mate? The answer lies in the vibrations of its finely-tuned web." Resonances for the win!
Looking for strings inside inflation. Theorists from the Institute for Advanced Study have proposed a way forward in the quest to test string theory.
Would a Falling Drone Crush Your Skull? The fine folks at Motherboard Did the Math.
Who'll Freeze First? A Puzzle About Size and Staying Warm.
How long does it take an electron to tunnel? The attoclock provides a unique window into quantum tunneling dynamics.
Scientists explore the origins of energy in chemical reactions using experimental quantum chemistry.
The Courage to Venture Beyond: Of Polymaths and Multidisciplinarians.
Engineers unexpectedly discover new type of glass. "What we have done is to demonstrate that one can create glasses where there is some well-defined organization. And now that we understand the origin of such effects, we can try to control that organization by manipulating the way we prepare these glasses.”
Surfing Antimatter: Accelerating positrons with plasma is a step toward smaller, cheaper particle colliders.
Massachusetts parents cite shaky science in lawsuit over Wi-Fi network. Claim their child is harmed due to "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome." This is totally not a thing: studies show that "people who claim to have the disorder simply can't tell whether equipment that emits this radiation is switched on or not."
Capture sunlight with your quantum dot window. A luminescent solar concentrator is an emerging sunlight harvesting technology that has the potential to disrupt the way we think about energy.
Hydrophobic sand turns to goo in water and magically turns back to sand when dry.
Quantum Political Scientists Hypothesize Country Headed In Both Right And Wrong Directions Simultaneously. “Rather than inhabiting a single reality where the nation’s future looks bright or an opposite one where Americans are struggling like never before, our research suggests that these two conditions actually exist concurrently in a state of superposition.” When, oh when, will the wave function collapse and rid us of this blasted superposition?
21 Reasons Why I Hate Math by slam poet Shappy Seasholtz. "19: Math made Russell Crowe go crazy in that one movie."
Why the Poohsticks formula is wrong: The equation is just a collection of sciency-looking symbols.
What NASA Calls Microgravity is Really Freefall. "Astronauts and everything else that isn't tied down on the ISS appear to float about not because they are in "microgravity" or even small gravity (as NASA prefers to define micro). Nor are they floating about because they are "weightless." They aren't actually floating at all. They are falling."
Motherboard reports from a conference of space elevator enthusiasts. So naturally the takeaway is: Space Elevators Are Totally Possible (If Someone Will Just Pay for It). “This would of course all go a lot faster if we had, you know, money.” Um, no -- the technical challenges are truly daunting and will require more than big wads of cash. See my own take on space elevators from April.
Labyrhythms, a sound art piece by David Harris (artist in residence at TRIUMF in Vancouver, and new editor of the Facts So Romantic Blog at Nautilus), is based on scientists reading abstracts of their papers. Also: Journey to the Heart of TRIUMF: A Narrative in Silences, "explores the little noticed “silences” of the spaces in which scientists work. It is a collection of room tone and ambiance mixed together to represent a journey into the heart of the lab where the main cyclotron lives."
The cool science behind how the Lexus hoverboard: works
It Takes 26 Fundamental Constants To Give Us Our Universe, But They Still Don't Give Everything.
The Geology Of Star Trek: From Extraterrestrial Minerals To Alien Life-Forms. “You must be one with the rock.” - Spock to Kirk in Star Trek V
Time Travel To-Do List: "1. Locate/build time machine."
No, Da Vinci Wasn't The First Inventor to Dream About Human Flight. List includes my personal fave, Eilmer of Malmesbury, circa 1125 AD.
Clever! Teach kids chemistry with this DIY Periodic Table Battleship.
3M Creates Scientific Rube Goldberg Machine with Own Products. "There are some awesome bits of science at work here, like the fluid mechanics of a ball floating on an air jet."
It's Easier To Tell Time Than do Math on This Slide Rule Watch.
2015 Nobel Prizes October Madness: Pick your faves in physics, chemistry, and physiology/medicine.
Take an Epic Quest across a Hyperbolic Surface. David Madore's online mazes let you explore complicated hyperbolic surfaces from the comfort of your favorite web browser.
Of Pi and Tau: "[Michael] Hartl makes a compelling case for the idea that 2π, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius, is a far more fundamentally significant and useful construct. He calls his new 'circle constant' tau."
Scientific Revolutions in Optics Made Vermeer a Revolutionary Painter.
LISA Pathfinder to Refine Hunt for Gravitational Waves.
Revealed: how a wobbly axis helped our planet escape 'snowball Earth.'
Misusing Galileo to criticise the Galileo gambit.
Michael Kagen’s Space-Based Paintings (above) Explore the Fatalistic Power of Manmade Machinery. "Kagen exhibited this series of space-based paintings last year at Joshua Liner Gallery in an exhibition titled Thunder in the Distance. He was also recently commissioned by The Smithsonian to create three large paintings inspired by their air and space archives."
US astronauts drink recycled urine aboard space station but Russians refuse. “It tastes like bottled water,” Layne Carter, water subsystem manager for the ISS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center told Bloomberg. “As long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.” Related: Japan Delivered Whiskey to Space Station on Monday -- for Science. And maybe for the Russians refusing to drink recycled pee. Kanpai! Except maybe not. Even Without Gravity They Can't Raise A Glass.
Meet the Woman Who Discovered the Composition of the Stars. When she first finished her revolutionary thesis, Cecilia Payne was told that the results were "clearly impossible."
Five classic American books that inspired Susan Helms in her career as an astronaut.
Carbon Monoxide 'Fire Fountains' Erupted on the Moon.
How SETI Will Understand Messages Broadcast by an Alien Intelligence.
The Huge, Pricey Detectors That Capture Tiny Neutrinos: IceCube, NoVA and more.
Vapor cones typically appear around aircraft flying in the transonic regime –- near, but still below, the speed of sound.
Secretive fusion company claims reactor breakthrough. Caveat: It's a Startup With No Website. Related: How Close Are We To Nuclear Fusion? "Naysayers love to claim that nuclear fusion is always decades away — and always will be — but the reality is we’ve moved ever closer to the breakeven point and solved a large number of technical challenges over the past twenty years."
Recently found in American backyards (specifically, Missouri’s St. Louis County): radioactive nuclear waste (thorium 230) from the Manhattan Project.
Q: What Would Happen If You Dropped A Nuclear Bomb Into A Volcano? A: Nothing, actually. "The bomb would melt without starting a nuclear reaction."
The geometry of Islamic art.
The Science Behind Antarctica's Blood Falls: Iron-rich brine from a subglacial lake accounts for Blood Falls' creepy crimson hue.
In science we trust… up to a point. "Science is emphatically not a belief system."
How to Tell Science Stories with Maps. “Maps are some of the most information-dense ways of communicating data,” says Len De Groot, director of data visualization at the Los Angeles Times. ... “You can do a lot in a map because people already understand the fundamentals—unlike, say, a scatterplot.”
Q&A: How the Franco dictatorship destroyed Spanish science.
Lab coats and leggings: when science and dance connect it's quite a show. "Initiated in 2013 by Liz Lea and Cris Kennedy at CSIRO in Canberra, the DANscienCE Festival provides a platform for delving into how dance can be help scientists understand more about brain function and how our bodies respond to movement. It also examines how dance can serve as a powerful teaching tool for helping those outside academia understand sophisticated academic ideas."
"Waiter, there's a tiny boat in my martini..." A "Cocktail Boat" Can Propel Itself Around Your Drink Using the Marangoni Effect.
The Physics Girl Explains How to Make a Cloud in Your Mouth. "you’ll need to make tiny water droplets in your mouth. Then up the pressure." Related: How To Make a Hurricane on a Bubble. Per IFL Science: "A team from the University of Bordeaux managed to mimic the physics of a hurricane on a bubble, and subsequently recreated the behavior of hurricanes and cyclones in our atmosphere."