If you missed this week's Virtually Speaking Science, the theme was This Is Your Brain on Movies. I chatted with cognitive neuroscientist Jeffrey Zachs, author of a fantastic new book -- Flicker: Your Brain on Movies -- about science, cinema, and the brain.
This is awesome: Parable of the Polygons: how harmless choices can make a harmful world. A playable post on the shape of society. Also: Challenge your geographical knowledge with Santa's scientific sleigh ride: "Can you help Santa deliver all his presents? Match up the famous scientific locations to their GPS coordinates and fill in the name of the location."
Here's a few more science-y holiday goodies: Looking for innovative ideas to decorate your Christmas tree? Try these Math-inspired ornaments by Naked Geometry or these Science-Themed Ornaments, handily organized by discipline. If you’re searching for the perfect present for the physicist who has everything, how about a Lego kit for measuring one of the universe’s fundamental constants? How To Measure Planck's Constant Using LEGO. Related: Here are 10 Original Gifts for Science (and SciArt) Geeks. Like a periodic cutting board and a molecular gastronomy DIY kit.
Jen-Luc Piquant has a few gift ideas of her own, like this placemat that mimics spacetime curvature. Or how about a couple of nifty geeky games, like the board game Antimatter Matters from Elbowfish, or this awesome Doctor Who version of the classic game Yahtzee. Good news: LEGO's "Research Institute" Female Scientist Set Is Back In Stock (And Going Fast.)
Finally, there is Jen-Luc's personal favorite: the Science Tarot deck, which "reinterprets the tarot with original artworks inspired by scientific discovery of the natural world." The four suits are reimagined, whereby Cups become Beakers (Integration), Wands become Bunsen Burners (Creation), Swords become Scalpels (Observation), and Pentacles become Magnifying Glasses (Exchange). The Court Cards feature portraits of famous scientists (Carl Sagan is the Queen of Bunsen Burners). As for the Major Arcana, how can you go wrong when Death is symbolized by phase transitions and the Wheel of Fortune is symbolized by Schroedinger's Cat?
Physicists propose flipping magnets to detect dark matter. "Like painting an unseen landscape in the dark—and you can't find the paint."
Scientists at University of Göttingen and the Institut Laue Langevin Have Come Up With Ice XVI, A New Form Of Ice. It consists of frozen water molecules spun into a tiny, intricate, empty cage.
Compact Laser-Plasma Particle Accelerator Sets New World Record, could lead to compact x-ray lasers or high-energy colliders. Electron accelerator reaches 4.5 GeV in only nine centimeters. "It’s similar to the way that a surfer gains speed when skimming down the face of a wave."
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology designed and built the fully-functional, though toy-based, watt balance, and then detailed their process in a working paper that they posted on ArXiv (it's also been submitted to the American Journal of Physics)."
Twisted, Tangled and Turbulent: Magnetic Fields in the Milky Way.
Spacecraft bound for Pluto emerges from hibernation! NewHorizons2015 is on Pluto's doorstep.
12 Extraordinary Buildings Where People Do Science. "From Antarctica to Austria, scientific research centers often have the coolest headquarters."
How to Draw Mushrooms on an Oscilloscope with Sound. Jerobeam Fenderson uses an old analog Tektronix oscilloscope to create the waveforms. And if you're keen on more of the technical details, here's Fenderson's accompanying blog post.
NASA Needs to Take Us to The Moon. Orion Isn't the Way to Do It.
Australian Physicists Topple the Solar Cell Efficiency Record.
An Experiment Mimicking Perpetual Motion Using an Escalator and a Series of Brightly Colored Balls. "En Was Not Here performed a science experiment of sorts by releasing a bag full of colorful plastic balls at the bottom and top of an up escalator, creating a sort of perpetual motion machine as they ride up and tumble back down the automatic stairs."
Engineers Prove There Is No Such Thing as a Silent Film. Abe Davis, the lead MIT researcher, has bigger ideas than snooping, forecasting a “new kind of imaging.” “We’re recovering sounds from objects,” Davis said. “That gives us a lot of information about the sound that’s going on around the object, but it also gives us a lot of information about the object itself, because different objects are going to respond to sound in different ways.”
Hearing the Pianist's Fingers: The Importance of Touch in Piano Music. "The fact that a piano tone sounds different depending on how the key is touched is not obvious to physicists." Related: Your Telephone Is Lying to You About Sounds "because odd numbers aren’t even." Also: Seeing Music: What Does the Missing Fundamental Look Like? Bonus: The Sound (And Taste) Of Music. "there may be implicit associations between taste and pitch."
Why do Brits say "maths" and Americans say "math"? (We swing both ways here at the cocktail party, depending on whether we're talking about British or American sources.)
Quantum King Fu: Physicist (and kung fu enthusiast) Felix Flicker demonstrates The Kung-Fu Move that "Explains" Spin, One of Quantum Physics' Strangest Properties. Per Physics World: "As with any physical theory, there is a caveat: this move will only work if your aggressor is not skilled in the art of topology."
Listen to the Music Created By Radioactivity. "Moscow-based musician/engineer Dmitry Morozov has built an incredible instrument called the Metaphase Sound Machine. It produces music based on radioactive particles sensed by its built-in Geiger Counter."
Who Would Win in a Fight Between Superman and The Hulk?
The Hidden World of Liquids. A collection of videos reveal common, but rarely seen, fluid physics phenomena.
How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought. "Network thinking lets us scientifically understand the world around us as one of connections that shape observed phenomena, rather than as one where the intrinsic properties of people, genes, or particles determine outcomes."
The Science and Engineering Behind Amsterdam's Rainbow Station. "What [Michael] Escuti developed was a “spectral filter,” based on a type of technology called geometric phase holograms. In layman’s terms, it’s a filter that takes in bright white light and turns it into a rainbow, “dispersing” the colors in a precise, controlled way. Spectral dispersing elements are essential to applications in fields such as astronomy, optical telecommunications, chemical and biological sensing, semiconductor fabrication, and nanotechnology."
Using Lasers To Remotely Detect Toxic Gases. A new terahertz detector can identify trace gases up to a kilometer away.
Could stellar gamma-ray bursts have caused mass extinctions in Earth's past?
Walking on water: the physics of clear ice.
The Long Road to Maxwell’s Equations: How four enthusiasts helped bring the theory of electromagnetism to light.
Two Futures Can Explain Time's Mysterious Past.
The Strangeness of Force, or Do physical forces really exist? A philosophical debate between Peter Cameron, Eleanor Knox, Hilary Lawson.
Ten things you didn’t know about the Anthropic Principle. For example, #6: "The anthropic principle does not imply a causal relation."
Swirling Photographs of Mixed Paint by Alpine, Texas, artist Mark Lovejoy. "The act of creating the color formations alone sounds more like an act of chemistry than art as he mixes resins, oils, diluents, waxes, and drying agents to create the gloppy textures you see here. Portions are then photographed, reworked, and reshot."
A giant neutrino detector is traveling by truck from the Gran Sasso laboratories to CERN to get ready for a new life.
How many atoms does it take to predict the thermal expansion of liquid metals?
A first set of superconducting magnets has passed the test and is ready for the LHC to restart in spring.
Animated Introductions to Quantum Mechanics: From Schrödinger's Cat to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.
How One Woman's Discovery Shook the Foundations of Geology. Without ever setting sail, Marie Tharp mapped the ocean floor and made a discovery that shook the foundations of geology. So why did the giants of her field dismiss her findings as “girl talk"?
The science of airport bomb detection: chromatography.
The Religions of Academia. "Physics: God modeled the universe on the card game Mao: There are lots of strange rules and He refuses to explain any of them."
Mathematical ability isn’t one single skill set; there are indeed many ways to be “good at math,” research shows.
Big Prime Number Gap Grows After Decades-Long Lull.
'The Birth of a Snowflake,' A Short Video Celebrating the Intricacies of Snowflake Formation.
Fantastically Wrong: The Scientist Who Thought 22 Trillion Aliens Live in Our Solar System. "Does Saturn have life on it? If you count gas as life, then yeah, sure."
Quasars, Black Holes, and the Origins of “Intercontinental Radio Astronomy.”
Snowball Worlds: Why Earth-Like Planets Across the Universe Are Uninhabitable.
"All About That Space" is A Fun Space-Themed Parody by NASA interns to promote the upcoming Orion mission.
Project Voyager: A Map to Navigate Our Dynamic Universe. Related: Check out this stunning compilation: Max Shishkin's montage of cinematic depictions of outer space, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Interstellar:
New books for the physics buff will help you catch up on particle physics news, knowledge and history.
The Bitterest Scientific Duel in History Was Over "Geoheliocentrism" in the 16th century. Or, Tycho Brahe was one wild and crazy guy.
The Story of Newton’s Bodkin: "I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone."
Albert Einstein on Fickle Nature of Fame, Real Rewards of Work, and “Whole Buffoonery” of the Cultural Establishment. "Worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow, that is the fate of people whom—God knows why—the bored public has taken possession of.”
Physicist/rock star Brian May revivifies stereo photography.
The Gloves Don't Work: On the disadvantages of having a physicist for a parent. "Following the spherical cow approach so beloved of we physicists, fingers are cylinders and the rest of the hand is more of a blob. A spherical blob, at a stretch."
Researchers use real data rather than theory to measure the cosmos. For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity.
Why Plug-In Hybrids May Be the Car of the (Near) Future. Don't bet on all electric cars taking over for more than a decade, researchers indicate.
Future Perfect: Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future.
Study: Online teachers get higher ratings when students think they're male. because implicit gender bias is totes a thing.
Jen-Luc Piquant adores this 3D printed "kinematics dress" made from 2.279 triangles and 3,316 hinges. Related:Nobel Fashion: For this year’s Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, UK engineer-turned-fashion designer, Matthew Hubble designed a special gown for "May Britt Moser‘s receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year along with her husband, Edvard Moser, and colleague John O’Keefe for their work on grid neurons." Also: One can't help but covet the Iron Shoes: these Game of Thrones sword-covered high-heels.
May 9th 2015 will see the inauguration of Cornell University's new Institute for Pale Blue Dots.
A Bit of Book Sleuthing on a Cyclotron Manuscript (1938-1941).
The Equation That Can Help Predict Zombie Migration Patterns.
No more foamy beer, thanks to magnets (the magnetic fields help decrease "gushing").
Monkeying Around With Math - Dopamine Plays A Role In Cognitive Reasoning, particularly the brain's processing of mathematics.
In his latest collection, Richard Anson has written poems about laborers who are passionate about their work, including poems that feature Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, and Galileo Galilei. Related: Women in Science Illustrations by artist Rachel Ignotofsky, including Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Valentina Tereshkova, Jane Goodall, and Patricia Bath.
Defying Gravity: The Skateboarding Physicist. For David "Doddy" Marsh, a postdoctoral researcher at Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, skateboarding and physics are essential components of a unified theory of self. "I can't say I've ever found physics as hard as I've found skateboarding."
Gravity is a Dancer's Best Friend: "Choreographer Elizabeth Streb teaches a unique brand of extreme impact movement she calls PopAction at SLAM (the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Streb explains the philosophy behind PopAction and the ways in which dancers should aspire to be more like American football players."
How to Dance with a Tree: Visualizing Fractals With Dance. It's "a visual exploration of fractals through dance, a piece of generative art that’s part performance and part mathematical exploration. The two ingredients that went into creating this were the Microsoft Kinect sensor, which lets your computer track how your body moves, and Processing, a programming language that lets you create interactive visuals with code. Put the two together, and you can use your body to control virtual shapes and objects."