Welcome to the final links roundup of 2014. It's a little light this week, because, well, folks are busy with family and holidays and whatnot. Nonetheless, a few hardy souls still managed to feed the Internet some sweet, sweet content.
December 21 was the winter solstice. Vox had a post declaring that December 21, 2014 was the longest night in the history of Earth. Scientists on the Internet begged to differ and made a compelling case. So Vox did the classy thing and put up a new post: No, this winter solstice wasn't the longest ever. Scientists explain what we got wrong. That's how it's done, people. More on the winter solstice: How celestial events influenced ancient construction at Petra. Also: Solstice, Shmolstice – Why The Coldest Days Are Still To Come.
Looking forward, Will You Be Able to Float on January 4, 2015, a.k.a. "Zero G Day"? Hint: No. The Bad Astronomer explains.
Their stockings were hung by the science labs with care: This Is How Astronauts Bring Christmas to the Final Frontier.
Snowflakes were another common theme this week, starting with io9's Scientific Guide to Celebration: bust out some science with these DIY snowflakes. Related: Science Friday Explored the Science of Snowflakes With 'Snowflake Guru' Kenneth Libbrecht. We covered this at the cocktail party in 2011, too. Because it’s easy to miss the beauty of a snowflake if you don’t take a close look.
And yes, lots of folks celebrated Christmas this past week, so here's one last round of science-y things relating to that holiday -- specifically, Santa Claus. It's Okay To Be Smart host Joe Hanson took a hard scientific look at Christmas mysteries by explaining how physics apply to Santa Claus, why Christmas tree lights always get tangled (blame it on the second law of thermodynamics), and even offers a plausible explanation for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s red nose. Related: Science Shows Why Reindeer Are Perfect Sleigh Pullers. Also: Santa Claus’ Magic Sleigh Ride Is Highly Inefficient. So the folks at Slate Made Him a Better Itinerary.
Motherboard took a historical look at The Technological Battle for a Better Christmas Tree. Related: How to Light a Nanoscopic Christmas Tree. Honey, I shrunk the Christmas tree…and Swedish scientists have found a neat way to illuminate it with a laser pulse.
G-Forces in the Millennium Falcon. How many g's did the Millennium Falcon pull in its maneuver to evade TIE fighters in the Star Wars VII trailer?
MIT Students Build a Wooden Roller Coaster by Hand for Incoming Freshmen. "Unfortunately we had to scrap the loop."
Huge electric field found in ice-cold laughing gas. A brand new electrical phenomenon has been discovered - a huge electric field in a thin film of laughing gas. The discovery is so bizarre, the scientists who made it were convinced it was a mistake.
How Information Theory Unifies Quantum Mechanics.
Ultrasounds dance the 'moonwalk' in new metamaterial.
First Light to Good Night--Putting Herschel's Telescope to Sleep. "In the old Telescope's tube we sit, and the shades of the past around us flit; His requiem sing we, with shout and din, while the old year goes out and the new comes in"--Verses composed by a child of John Herschel, on final resting place of the great 40' telescope, 1840.
Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz uses splashing liquids to create fantastical superhero costumes. "The splashes are all real, composited together in post-production from hundreds of individual splashes. He uses cold whole milk as his base liquid, sometimes supplementing with dye or paint for color."
Nice Neighbors: Online Game Crowd-Sources Theorems in Digital Topology.
NASA ingenuity fixes the Kepler planet-finding satellite, thought to be beyond repair. Related: NASA’s MAVEN charts a disappearing Martian atmosphere, and finds streams of solar wind particles that penetrate deep into the atmosphere. Also: NASA Tests Gecko-Inspired Adhesive Grippers in a Microgravity Test Flight.
Something rather than nothing? Hobbes, Boyle, and the vacuum pump. tl;dr: "Hobbes was right."
The Many Inventions of Photography: 175 years after the public announcement of the invention of photography, Mirjam Brusius explores new archive evidence that tells a different story about the history of photographs.
A Small Army of Plagiarists Is Clogging Up Physics Research on the arXiv.
What Are All Those Quarks Doing in Your Body?
The Amazing Sky Calendar That Ancients Used to Track Seasons.
The Electrifying Mystery of Dark Lightning.
Falsifiability And The Integrity Of Physics.
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the USA. Start planning for it now.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, an Astrophysically Correct Book and Song Are Now What You Are.
Cosmogology Photo Series Blends Art, Astrophysics, and Myth into Science Fictional Wonder. "French artist Vincent Broquiare is known for his humorous and minimal small-scale art that manifests as pen and paper illustrations, books, animated videos, and installations."
Mathematician Suggests New Way Get To Mars On A Budget using ballistic capture. Because sometimes the cheapest way between two points is not a straight line.
What Mathematicians Talk about When They Talk about Holes of Different Dimensions.
The Mathematics of Discovering New Things: "when one new thing happens, more will follow."
Fixing Occam’s Razor: All things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the best. But we don’t all agree on what “simple” means.
The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague: The history of occult science is turned into a creepshow at this sensational Prague attraction.
MinutePhysics Explains How Airbus Designs and Builds a Commercial Airplane. "They even shoot several dead ducks into the engine at high speed to make sure it can continue to provide thrust if it encounters a flock of birds."