The physics in-jokes came fast and furious in this week's episode of The Big Bang Theory. While telling Penny about his latest research over dinner, Leonard has a brainstorm insight, and ends up collaborating with Sheldon on a cosmology paper, which they post to the online arXiv. It gets covered on the Quantum Diaries blog (the link is to a Q&A with executive producer Steven Molaro), and Sheldon starts an online war with an anonymous troll, leading to a surprise cameo via video chat. Hijinks ensure. Bonus: Amy Farrah Fowler's steamy time-traveling Laura Ingalls Wilder fanfic. Jen-Luc Piquant totes wants to read more of that.
And as is often the case, the fictional paper has some real-world counterparts. Per Quantum Diaries (for real): "There have already been a number of papers that posit a theory of the vacuum as having properties similar to that of a superfluid. But the new paper by Cooper and Hofstadter take this theory in a different direction, positing that the universe actually lives on the surface of such a superfluid, and that the negative energy density that we observe in the universe could be explained by the surface tension."
Two Physicists Recapture Their Chemistry. In 1998, Deborah Berebichez fell for Neer Asherie, in part, over a shared love of physics. That love also quickly broke them apart until a chance online encounter 15 years later. Related: Looking for love in all the wrong equations. Dr Hannah Fry explains how mathematical modelling underpins everything from the possibility of finding a partner to the number of sexual partners we have in a lifetime.
Crazy-Fast Atom-Thick Silicon Transistors. An exotic form of silicon, called silicene, could enable a new generation of faster computers.
Gravity-defying trees explained by Isaac Newton. "Newton suggested that light knocks away water particles from fluid-filled pores of the plant and 'by this meanes juices continually arise up from the roots of trees upward.'" Related: My 2012 post on frost flowers and capillary action.
It may be possible to build a DNA-based detector to measure the “wind” of dark matter blowing through our planet.
Triangulation Conjecture Disproved: Some Spaces Can’t Be Cut. Every two-dimensional surface can be tiled over by a mosaic of triangles. But higher-dimensional spaces can’t always be “triangulated” in this way.
You may think you know what a snowflake looks like, but you haven't seen it at 1,800 times magnification.
Turing patterns also present at the nanoscale. A team of physicists has for the first time demonstrated that such a process can not only occur, but can also be used for potentially very interesting applications.
Physicists Made a Mobius Strip from Dualing Beams of Light. Because of course they did.
"The physicists, a team based at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, made their strip by making two lasers interfere in just the right way. Using a clever liquid-crystal device, they were able to superimpose two beams on top of each other ("inside" of each other), each having a spin opposite its superimposed partner. The result was a single waveform, but a single waveform built from a superposition of two different beams with opposite polarizations/rotations. Just imagine one hand twisting right and the other hand twisting left and what that might do to one of the waveforms pictured above. The flat wave "fin" would be rotated in both directions at once, just like the strip of paper in a mobius strip."
Blaise Pascal's Wondertorium: "Pascal introduced the Triangle in 1653 in Traité du triangle arithmétique as part of his investigation into probability and counting problems. Questions like "If I want to choose two people out of a group of four, how many possible pairs are there?" or "What's the probability of drawing a full house when dealt five cards from a well mixed deck of cards?". Indeed, Pascal and Fermat essentially invented probability in a series of letters they exchanged around this time."
Quantum Light Beam Solves Mazes, with a Little Help from Classical Noise. The quickest way to solve a maze exploits both quantum and classical processes, say physicists who have demonstrated the effect for the first time.
New Measurements Show that the Unrealest Part of Quantum Physics Is Very Real. "if there is an underlying reality, the wave function is in direct correspondence to it.” Which, to be fair, has been a common view among physicists for awhile now. But for those new to the topic, it's a great introduction.
Yellowstone's Morning Glory thermal spring used to be blue. "Using biological, chemical, and optical data, scientists have constructed a mathematical model that simulates how the spring looks now, and how it appeared before contamination led to changes in hue."
Heinrich Hertz, One of the greatest experimentalists of the 19th century, had no business instincts.
Warp Drives May Come With a Killer Downside.
How Big is a Banana in Fruit Ninja? In the popular game of Fruit Ninja, the fruit seems to be tossed into the air. Based on the acceleration of the fruit, how big would it be?
Exploring quantum weirdness at the Joint Quantum Institute in Maryland.
Wolf Prize In Physics Awarded To James Bjorken and Robert Kirschner.
Penta-graphene, a new structural variant of carbon, discovered.
Honest-to-God Holograms Will Use Sound to Shape Light.
Large Hadron Collider: CERN scientists prepare for second run of particle accelerator (video).
11 Ways Women See STEM As A 4-Letter Word, such as The belief that "only smart people do science or math" is an insidious deterrent.
The Woman Who Saved the U.S. Space Race (And Other Unsung Scientists).
Not your average technician. Research relies on unsung heroes working behind the scenes — and some of them have rather unusual jobs.
Proof that VALVE nerds are running our atom smashers. "In some of the kilometer-long tunnels of the LHC, there are homages to one of the most sciencey and respected videogame companies ever: Valve Corporation."
A Baleen Whale Skull Conducts Sound 'Like An Acoustic Antenna.'
The Fundamental Constants: How many does it take to give us our Universe, and what’s left unexplained?
Physicists observe motion of skyrmions. "A team of scientists of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and TU Berlin, together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Switzerland, has now been able to investigate the dynamics of these whirls experimentally. The skyrmions, as these tiny whirls are called after the British nuclear physicist Tony Skyrme, follow a complex trajectory and even continue to move after the external excitation is switched off. This effect will be especially important when one wants to move a skyrmion to a selected position as necessary in a future memory device."
Stanford Professor Explains Just How Random Coin Tosses Actually Are.
"Am I Going Down?" There’s an app to calculate the odds of your plane crashing.
New model of cardiac muscle tissue could provide important insights into atrial fibrillation.
Does Quantum Resonance Spectrometry Work? "[I]t appears that at least some of the products sold as 'quantum resonance' medical devices on the market today, may not be providing any useful medical information. Until this technology has been properly validated, I would not trust any QRS device with the job of assessing my health. I certainly would not rely on to answer life or death questions such as whether or not I had cancer."
Fungal Freeways and Myco-Fluidics: What's a mathematician doing in a biology lab? It turns out that fungus excels at solving complex problems.
Topology Is the Geometry Underneath Geometry. "While topology is the study of shapes, it's not the study of geometry in any usual sense. That is, it doesn't care about distance and volume and angles and coordinates. Instead, it's interested in shapes as shapes are representations of groups or sets. A shape here is a collection of things or properties and so long as that collection is left intact, the shape is intact, no matter how different it looks. The shape of the donut, properly known as a torus, is different than that of the coffeecup but, topologically speaking, we can say the relationship is invariant. The same."
Particle-Wave Duality for Eight-Year-Olds.
Infrared Astronomy Defeats Trash Bags But Finds Glasses Challenging.
Was Van Gogh's Starry Night inspired by a scientific drawing?
Beloved British Artist Ralph Steadman Illustrates the Life of Leonardo da Vinci.
"Who knew astrophysics could be this delicious?" Edible active galactic nucleus. The accretion disk is made of gingerbread.
The Island of Knowledge: How to Live with Mystery in a Culture Obsessed with Certainty and Definitive Answers
Niels Bohr: Expertise is Achieved Through Failure. "An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field."
Here’s why 76 beavers were forced to skydive into the Idaho wilderness in 1948 .
Secrets in the Ice: Love notes and warning messages are buried in Earth’s frozen archive.
The Science Behind Oscar's Award-Winning Animated Trees And Tresses.
Does Tony Stark Understand Physics? Dot Physics disses Stark's failed strategies to lift Thor's hammer in The Avengers II: Age of Ultron trailer.
A History of Cinematic Frame Rates From Early Film Projection to Today’s State-of-the-Art Cameras. "According to Thomas Edison, the magic number is 46-times per second. At 46 frames-per-second, our persistence of vision kicks in, and we won’t notice the screen going dark between each frame."
Ultrastiff Material Is Light As A Feather.
Dueling Scientists War Over Mysterious Namibian Fairy Circles. "Plants. Termites. Dragons. Which is it?" Related: My own 2013 post for Nautilus on Unwinding the Mystery of Namibia’s Natural Crop Circles.
The Man Who Tried To Redeem the World With Logic. Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT but couldn’t escape himself.
The National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory will be one of the brightest x-ray sources in the world.
The State of the Early Universe. "BICEP2 was an amazingly successful experiment.... What they got wrong was the interpretation." Related: Dust Thou Art, BICEP2. "[I]t is essential not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The reason scientific inquiry eventually leads to correct answers, despite the fact that scientific experiments are commonly wrong, is because of the insistence on subjecting experiments to extreme scrutiny and demanding they be reproduced before taking them too seriously. It is this rigorous attention to detail that distinguishes scientific knowledge from other forms of human knowledge."
Patton Oswalt Narrates A Short Film On Time Travel And Consumerism. Per the YouTube description: "Old/New is the story of Drew McHugh, a man whose penchant for the new -- new devices, new fashion, new friends -- is challenged when he discovers the rustic appeal of old-fashioned things."
The Media and the Genius Myth. "Can we get to a point where we see math as an activity that enriches our lives whether we are geniuses at it or not?"
General Relativity’s Big Year? "If we’re lucky, 2015 could be the year we confirm both the virtues and the limits of general relativity."
Where's Waldo? There's an algorithm for that. A researcher has used machine learning to examine the 68 Where’s Waldo books (Where's Wally in the UK) - and developed a algorithm to find him more efficiently.
The book that judges you by your cover. It won’t open if you’re sporting a judgmental expression. “Thijs Biersteker of digital entrepreneurs Moore has created a book jacket that will open only when a reader shows no judgment. An integrated camera and facial recognition system scans the reader’s face, only unlocking the book ... when their expression is neutral.”
Researchers create 'laser dogs' with soap bubbles -- like "sun dogs" but with lasers.
Promise of ferromagnetic topological insulators stalled by magnetic disorder; defects spoil useful properties.
Measuring The Earth With A Wire. Henry Cavendish and the torsion balance experiment.
Quantum physics can fight fraud by making card verification unspoofable.
“For the Bristlecone Snag”: The Poem That Passed the Turing Test.
Alan Turing's lost notes discovered as crumpled insulation in Bletchley Park huts.
The Great Moon Hoax and the Christian Philosopher. 180 years ago newspaper readers were thrilled by a story about plants, animals and flying men on the Moon. Why were people convinced, was it a hoax, and why was it written?
The stuff of proof: Q&A with philosopher Penelope Maddy, "the candy store kid of metaphilosophical logic and maths."
How symmetries, and broken symmetries, help physics to be objective and help Jon Butterowrth to keep his equanimity.
Scientists take to YouTube for a video campaign shows international support for construction of the International Linear Collider.
Ocean Gravity: Spectacular Footage of Freediver Guillaume Nery Flying through Swift Ocean Currents.
Scientists discover viral 'Enigma machine'. Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio.
Who will fund tomorrow’s big scientific breakthroughs? Funding for long-term research has slowed to critical levels. For a sustainable future, corporations need to build a pipeline of real solutions
The Philosophical Education of Scientists: Is the rejection of philosophy by scientists a modern phenomenon, or does it go back farther?
Skip the fairy tales, and tell your daughter science bedtime stories, says this Op-Ed writer. I say tell both kinds of stories.
Science Denialism Has Its Consequences. "Infections spread with well-understood mathematical patterns. Planets respond to changes in atmospheric composition via the laws of physics and chemistry. They do this in spite of who we vote for. They do this in spite of our political or social beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. The world, in other words, has its own ways. Denial can't change that. But what the Disneyland outbreak makes clear is that science denial has consequences."
Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? "We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from climate change to vaccinations—faces furious opposition. Some even have doubts about the moon landing."
Via io9: "Riding Light is a 45-minute short film/animation that attempts to recreate what it would be like to hitch a ride on the back of a photon and travel from the core of the sun to beyond the orbit of Jupiter. Be prepared to feel completely insignificant."