Start your weekend off right with an appreciation of The Art of Schrodinger’s Cat, whereby non-physicists, including artists, look at Schrodinger's Cat without the quantum mechanics. Jen-Luc Piquant's favorite (pictured at right): "Artist Jie Qi saw that the two states of the cat, alive and dead at the same time, were impossible. He illustrated that as an illusion, putting the cat inside an impossible box as well."
There's math in them there fireworks! "Enjoy the parabolic envelopes that form while those bright, sparkling, parabolic curves are etched into the sky tonight.”
Capturing Energy From A Flag Flapping In The Wind. French scientists have discovered how flags, made of the right piezoelectric material, can be an alternative to wind turbines. (It's actually best suited for charging batteries, due to the small amounts of energy produced.)
Five Properties of Physics that Affect Your Gas Mileage. "The term physics properties makes it sound inevitable, but 'driver behavior is a huge, huge factor in how good your gas mileage is,' [Argonne transportation engineer Steve] Ciatti said. 'Jackrabbit starts, driving at extremely high speeds on the highway—those are the best ways to burn a lot of gas.'”
The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach brought the inside story of New Horizons’ ‘Apollo 13’ moment on its way to Pluto this past week, when NASA reported the craft had mysteriously gone into "safe mode." Concerned Mission fans were advised not to panic: the spacecraft was talking to Earth expected to be fine, and the computer overload shouldn't hurt the scheduled mission to Pluto. Related: here's a really nice "turntable" animation of the New Horizons spacecraft. Also: The mountains, craters, and canyons (also monoliths, if present) on Pluto and its moons will have some awesome names. "Among them are Star Trek’s Kirk and Spock, Star Wars’ Skywalker and Leia, and Dorothy Gale, who ventured to the land of Oz."
Scientists Just Solved One of the Paradoxes Behind Giant Black holes. They're hiding in "superdense layers of cloud and gas so heavy that only X-rays can escape."
Do Tour de France Cyclists Get Unfair Boosts from Support Cars? New model suggests trailing cars could give big aerodynamic advantages.
Nanoscale physics explains why puddles stop spreading. “You start with something very simple, like the spread of a puddle, but you get at something very fundamental about intermolecular forces,” Ruben Juanes says.
The Basic Science Behind Creating Colors. "If you want to make someone see a particular color, science tells us there are three ways to do that. Two of them rely on quantum physics."
How to Solve a Physics Problem Undergrads Usually Get Wrong. Aha! We meet again, Car on a Frictionless Track. <twirls villain 'stache> Find the acceleration of "a cart on a frictionless track with a string that runs over a pulley to another mass hanging below."
Satire of the Week: Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Peter Higgs Regrets Fielding Your Physics-Based Dungeons and Dragons Questions. "If my half-elf wizard fell off a castle parapet high enough to kill him, could he cast the Dimension Door spell to teleport safely onto a lower surface before landing? My Dungeon Master said the impact would be fatal but I don’t think so."
New GHOST Technology Leaps Out Of The Screen.
A Visual Tribute to Isaac Newton’s Principia.
The Fascination of Braids and their close ties with mathematical knots.
The Physics of Death (And What Happens to Your Energy).
Does Science Diminish Wonder or Augment It? "Two great poems with opposing views, composed over 200 years apart—“Lamia” by John Keats and “Water” by Philip Larkin—address these vexed questions through the entangled concepts of water and light"
Has physics cried wolf too often? "Mistakes are embarrassing, and getting over-excited about a statistical anomaly is silly. But these things happen, and the answer to building public confidence in science is not to pretend that they don’t."
Check out the Walking Cube, a shapeshifting sculpture of pipes and pneumatics. It's "a simple cube brought to life by a series of mechanical agitations."
More data, no problem. Scientists are ready to handle the increased data of the current run of the Large Hadron Collider.
Data Shows Surfer-Shaped Waves in Near-Earth Space. "Named Kelvin-Helmholtz waves in the late 1800s after their discoverers, these waves have since been discovered all over the universe: in clouds, in the atmospheres of other planets, and on the sun. Now two recently published papers highlight these shapely waves at the boundaries of near-Earth space."
Driving To Pluto: How Long Would It Take? "Just a mere 6,293 years (give or take a few decades). Oh, come on now. Stop complaining. That's not so bad. It's actually less time time than some creationists think the universe has existed. Of course, a 6,293-year-long road trip is not something you want to try with little kids. The asteroid belt is nothing but tourist traps and the rest stops really thin out after Saturn."
Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka and the Big Bang. Did the 19th century master of the macabre predict our cosmic history?
How Squid Manipulate Light to Tune Their Own Iridescence.
The physics of salad dressing: A novel mechanism of droplet phase separation.
A falling stream of water will break into droplets due to the Plateau-Rayleigh instability.
Can Information Rise From Randomness? Quanta’s new puzzle column asks you to believe the seemingly impossible — that you can win at a number guessing game with absolutely no information.
A Project That Uses a Markov Chain Process to Create Surreal Calvin and Hobbes Remixes.
E = mc2: how Einstein’s theory of relativity changed everything. Related: The One Thing Everybody Should Know About Relativity: "The Laws Of Physics Do Not Depend On How You’re Moving." Also: Six Things Everyone Should Know About Quantum Physics.
Galaxies Form Inside of Dark Matter 'Clumps,' New Study Shows. Related: Why does dark matter exist? Is it something surprising, or just to be expected? Also: If you've got a spar 55 minutes this weekend, check out this BBC documentary on dark matter, Dancing in the Dark:
What is dark energy? It’s everywhere. It will determine the fate of our universe. We still have no idea what it is.
Ed Witten: "In physics and math, and..other sciences, there are horizons just as wide as there have ever been in the past."
What’s after Webb? Maybe a 12-meter space telescope. A true Hubble successor will stare at exoplanets, do surveys.
Here's a Real-Time Map of All the Objects in Earth's Orbit.
Quantum physics provides startling insights into biological processes. Researchers in the European project PAPETS are getting a more fundamental understanding of how photosynthesis works and this could result in the design of much more efficient solar cells.
Your Own Body Smuggles In This Radioactive Particle. "Strontium-90 is, chemically speaking, a mimic of calcium. The cells in the body can’t tell the difference, so if people ingest any of the strontium-90 isotope, the body sees it as nutrition, and uses it the same way it would use calcium from a glass of milk." Related: This Is What Radiation Can Do To The Human Body [Warning: graphic image].
Computer Scientists Melted Werewolves to Show Off Their New Viscosity Formula: "we’re closer than ever to accurate jiggles and melts in our 3D objects."
What the Tortoise Said to Achilles: A Math Paradox by Lewis Carroll.
Hear this: it's no longer enough to just look at paintings. Six composers and sound artists have been asked to create music or sound installations inspired by paintings of their choice from the National Gallery’s collection. Related: Hannah Davis wrote an algorithm that turns novels into classical music. Listen here, or read her thesis.
This Is How Your Fruits and Vegetables Look in an MRI Machine. "Alexandr Khrapichev, a professor at the University of Oxford, put together this selection of what he calls “virtually-sliced” fruit and vegetables by running them through an MRI machine and putting the slices into chronological order to create these deconstructed fruit and vegetable portraits."
Bethe's Dictum: "always work on problems for which you possess an unfair advantage."
Goodbye Copernicus: "At the hands of astronomy and cosmology, we seem to have been reduced to near nothingness, specks within slivers of time and space, inside specks that are themselves entire universes. But how should we interpret this fact? Does this ultimate extension of the Copernican narrative seal our infinitely mediocre fate? The question is more complex than it initially seems."
The reports of life on a comet that made the rounds earlier this week have been greatly exaggerated, in case you were wondering. There's no evidence to suggest there is life on Comet 67P. Related: What Other Scientists Are Saying About This Week's "Life on a Comet" Claim.
Elon Musk says recent rocket failure is a “huge blow” to SpaceX, details status of investigation.
13 Things You Might Not Know About Apollo 13, a.k.a. one of Jen-Luc Piquant's all-time favorite films. For example, star Tom Hanks was dubbed the "accuracy police," because he cared so much about getting the details right.
And our robot overlords shall inherit the moon. NASA Is Seriously Considering Terraforming Part of the Moon With Robots. Related: NASA Picks Four Astronauts to Fly 1st Commercial Spaceflights. Also: NASA Built A Giant Fake Moon You Can Drive On.
Terminator-vision and the complex questions behind “augmented reality.” With info overlaid on our vision, "cool" doesn’t equal "useful" or even "safe."
Nikola Tesla Described a Modern Smartphone... in 1926. Related: Why Do Smartphone Batteries Fail So Quickly? Also: Bluetooth Star Trek communicator shows just how awesome real life is. Smartphones make it look archaic.
The Time Nikola Tesla Paid for His Hotel Room With a "Death Ray". Actually, he "threw some common electrical components in a fancy-looking box and convinced everyone it was a "death beam" worth $10,000."
Five Ways Star Trek Philosophy Can Enrich Your Life.
Scientists Control Light Wakes For The First Time.
Here's What a Record Painted With Conductive Ink Sounds Like.
Lego Optics Lab: Mirror/Filter Holder.
The Subversive Science Fiction of Hip-Hop. “Never mind the mess/we’re going to Mars next.” – B. Dolan.
The Invention of Clouds: Goethe’s Poems for the Skies and His Heartfelt Homage to the Young Scientist Who Classified Clouds.
What It Feels like to Be Cedric Villani, the "Lady Gaga" of French mathematics. …
Physicist, popular author, and self-described "physics evangelist" Ainissa Ramirez wins 2015 Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics.
Could in-flight refueling be an alternative to the hub-and-spoke model? An EU-funded study finds it feasible, would cut fuel 20% on long-haul journeys.
'Brewtroleum': New Zealanders Made Fuel Out Of Beer Leftovers. …
Why one of our simplest designs – the light bulb – is also one of our best. "I think it is a magic object: the humble light bulb is one of the simplest but loveliest of designs." -- Michael Anastassiades.
Finally, enjoy this short science fiction film that demonstrates how having a one-minute time machine is hilariously useful, "like a ctrl-Z for life."