Pluto-mania struck this week as NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Finally Completed Its Flyby of Pluto -- an event that was a decade in the making, so naturally it dominated science news all over. And the plucky little spacecraft did not disappoint, producing the first-ever photos of Pluto's surface within the first 24 hours, followed by an extreme close-up the following day. Scientists learned a lot about the dwarf planet this week. For starters, it is bigger and Icier than we thought. Per io9: "we now know what makes up Pluto’s atmosphere, what makes up its ice cap, and exactly how big it is." The new data also revealed that Pluto's heart is broken, which could "mean that one side of the heart is a different geological feature than the other." And Pluto's ices may snow down on its nearby moon. The New Ice Mountains of Pluto: Why They're So Important. Something is heating up the dwarf planet, NASA scientists announced. And that could change our understanding of other rocks in the cosmos.
But scientists will learn even more when it finally receives all the data New Horizons has collected 16 months from now. Here's Why It'll Take 16 Months, and here's a look at 7 Scientific Instruments New Horizons Uses to Study Pluto. Related: The work required on Earth to get New Horizons to Pluto: a NASA scientist tells all. The Washington Post reported on the heart-palpitating scene at the Pluto command center. "Crowds poured into the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab early Tuesday morning, cheering, waving American flags and celebrating through teary eyes as the New Horizons spacecraft (theoretically) whizzed by Pluto, the last unexplored body in our solar system." Check out this Fascinating Look at the New Horizons Mission and the Celestial Body's Planetary Status, and savor a Visual History of Humanity’s Exploration of Pluto. And Fly Along with New Horizons in this NASA App.
Seeing Pluto: strain, pain and “awesome” science. As we enjoy spectacular images of Pluto today, spare a thought for the person who first saw it 75 years ago, says The Guardian's Rebekah Higgitt. Related: Astronomer's Ashes Nearing Icy World He Discovered: Pluto. Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto and the solar system's 'third zone.' Also: For children of Pluto's discoverer, New Horizons is a personal triumph. Here's how a 'Farm Boy' Found Pluto 85 Years Ago. And here's The Man Who (Almost) Discovered Pluto…and Also (Almost) Discovered the Expanding Universe: Vesto Slipher. Why haven't you heard of him? "Therein lies a tale."
Isaac Newton, the three-body problem, and Pluto’s misbehaving moons.
As always, xkcd was on it with a wonderful annotated "map" of the planet's surface. Related: The Pluto Flyby Is Already Inspiring Artists. Also: Here are the best Pluto memes on the internet. Bonus: Stephen Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson Discuss the New Horizons Mission, Debate Pluto's Status, and Eat Ice Cream:
Pluto-Mania hogged the spotlight, but particle physics had its own major announcement this week: LHC physicists officially discovered a five-quark particle; That means the controversial pentaquarks are no longer just a theory. Related: Here's what you need to know about the Large Hadron Collider's latest discovery: pentaquarks. Also: Pentaquarks Have Physicists Psyched—And Baffled.
In other LHC news: Something goes bump in the data. The CMS and ATLAS experiments see something mysterious, but it’s too soon to pop the Champagne.
Also lost amid all the Pluto-Mania: my latest article for Quanta on the New Laws of Explosive Networks: Researchers are uncovering the hidden laws that reveal how the Internet grows, how viruses spread, and how financial bubbles burst.
The nuclear age turned 70 this week. On July 16th 1945, the US tested the world's first atomic bomb. Los Alamos marks 70 years since Trinity test. "Watching, Oppenheimer quoted Hindu scripture from the Bhagavad-Gita: 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' Physicist Kenneth Bainbridge spoke more coarsely: 'Now we are all sons of bitches.'” Related: 70 Years Since the First A-Bomb, Humanity Still Lives in Its Afterglow. Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons will not be the last challenge faced in a journey that began with the world’s first fission bomb test during World War II. The Atlantic has a great gallery of photos, too.
Ant-Man, the Physics of Shrinking, and the Higgs Boson: It's simply a cross-interaction between the Higgs field and the Pym field, says physicist Jim Kakalios, who also gave a lecture on this topic at CONVergence in Minneapolis last weekend. Related: How Does Ant-Man's Suit Work? Also: Here's the Chemistry of Why Kryptonite Can't Ever Exist. Science brings the buzzkill once again.
Infographic of the Week: What's the fastest ship in sci-fi history?
The arrow of time: The universe may have one past (the Big Bang) and two futures.
In which Sean Carroll declares himself still firmly on Team Boltzmann
Life Without Design: How constructor theory solves the riddle of life. Constructor theory is a new vision of physics, but it helps to answer a very old question: why is life possible at all? Related: How Did Life Begin on Earth? David Kaplan explores the leading theories for the origin of life on our planet.
Nature's hadron collider produces Higgs bosons all the time. Cosmic rays provide a free source of high-energy collisions, which have been used in the past to discover new particles. A recent study calculates how often they produce Higgs bosons.
Why Do Solids Have Energy Bands? Over at Forbes, Chad Orzel takes a look at the transition from atomic physics, where electrons occupy narrow states of well-defined energy to condensed-matter physics where they occupy broad energy bands. "It's all about Schrodinger's cat and fenced-in dogs."
Wireless communication, Acoustic chatter. Graphene may usher in radios that use ultrasound instead of radio waves.
Israeli researchers created a "Nano Bible," all 1.2 million letters of the Old Testament engraved on a gold-plated silicon disk the size of a sugar grain.
Science of screaming: acoustics that trigger our fear centre identified. Study on human screaming at New York University reveals how rapid rate of wide unperceived volume changes or ‘roughness’ elicits emotional response
Acoustic "Radar" Spots Stowaways Inside Metal Cargo Containers. Seeing people on the other side of metal walls has never been possible despite the array of high-tech sensors that can peer through other materials. That looks set to change.
Does the Density of Air Matter in the Home Run Derby?
The Kinetic Energy of Austin Dillon when he hit the catch fence at Daytona.
Fullerene key to solving old astronomic riddle. "Scientists were able to identify for the first time a molecule responsible for the absorption of starlight in space: the positively charged Buckminsterfullerene, or so-called football molecule."
The Lollipop Hypothesis, NYU Researchers Use Candy To Determine How Fluids Dissolve Solids: "It turns out that studying lollipops dissolving applies to rivers eroding and pills dissolving in the body." Related: Mathematicians answer the age-old question: How many licks to the center of a lollipop?
New Kind Of Ceramic Material Stores Heat Till You Squeeze It.
Topological Insulators: Donuts, Coffee Cups And Soundproofing With Quantum Physics.
Embracing Your Fifth Dimension: What does it mean to live in a holographic universe?
Miraculous WIMPs: What are WIMPs, and what makes them such popular dark matter candidates?
The Feds Created a Helium Problem That’s Screwing Science.
How Physicists Create Single Photons.
The Magnus Effect is why a Ball With a Bit of Backspin Goes Like This.
Molecule suggested in 1902 gets its first close-up. "Scientists from IBM Research and CIQUS at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, have confirmed the existence and characterized the structure of arynes, a family of highly-reactive short-lived molecules which was first suggested 113 years ago."
The Distinction Between Magic and Advanced Technology: Revisiting Arthur C. Clarke's Famous Dictum "For something to be technology, it needs to be based in rules that are fundamentally knowable, given enough time and effort. Magic is not, and I don’t believe there’s any level of super-science that would go so far beyond human understanding to truly be indistinguishable from magic."
Albert Einstein's "Horrendously Strenuous" First Visit to the U.S.
Nikola Tesla, An Alien Intelligence: invention as poetry, electricity as magic.
New Gallium Nitride Transistors Provide a Spark for Wireless Charging. Efficient Power Conversion has launched chips that promise higher efficiency and lower cost than silicon.
Electric Avenue: How a Physicist Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the E-Bike.
Researchers identify zebra-like stripes of plasma in a patch of space. The structure may help scientists identify radiation-remediation strategies in space.
There are three things an idea must do to become a full-fledged scientific theory. How does the Multiverse stack up?
These Liesegang Rings Were Discovered in 1855—But We're Still Puzzling Over Them. "Put a drop of silver nitrate onto a drop of potassium dichromate in agar gel, and you get rings of silver dichromate. Do the same experiment in a test tube and you get layers of silver dichromate going down into the test tube."
A Brief History of Glass and How It Planted the Seed for the Innovation Gap Between the East and West.
What Kind of Science is Computational Science? "At the most basic level, science is about building models. If you just build a model with no connection to real life, that isn’t science. Instead, the model has to somehow agree with real actual data." Related: Thomas Piketty explains the meaning of economic models, and why we can't rely on them.
Your Fear of Radiation Is Irrational. Related: What It's Like to Visit a Radiation Spa. When Geoff Watts went to a radon clinic within an Austrian mountain, he found the heat and humidity more troubling than the radioactivity.
This is how scientists detect secret nuclear tests. Their methods include systems to monitor surface, underground, and underwater tests.
Lego Optics Lab: Panoramic Mount.
Spiders Can Sail The Stormy Seas Using Silk Anchors.
If you shine a flashlight into a coffee cup, the light will focus in a curved line, an example of a caustic.
The Strange Music of the Harmonic Series. "the harmonic series diverges. It eventually outgrows any ceiling you’d put on it. But simply throw out the numbers that happen to include a string of a million 9’s in a row… and suddenly the series converges. It plateaus. There’s some value that it will never surpass."
How Math Helped Design Your Mouse Pointer.
Flip a fair coin 4 times. What's the probability that a heads will be followed immediately by a tails? Surprise! It's not 0.5!
What Did Pythagoras Mean By "All Things Are Number"? Frank Wilczek explains.
Math fun with song lyrics, courtesy of mathematician/songwriter Bill Calhoun and The Derivatives.
An Algorithmic Sense of Humor? Not Yet. Artificial-intelligence researchers have made vast strides recently in matching various human capabilities. But for the moment, humor looks beyond their reach.
Jalopnik's Physicist-On-Call Explains The Deal With Mass And Weight Once And For All.
What the Physics of Submarine Navigation Can Teach Us About Building Luxury Prison Tunnels.
Bacteria Can Make Zero-Viscosity Superfluids.
The ISS Astronauts Had To Shelter From Russian Space Junk Thursday Morning.
An exceptionally bright supernova discovered last month appears to shine brighter than 500 billion Suns.
Sketching with data opens the mind's eye. "When does drawing become design? When does design become a story?"
To Demonstrate How Induction Cooking Works, A Chef Cooks Eggs, Bacon, and Chocolate on a Pan Cut in Half.
Mars Tourists Will Be Just as Annoying as Regular Tourists. "Do we travel to discover new places and cultures, or do we travel to take pictures of ourselves and prove that we exist?”
Film Based on Story of Black Women Mathematicians Who Worked for NASA During the Space Race, in the Works.
Fantastic Embroidered Zoetrope Animations on Turntables by Elliot Schultz.
"Ever since is became possible to believe in the practicality of the power source of electricity (rather than the very problematic gas) with the demonstrate of Humphrey Davy's electric arc lamp in 1809, people like Lindsay (1835) and Geisler (1856) and Becquerel (1867) and Woodward (1875) and many others tried to perfect the form of electrical lighting."
Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Transcendence of the Universe, Adapted in Jazz for Kids Based on “Saint James Infirmary” -- A love letter to the cosmos, in a cut-paper stop-motion musical animation. Per Brain Pickings: "When Portland-based jazz pianist, singer-songwriter, and children’s music composer Lori Henriques came upon Tyson’s words, she was stirred to set his sentiment to song."
The Science of How the Universe Will End, in a Poetic Animation.