"Light Echoes" Prove That This Neutron Star is Weirdly Like a Black Hole, judging by new images of X-ray image of Circinus X-1 from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Per io9: "It’s twice as far away as we thought it was, meaning it’s much brighter. That frequently pushes the system over the Eddington Limit, the threshold for being bright enough that radiation exerts more pressure outwards than gravity pulling gas and dust back in, a trait more common to black holes than neutron star and leading to unexpected flickering as the gas supply keeps getting blown away. It’s also building something we may as well call an accretion disc, sucking material from its companion star to feed its powerful jets."
This ties in nicely with my latest feature for Quanta: The Fuzzball Fix for a Black Hole Paradox. By replacing black holes with fuzzballs — dense, star-like objects from string theory — researchers think they can avoid some knotty paradoxes at the edge of physics. USC's Nick Warner likens fuzzballs to white dwarfs and neutron stars, and sees them as the final phase of a star's lifetime. Related: Don't fear falling into a black hole – you may live on as a hologram.
Into the light: how LIDAR is replacing radar as the archaeologist’s map tool of choice. A technology using rapid pulses of light is helping archaeologists to chart ancient settlements hidden beneath dense forest canopies. Nice to see LIDAR getting some media love again. Here's my own 2012 blog post, riffing off an Ars Technica article from the same time period. Historian Uses Lasers to Unlock Mysteries of Gothic Cathedrals. A tech-savvy art historian uses lasers to understand how medieval builders constructed their architectural masterpieces.
Newton’s Random Apple: "If all the random molecular heat motion in an apple picked the same direction, how far would the apple go? And then what?”
Magnetic mirror holds promise for fusion. In a Polywell design, a high-density plasma excludes magnetic field, traps itself.
Of Mice And Magnets: The everyday wood mouse can sense magnetic fields -- possibly via quantum processes.
Decoding the Remarkable Algorithms of Ants. The biologist Deborah Gordon has uncovered how ant colonies search efficiently without central organization, an insight that might improve computer networks. Related: Glass transition in ant traffic jams. Soft matter techniques "Inspired by the fluid-like motion of flocks of birds," reveal glassy dynamics in confined fire ant traffic.
Gravity Kills Schrödinger's Cat. Theorists argue that warped spacetime prevents quantum superpositions of large-scale objects. Somewhere in interstellar space a cat has a chance to preserve quantum coherence, but on Earth, not so much. Relativity’s time dilation may limit the quantum world. Theoretical calculations suggest time dilation may cause systems to decohere. Schrödinger's cat is an example of a quantum system which might decohere due to time dilation - and myriad other interactions. Related: Einstein A Hero Again: He Saves The Quantum Cat. Also: Inferring the Limits on Reality (that Even the Gods Must Obey). The fuzziness of the quantum realm could arise from mathematical restrictions on what can ever be known.
The 5 Most Misguided Uses of the Word 'Quantum' in Ads. "The last time advertising used "quantum" correctly was for a Bond film, and Bond usually treats physics like he found it in bed with his villain's wife: He has a lot of fun, but they don't usually survive the encounter. And that's still the most solace "quantum" can find in modern media."
Does faster-than-light travel lead to a grandfather paradox? Fast track to wisdom: Not necessarily.
How Machine Vision Solved One of the Great Mysteries of 20th-Century Surrealist Art. The great Belgian surrealist Magritte painted two versions of one of his masterpieces, and nobody has been able to distinguish the original from the copy. Until now.
Confounding Father: Benjamin Franklin’s eighteenth century ‘sudoku’.
A Static Electricity Surprise: "As one of the oldest known physical phenomena, static electricity was thought to be super simple: rub two objects together, one becomes positive and the other negative, and off you go! Only, that's not how it works at all, and we only discovered the truth in 2011."
Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet? The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick.
Making Robot Fish Is Hard When You Don’t Know How They Swim. "Fish move by creating “structures” in water—three-dimensional whorls of fluid. After capturing a whorl with a concave, flexed part of their body, they push against it and shed it with their tail, shooting forward."
Silent flights: How owls could help make wind turbines and planes quieter by inspiring a new material for coatings. Related: Space Tech Makes Everything Better, Even Wind Farms. "it took a failed space mission to fix the one of the biggest problems in green energy: The awful grinding noise of a wind farm at work."
Superfast Lasers Create A Hologram You Can Touch. "When touched, the laser feels like sandpaper, says principal investigator Yoichi Ochiai, although some participants thought the plasma felt a little like a static shock."
University of Illinois Students Made a Working Hyperloop. "The University of Illinois hyperloop takes up an entire room and does indeed send small pods through a metal tube in an oval loop."
Lexus has built a working hoverboard. But it needs liquid-cooled superconducting magnets (which you probably don't have). Related: A Miniature Back To The Future Hoverboard That Hovers Back and Forth Over a Magnetic Base.
The story of the invention that could revolutionize batteries—and maybe American manufacturing as well.
'If I burn out, I burn out': meet Taylor Wilson, nuclear boy genius. He fused the atom at 14, has advised the US government on counter-terrorism and plans to beat cancer – and he’s still only 21. What scares Taylor Wilson? Asking a girl for her number.
Plasmonics: Revolutionizing Light-Based Technologies Via Electron Oscillations In Metals.
Japanese Paper Art Could Lead to Bending and Folding Electronics.
A New Video Processing Algorithm Reveals the Hidden World of Imperceptible Motion.
Liquid Nitrogen + Balloons = Wait, What? "These balloons appear to self-inflate once removed from liquid nitrogen. See if you can figure out why."
It's The Power Of Quantum Mechanics That Allows The Sun To Shine.
MIT's Scott Aaronson muses on what quantum computers have to teach us about how to interpret quantum mechanics.
Does a Multiverse Fermi Paradox Disprove the Multiverse?
Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere.
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head: A Mosquito’s Lament. "a mosquito being hit by a raindrop is roughly the equivalent of a human being whacked by a school bus, the typical bus being about 50 times the mass of a person.... Why aren’t the mosquitoes getting smooshed?"
Exploring dark energy with robots. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument will produce a 3-D space map using a ‘hive’ of robots.
The Mystery of the Missing Planets: "A swarm of thousands of asteroids share an orbit with Jupiter. They are not right next to the planet, like moons, but rather clustered in two clumps, one ahead of Jupiter on its orbit and one behind. The leading clump is called the “Greeks” and the trailing clump the “Trojans,” but they are usually just lumped together and simply called Jupiter’s Trojans. Many of them are named after mythological figures from the Trojan wars."
The genesis and renaissance of general relativity: as John Wheeler put it - ‘Matter tells space how to curve. Space tells matter how to move.’
An Ugly Song That Definitely Won’t Get Stuck In Your Head. I Promise. how to use math to make the ugliest music possible. "Turns out the same principles that make an ugly sound also make a great sonar ping."
How Do You Define a Vector? Rhett Allain has an alternative to the "magnitude and direction" definition of a vector.
Solving the Math Problem in Good Will Hunting.
Artist Antoine Terrieux’s “En Plein Vol” exhibit shows off the power of hair dryers.
What Do Mayonnaise and Hollandaise Have to Do With Math? The answer is in a book by Eugenia Cheng that explains how cooking plus a sense of humor adds up to an appreciation of mathematics. "Mathematics is also about putting things in a context. We study relationships between things, just like you might study relationships between people."
Do you have ‘maths anxiety’? Mental arithmetic can be stressful for many people, causing a lifelong fear of numbers. What makes the brain freeze up when calculating hard sums?
Mathemacomics. Q: How many infinitesimals does it take to change a light bulb? A: Just one, but it won't change very much.
Why are Google's Neural Networks Making these Brain-Melting Images?
Big universe, big data, astronomical opportunity. The future of astronomy might not be in acquiring new data, but in mining the old.
Hubble spies a planet boiled away by its star, forming a gigantic megacomet.
Through a Satellite, Darkly: A New Cold War In The Void Of Space.
Data Mining Reveals the Surprising Factors Behind Successful Movies. (Spoiler: it’s not hiring top box office stars.)
Deflategate and the limits of science.
This Scientist Has a Hidden Warehouse of 4-Dimensional Klein Bottles.
Why yes, there is booze aboard the International Space Station, according to “ordinary spaceman” Clayton Anderson.
Step Into Pluto Time With This NASA App: "imagine if your day were six times longer than it is now."
This Electrode Housing Box Should Provide NASA with the Best Free Fall Ever Recorded.
Pluto's Moons Offer Secrets and Threaten Danger.
How to Fix a Flat on the Moon and Other Tips From NASA’s Lunar Rover Guide.
MAVEN results find Mars behaving like a rock star. "Mars sports a 'Mohawk' of escaping atmospheric particles at its poles, 'wears' a layer of metal particles high in its atmosphere, and lights up with aurora after being smacked by solar storms."
Dissolving Surface May Form Titan's Lakes.
Ceres Gets Weirder With Pyramid and More Bright Spots.
Why Scientists Have Been Scared of Space Germs for Almost 50 Years.
Why You Should Thank an Astronomer for Preventing Blindness.
The Beckoning of the Ice Worlds. "I have seen the future of space exploration, and it looks like a cue ball covered with brown scribbles. I am talking about Europa." Related: Diving on Europa? Here's How We Could Penetrate That Ice.
New Reflected Landscapes and Photo Manipulations by Victoria Siemer (above). "Siemer makes use of reflected geometric shapes suspended over gloomy natural landscapes shrouded in fog and clouds resulting in portal-like mirrors."
Obsessively Check the Calorie Count of Your Food. "You can make a calorimeter at home, and measure calories with just a couple of stands, a graduated cylinder, a good thermometer, and a good scale. (And by disabling the fire alarms in your building.)"
How noisy is your Los Angeles neighborhood? A Silver Lake mathematician might have your answer.
You Can Jump Start Your Car With 12 AA Batteries (But Maybe You Shouldn't).
Paint flung from a spinning rod illustrates the effects of adhesion, surface tension, and centrifugal force.
The Best Way to Map Radiation? Bento Boxes Stuffed With Geiger Counters.
Climactic Table: Temperature-Regulating Furniture stores thermal energy without requiring an external power source, helping maintain room temperatures.
Alleged Patent Troll Thinks it Can Patent the Laws of Physics. "Imagine how rich Sir Isaac Newton would be if he could have patented gravity."
The Science of Giant Combiner Robots: "If a transforming robot is cooler than a regular robot, then what’s cooler than a transforming robot? Why, a bunch of transforming robots that combine together to form one giant robot! So how can we make that happen, and if so, what would happen?"
The Atomkeller Museum in Germany, "an exhibition of atomic history complete with a replica of the test reactors and various other artifacts."
Exposed Water Ice Detected On Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Related: The Art of Science: Comet-Chasing Shoes: "New York based design team Studio SWINE (led by architect Azusa Murakami and artist Alexander Groves) were so inspired by the landing of the Philae probe on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that they wanted to celebrate it by making shoes. Shoes that look like meteorites fallen from space, of course."
When there's meaning in mathematical mistakes: "Many teachers and parents believe that if learners make mistakes in mathematics it means they do not understand, they have not listened, or they have not done enough work. The opposite may actually be true: the learner may be thinking more deeply than we expect. Learner errors and misconceptions are important tools for teachers. They show teachers that the learner is thinking mathematically, even though she does not yet have enough knowledge to produce the correct answer."
The reason it's so darn hard to solve those "viral" math problems for 10-year-olds "Everyone likes math when they’re young. We all like to count. We like playing with blocks and shapes. We all use math daily whether we realize it or not–reading maps, planning routes, calculating tips. I once had a flooring installer tell me he was bad at math while I watched him lay tile. It’s a myth that all these people can’t do math."
Mathematical Art Takes a Fresh Look at Wallpaper.
Economic Theories That Have Changed Us #1: Game Theory! "[John] Von Neumann was an undisputed genius, but he was a mediocre poker player and quickly realised that the probability theory cannot help one win poker games. His great appreciation for sketchy information, second-guessing and unpredictability of poker games laid the foundation of game theory: how poker players can hide information by strategically releasing information through their moves and prompting mistakes from rivals.In other words, he formalised how poker players can “bluff” their rivals by playing a string of strategies that is supposed to deceive their rivals and hide information and finally win the game."
Watch how alligators make water boil with their infrasound mating calls.
Simone Weil on Science, Quantum Theory, and Our Spiritual Values.
How To Make Lava: Lava is powerful -- it's constantly building and rebuilding our world. Like the infamous the ghost island of 1831!