The much-ballyhooed Large Hadron Collider restart hit a snag this week, thanks to an electrical short discovered over the weekend, apparently caused by a metal particle. (Hey, it's the most complicated machine ever built! It's sensitive! Remember that infamous baguette that knocked it off kilter back in 2009?) Engineers and technicians may need to warm up and recool a section of the accelerator before they can introduce particles. As of yesterday, physicists were narrowing in on the problem, but it's not yet back on track. Related: Could the LHC make an Earth-killing black hole? Spoiler: NO, not a chance. Now find out why. "The world is safe. At least, from physics."
Physics Madness: The Supersymmetric Sixteen. Which physics machine will reign supreme? Your vote decides. Related: The Science of Basketball: a guide to what science says about basketball from bracket choices to injury prevention.
Yesterday, a successful liftoff launched NASA's planned longest-ever manned mission. And it comes with a Twin Paradox: Astronaut Twins Begin Unprecedented One-Year Study, and Scott Kelly will return from a year in space both older and younger than his twin brother (who remains Earth-bound). Relativity!
Doing astronomy with neutrinos at IceCube. The nearly massless particles could tell us a lot if we could listen.
What Are Black Hole Firewalls? This video accompanies a cover story by UC-Santa Barbara string theorist Joe Polchinski in the current issue of Scientific American: Black Hole “Firewalls” Could Change Physics Forever. Also check out my 2012 article for Quanta.
Designing RoboKitties that can land on their feet! The physics of cat-turning has a long proud history.
Could Black Widow Really Snag Cap’s Shield on a Motorcycle?
Is Gravity Time's Archer? "A new model argues the forces between particles in the early universe loosed time's arrow, creating temporal order from chaos."
When Does Quantum Mechanics Become Classical Physics? "A new study in Physical Review Letters has an answer, thanks to a fiber-based nonlinear process that allowed physicists to observe how, and under what conditions, classical physical behavior emerges from the quantum world."
The physics of a falling slinky. "A slinky behaves in ways that might surprise you, unless you have really, really thought through the physics of it."
How Fish Feel: Physicists investigate the structure and function of the lateral line in fish.
Do Tires Affect Gas Mileage? "Underinflated tires on a car deform a lot more than properly inflated tires."
The Math of Shuffling Cards: How much shuffling does it take to randomize a deck of cards?
Finally! A Cocktail Glass Fit for Space Martinis! "The glass would use an innovative "groove system" that would keep fluids under control, and only release them when someone takes a drink."
Science, Gaudí, Barcelona: "The [upside down!] model of the unfinished church at Colonia Güell is made out of strings and little weights. The weights pull the string into the shape of the final building." The 17th-century English scientist Robert Hooke phrased it best: "As hangs the flexible chain, so but inverted will stand the rigid arch." That's from my 2007 post on catenary curves in architecture.
Fascinating Video of Droplets Dancing and Behaving in Peculiar Ways Because of Small ‘Internal Tornados’. Per Laughing Squid: "The video is based on the work of Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. Prakash and his team recently published a paper in Nature titled 'Vapour-mediated sensing and motility in two-component droplets' about the movement of droplets of propylene glycol and water."
A Scientist Bought the Wrong Brand of Kitty Litter, Caused a Nuclear Accident. "Kitty litter is used as a stabilizing agent in nuclear storage—silicates in cat litter stabilize radioactive nitrate salts. If the salts aren’t stabilized before they dry out, they can eventually overheat and release dangerous gases." Lesson: don't buy organic litter for your nuclear waste storage.
An astonishing 3-D printer inspired by James Cameron's T-1000 Terminator.
Building shape in Canberra, Australia, inspires new material discovery. "Physicists inspired by the radical shape of a Canberra building have created a new type of material which enables scientists to put a perfect bend in light"
The Waves of the Future May Bend Around Metamaterials.
It’s a sci-fi trope, but are “beings of pure energy” really possible? A Rutgers physicist speculates.
This week in speculative science: Spacecraft Traveling Close to Light Speed Should Be Visible With Current Technology, Say Engineers. Relativistic spacecraft must interact with the cosmic microwave background in a way that produces a unique light signature. And that means we should be able to spot any nearby, according to a new analysis.
More in Speculative Science: Physicists Describe New Class of Dyson Sphere. Physicists have overlooked an obvious place to search for shell-like structures constructed around stars by advanced civilizations to capture their energy.
Even more in speculative science: Fact or Fiction?: Did Dark Matter Killed the Dinosaurs.
New Study Suggests We're Approaching The 'Big Crunch' -- if by "approaching" you mean "billions of years." And note that the whole notion of a "Big Crunch" is very much a matter of debate among cosmologists.
Einstein undergoing fission (a particular philosophical viewpoint): "Such a scenario is examined by Dr. Wolfgang Schwarz of the Australian National University, who ponders a fissionable Einstein in a recent paper for the journal Mind (October 2014)."
Graphene allows strange form of ice to occur at room temperature - And it may explain some of the unusual behaviors of water. Related: Science Has Now Created Square Ice: "until now only 17 different phases, or forms of ice have been observed on a molecular level. New research out of the U.K. suggests there might be an 18th form under very specific conditions."
Bizarre Bulge Found on Ganymede, Solar System's Largest Moon.
Why Cold Cities Have More Exploding Manhole Covers.
Collapsing Physics: "The idea is that the wavefunction of particles can undergo spontaneous collapse, but in the case of individual particles, the odds of this happening are slim, so on the microscopic level you should see the same sort of things that standard quantum mechanics predicts. But when you bring lots of particles together in a macroscopic object, the probability of collapse shoots up — and hence they behave classically."
Better ‘cosmic candles’ to illuminate dark energy. Using a newly identified set of supernovae, researchers have found a way to measure distances in space twice as precisely as before.
How come every galaxy isn’t consumed by the black hole at its center? They're not really cosmic vacuum cleaners.
"This fantastic music video by Kim Pimmel is a beautiful merger of art and fluid dynamics. Using household goods (and some slightly more exotic ferrofluid), the video shows how mesmerizing diffusion, buoyancy, Marangoni flow, and other fluid effects can be up close."
No, you cannot test quantum gravity with X-ray super-radiance. "Just because it’s something with quantum and something with gravity doesn’t mean it’s quantum gravity."
How To Think About Quantum Mechanics, part 4: Quantum indeterminism as an anomaly. The classical limit of quantum mechanics should yield probability distributions, not individual trajectories.
Solved: Fermi-Pasta-Ulam problem, which unites heat flow, ocean waves & the arrow of time. "This system, famous among mathematicians and physicists, was introduced by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Enrico Fermi, John Pasta, Stanislaw Ulam, and Mary Tsingou as a means to study how heat is conducted in solids and metals."
Quantum Bio-Robots Are Probably the Tiniest Cyborgs in Existence. "NERD, or nano-electro-robotic device, functions as a humidity sensor, which is only a little bit disappointing."
How to turn a chocolate bar into a puzzle game.
How particle accelerator maths helped me fix my Wi-Fi. "The things I do for my housemates' downloading habit..."
Playing with math: What will change if computers prove their own theorems?
The Simple, Elegant Algorithm That Makes Google Maps Possible. "a good algorithm is like a fleeting, damning snapshot into the very soul of a problem" Related: Learning Algorithms by Visualizing Algorithms: VisoAlgo is "a suite of line-by-line algorithm/data structure visualizations."
See Where Pop Culture (Fictional) Scientists Fall on the Mad/Genius Scale.
These Are the Most Beautiful Science Labs in the World.
Students are Building the World's Largest Telescope. "It detects cosmic rays, and it doesn't look anything like a telescope. But still...SCIENCE!"
The 315-Year-Old Science Experiment: How counting sunspots unites the past and future of science.
Hydrogen Bomb Physicist’s Memoir Runs Afoul of Energy Department. Related: Italian physicist's book on Einstein's relativity theory becomes surprise hit. Sette Brevi Lezioni di Fisica (Seven Brief Lessons in Physics), by Carlo Rovelli, promoted alongside Fifty Shades of Grey in Italian bookstores.
Do stars have a sound? A new study says they might.
How long would it take you to fall through Earth?
Pulling back the curtain on the Universe with the James Webb Telescope.
Squid-inspired invisibility stickers could help you evade detection in the dark.
Fact or Fiction?: Dark Matter Killed the Dinosaurs. Discuss.
How to Tell the Difference Between Evil Parallel-Universe You and the Real You.
Band Names for Your Physics Professor’s Midlife Crisis. I liked "Harmonic Motion," but the others were kinda 'meh'. So I asked Twitter to weigh in. Notably suggestions included Ahmed and the Femtoseconds, Ultraviolet Catastrophe, MC Squared and the Relatives, Jefferson Laboratory Airplane, The Rossby Waves, Rydberg & the Fat Atoms, Strange Attractors, Asymptotic Freedom, The Renormalization Group, Susy & the Superpositions. The winning suggestion comes from Robert McNees (@mcnees): Baryogenesis (with their prog-rock classic "The Lamb Shift Lies Down on Broadway").
50 years ago this week, someone smuggled a sandwich into space.
Astronaut Sally Ride and the Burden of Being The First: America's woman space pioneer paid a price back on Earth.
Supercut of the Week: The Interstellar Cast Raps About the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, Black Holes, and Relativity in a Remix by Eclectic Method.