It was the Nobel Prize announcement that launched a thousand "How many physicists does it take to change a light bulb?" jokes on twitter. (I know, we all thought we were being totes original.) The Nobel Prize committee awarded this year's prize in physics to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, who produced blue light beams from semi-conductors in the early 1990s -- i.e., blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Until then, we could create red and green light, but blue remained elusive. The Nobel-Prize-Winning Tech Helped Enabled Mobile Computing, Highly Efficient Lighting. The blue LED might save more energy than just about any other technology. But there's a dark side to LED lighting too, according to New Scientist.
It might not sound impressive, but the physics behind it — and the power of its applications — are literally world-changing. Weird factoid: One of the Nobel Prize-winning physicists only got $200 for his invention. Chad Orzel offered a handy background explainer on the physics of blue LEDs. Also, apparently blue LEDs are good for prizes, but bad for insects: "traps placed near LEDs captured 48% more insects than traps near sodium-vapor lights."
Depending on your perspective, physics also horned in on this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Improving Microscopes. Eric Betzig of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, US, Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Germany, and WE Moerner of Stanford University, US, shared the prize for ‘the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy,’ which made it possible to see single molecules.
Even though Alfred Nobel was an inventor, fundamental discoveries have won more Nobel Prizes. And maybe that's OK, says science writer George Johnson. There was also the usual post-game analysis on all the deserving scientists who haven't won. For instance, National Geographic highlighted 10 Huge Discoveries Without a Nobel Prize.
Women were sadly lacking representation in this year's crop of Nobel Prizes (excepting the Peace Price) -- and no woman has won the physics prize in over 50 years, despite the fact that there are plenty of excellent candidates. Slate weighed in with a list of several Women Who Deserve a Nobel Prize in Physics. "The women on this list have collectively received almost every honor available to scientists. But despite the recent proliferation of scientific awards, including some with purses larger than the Nobel, the prize established in 1895 by the Swedish dynamite inventor still carries unrivaled cachet both within science and among the public. It’s time for the Nobel Committee to recognize some of the great women who have pushed their way into a nearly all-male world and, in the process, pushed physics forward. Give some of them the prize already!"
On the lighter side, here's What It’s Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security, courtesy of 2011 Physics Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt, who brought his medal with him to show his grandmother in Fargo, North Dakota and ran afoul of the TSA on his way back to Australia.
They said, ‘What’s in the box?’
I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.
So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’
I said, ‘gold.’
And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’
‘The King of Sweden.’
‘Why did he give this to you?’
‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’
At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”
In Sweden You'll Find the World's Largest Scale Model of the Solar System.
Organic LEDs Could Make Whole Ceilings Glow. Lighting Sheets Would Use Half as Much Power as Lightbulbs
Large Hadron Collider: The big reboot. As the Large Hadron Collider prepares to come back to life after a two-year hiatus, physicists are gearing up to go beyond the standard model of particle physics.
The Math of Whips, Chains and Ropes: Some people in applied mathematics are looking at the physics behind so-called viscous threads and elastic rods.
The Butterfly Effect and Data Analysis: Predicting Tsunamis from Ripples.
What Should You Use to Build a Cashteroid? (A giant pile of money that is so large it could be treated like an asteroid.)
How much damage can a 6-year-old possibly do? An analysis of the cost of raising a child like Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes." "In total, Calvin caused an estimated $15,955.50 worth of damage over the duration of the comic strip."
The Physics Of Doing an Ollie on a Skateboard. Or, The Science of Why Aatish Bhatia Can’t Skate.
Majorana particles: Completely new type of particle is observed for first time. What does that mean, fundamentally?
Galaxy's Guardians Make the Case: Upgrade Pluto Back to A Planet Already. Eight years ago it was relegated to dwarf planet status. But Harvard astrophysicists are arguing that being small shouldn’t disqualify it.
Know Brainer podcast: Sean Carroll chats with host Christina Ochoa about Michael Frayn's play, Copenhagen, learning, and complexity.
Beautiful Chemistry: Amazing Chemical Reactions Filmed with a 4K UltraHD Camera. It's is a new collaboration between Tsinghua University Press and University of Science and Technology of China that seeks to make chemistry more accessible and interesting to the general public.
Time Dilation And Quantum Electrodynamics - Einstein Wins Again!
A new measurement of dark matter in the Milky Way has revealed there may be half as much as previously thought.
Life's Quantum Crystal Ball: Does the ability to predict the future—perhaps with quantum help—define the fundamental difference between living and inanimate matter?
Making sci-fi teleportation sound less crazy.
Scenes from the "Real World" Where Math is Useful. "A four-dimensional hypercube and a six-dimensional analog of a torus are gossiping about a good friend of yours, an equiangular polygon undergoing a dilation. “Heh, I’d like to project into that plane!” the hypercube says, and they both laugh with cruel mirth."
The S-I-R Model: A Closer Look at the Math Used to Predict Horrifying Epidemics.
The Quest To Harness Wind Energy At 2,000 Feet. High-altitude wind contains enough energy to power the planet. A Boston start-up wants to be the first to bring it down to Earth.
Fantastically Wrong: The Inventor of the Airliner Also Invented This Hilariously Absurd 'Science.': "Lawsonomy teaches that energy doesn’t exist. Like, at all."
The End of Stars - Soon, some scientists say, we’ll only be able to see the Milky Way in five different states.
How to Make a Black Hole: Gamma-ray bursts are thought to be the final step by which stars sink into oblivion.
What are Gravitons and Why Can't We See Them?
There are no free quarks: Other particles — electrons, neutrinos, photons and more — can exist on their own. But quarks never will. Here’s why.
Why Do I Study Physics? "Maybe I’m not even here, and other crazy, beautiful stuff physics told me."
Addressing the Kinematics and Dynamics of One-Dimensional Motion: Jumping in the July 1970 issue of the American Journal of Physics. "[Elmer] Offenbacher relates a famous photo of Robert Oppenheimer jumping for Philippe Halsman's Jump Book (1952) which was a book by the great photographer of images of people jumping. And jump Oppenheimer did--one of the best jumps in the book, a jump reaching for something with an outstretched finger, coat open and flying, a big effort, jumping for something.... [T]he notion of jumping and relating it to physics with a picture of Oppie got students to think about the kinematics and dynamics of one-dimensional motion."
Physicist Brian Cox: "Why’ questions always fail, scientifically. Why does that object fall to the ground? Because of the force of gravity. Why is the gravity there? Because of the curvature of space-time. Why does it…?” Cox rolls a hand in the air, suggesting endless questions. “In the end you always get to I don’t know. Science is really about ‘how’.” He takes a bite of his pastry. “But with cosmology you do tend to start to touch on these ‘why’ questions."
The Artist of the Unbreakable Code: Composer Edward Elgar still has cryptographers playing his tune. Related: The Music of Science: in a steel-lined room in South San Francisco, some acute minds conjure up trillions of cells to mass-produce antibodies.
How the Ansari X Prize Altered the Trajectory of Human Spaceflight.
The Colbert Report Honors Sally Ride, America's First Woman In Space.
Thinking about getting a telescope but unsure what to get? Read this helpful guide.
This Is What Happens If You Wear Metal In An MRI Machine.
Of Bio-Hairpins and Polymer-Spaghetti: A spotlight on how entangled polymers flow and soften.
These researchers studied sidewinders to build a better cave-exploring snake robot, that won't slip on sand. One named his snake robot Elizabeth after his wife, and a second snake robot? It was lost on a place. I kid you not.
A new video series about scientists at CERN pulls back the curtain on what it’s like to be a physicist.
Sandia Labs' multimillion-amp pulse generator, the Z machine, makes progress toward nuclear fusion.
Generator Produces 25,000 Watts without Consuming Fuel; runs on waste heat.
A New Subatomic Particle -- dubbed Ds3*(2860)ˉ --Will Help Explain How Atoms Cling Together.
The Physics of Fake Videos. Was that awesome video real or fake? How could you tell? Well, from a physics perspective there are at least three methods to use in an analysis that will tell us if a video is fake.
These beautiful works of art were made using algorithms.
"T-Rays" Electronics to shed light on nuclear fusion. In the race to secure clean energy in the future, engineers are reinventing a piece of technology which has so far only been used in labs to diagnose cancer, detect explosives, and even analyse grand artistic masterpieces. Related: How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment.
What It Felt Like to Test the First Submarine Nuclear Reactor - Sixty years after the birth of the “nuclear navy,” looking back at a first-person account.
Los Alamos lab’s safety lapses faulted for radioactive leak.
A Quantum Walk Toward Artificial Intelligence.
A Fascinating Profile of a German Man Who Makes Playable Records Out of Chocolate.
Build Your Own Fractal with MegaMenger! "A Menger sponge is a fractal that sits in three-dimensional space."
Why We Have To Stop 'Girlifying' Engineering. “We have to stop treating engineering like a hated vegetable, to be snuck in under a thick coating of sickly sauce, and talk to girls about engineering honestly and in a way that they conveys how relevant and exciting it actually is.”
How to Make Mathematically Precise Pancakes. Per io9: "For the past few months, "illustrator, math teacher, and professional dad" Nathan Shields has been perfecting the design on a pan-mounted apparatus that lets his family make spirographic pancakes (aka "spirocakes")."