It was a big week for physics in the movies, with the premiere of Interstellar, and the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. That translates into lots of pixels commenting on the science behind the films. For instance, Interstellar's Black Hole was Once Seen As Pure Speculation. Related: Learn more about the Physics of Wormholes. The fastest way to make interstellar travel a reality might not be only science fiction for long. Also, the Bad Astronomer weighed in with what the movie got wrong about science. -- although Kip Thorne, who dreamed up the concept and consulted on the film, swears he only ringed during one scene. For CosmoQuest, Thorne also discussed how Carl Sagan "opened up a wormhole." Anne Hathaway described her understanding of cosmology as "a grain of sand on Kip Thorne's beach of knowledge." Also: When Caltech's John Preskill met with Steven Spielberg to talk about Interstellar. Bonus: When Should You Take Your Bathroom Breaks During Interstellar?
If the Hawking biopic is more your speed, Here's all The Science that made Stephen Hawking famous. Also, check out this Q&A with director James Marsh. Actor Eddie Redmayne, who plays Hawking, told Vulture everything he learned while working on the film, and also chatted with Charlie Jane Anders of i09.
Information continued to trickle out concerning the tragic SpaceShip Two Crash last week (not to mention the Antares rocket accident). Some good news: test pilot Peter Siebold defied the odds to survive the deadly crash. Initially, speculation focused on the new fuel being used for SpaceShip Two, but Sir Richard Branson declared that the "self-proclaimed experts" were wrong when they asserted that an explosion brought down the Virgin Galactic space-plane. US investigators made it clear that there was no explosion; the rocket engine didn't cause the crash. Rather, investigators were focusing on the tail booms; specifically, the spaceship "feathering" device seems to have deployed too soon, investigators say, at inappropriate speed without being commanded. (If you're curious, here's more on how those feathered tails work.) Specifically, the co-pilot appears to have pulled lever at wrong time as the ship approached Mach 1.2. There was also discussion on how the fatal crash of SpaceShipTwo might end Sir Richard Branson's vision of the future, but not the commercial space flight industry. Or perhaps the real problem behind Virgin Galactic’s flight test disaster is bad business. The New Yorker opted for historical context: Sir Walter Raleigh and the Uncertain Future of Space Travel.
There were lots of black-hole related items this week. Simulated Black Hole Collision Shreds The Milky Way. Luckily for us, nothing like this is actually happening nearby. Related: Mistaken Identity Explains How G2 Survived a Black Hole. Lesson Learned: If You Want to Survive a Black Hole Encounter, Bring a Friend. Also: Like the dog that didn't bark, the black hole that didn't blaze reveals a big, hidden truth. Latest research suggests enormous black hole drove two binary stars to merge into one. Finally, Mysterious Missing Pulsars May Have Gotten Wrapped in Dark Matter and Turned Into Black Holes.
Midterm elections took place on Tuesday, which means that the U.S. Senate science panels will have new leadership in the wake of Republican takeover. Related: Science in a Republican Senate—The good, the bad & the ugly. Also: Republicans, meet science—"It’s time to wise up and stop wasting all the knowledge we have."
The cold beauty of mathematics. Per the Guardian: "For the past decade, Simon Beck has been decorating the Alps with his stunning mathematical drawings, created by running in snowshoes across freshly laid snow. Each image takes him up to 11 hours to make and covers an area about 100m x 100m, requiring him to travel up to 25 miles as he marks out the pattern."
In a Multiverse, What Are the Odds? Testing the multiverse hypothesis requires measuring whether our universe is statistically typical among the infinite variety of universes. But infinity does a number on statistics. Related: More on Many Interacting Worlds: Ghost universes kill Schrödinger's quantum cat.
Experimental Plasma Wakefield Accelerator Boosts Electrons On A Wave.
Diamonds made from peanut butter might reveal the history of planet Earth: You had me at "diamonds made from peanut butter," BBC.
Phase transitions: steam engines, Dark Matter and the Higgs. How the physics of the industrial revolution now connects cosmology and particle physics. Related: Phase transitions between states of matter are more complicated than scientists thought.
Live Images from the Nano-Cosmos: Researchers observed how buckyballs arrange themselves into ultra-smooth layers.
The simple physics behind a horrible tragedy: A tape measure with the energy of a 0.45 Colt bullet.
Physics students calculated that impact of being rescued by the Flash is more damaging than being hit by a car.
How Gravity Explains Why Time Never Runs Backward. "According to Mercati and his colleagues, there was no special, initial state at all. Instead, a state that gets time pointing forward arises naturally from a universe dictated by gravity. The researchers make this argument in a paper recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
How Time Is Made: "the USNO's Master Clock operates much like grandfather clocks do: with pendulums." Related: New Clock May End Time as We Know It. "But this new clock has run into a big problem: This thing we call time doesn't tick at the same rate everywhere in the universe. Or even on our planet."
Researchers create internally transparent Prius. "Japanese researchers Susumu Tachi, Masahiko Inami & Yuji Uema from the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University have come up with an innovative camera/projection system that uses half-mirrors and retroreflectors to provide a really remarkable simulation of a glass car."
Professor Mark Weislogel likes to drop goldfish from buildings. Also: Brian Cox visits the world's biggest vacuum chamber to see what happens when a bowling ball and a feather are dropped together under the conditions of outer space. Take a gander, and then read Rhett Allain's take on how that video could be even more awesome.
Meanwhile, at CERN, ATLAS seeks invisible particles with top quarks. Related: Where the Hunt for Missing Antimatter and New Physics Are One and the Same. Also: CERN Council selects its next Director-General -- and it's Fabiola Gianotti, the first woman to hold that position. Bonus: Technicolor Force Alternative: Did We Find The Higgs Particle Or Something Else?
The Next Big Thing: Surfboard Collects Oceanic Data While You Ride Waves with water-monitoring surfboard fins.
Schrödinger's Cat meets Save the Cat: what if thought experiments followed three-act structure?
Photographer Paulo Stagnaro uses milk and food coloring in his series Milky WaY. "Surface tension, diffusion, and intentional mixing create abstract and ephemeral portraits of fluid motion."
Kitchen Table Physics: The Universe in One Swell Formuloop.
A Complexity Researcher Offers a Rather Gloomy Look at the Ebola Outbreak.
The Great Sausage Duel of 1865. "It looks like the story of the sausages is made up, as it only becomes widely reported some 30 years after it allegedly occurred. Earlier accounts of the duel do not mention the sausages at all, and Bismarck’s correspondence tells a different story. It seems like a story that was created some time later to tell a story of a scientific underdog outwitting a bully of a soldier."
What Was the World's First Triboluminescent Technology?
The Science of Fire-Breathing: a process involving the careful mixing of fuel and air.
Recreating Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" solar system (podcast).
The Accidental Beauty of Flight Paths of the planes that bring us from airport A to airport B. Per Big Think: "Alexey Papulovsky and Nikolay Guryanov, two Moscow-based software engineers ... collected over a billion data points from a single month's worth of flight information on Plane Finder (i.c. October 2012), and plotted them out on a searchable, scalable world map. The result is called Contrailz, after the condensation trails momentarily tracing the flight paths of planes."
The ‘Smoking Gun’ of the Big Bang. If you’ve been wondering what B-mode polarization is, or how it tells us about gravitational waves from inflation, wonder no more.
John Bell submitted the paper about his inequality to Physics 50 years ago this week. Celebrate by entangling someone.
Solving The Mystery Of Where Quantum Mechanics Come From - string field theory could be the foundation.
The Quantum Mechanics Of Fingerprints On Your Water Glass.
New Research Reveals Ominous Future for Universe. Is dark energy feeding on dark matter, potentially leading to a cold, empty universe?
Plasma physicists uncover the science of space weather. Until now, scientists had not been able to figure out how magnetic reconnection converts magnetic energy into the explosive particle energy.
How to improve running to peak performance using mathematical equations.
The rise of astrostatistics: Astrophysicists and cosmologists are turning to statisticians to help them analyze an ever-increasing deluge of data.
The Future of Plutonium: Seventy years ago, researchers created weapons-grade plutonium for atomic bombs.
The Mathematical Reason All Hipsters Look the Same: "a group of interacting individuals that attempts to counter the majority ends up doing the same thing because there's not enough time to forecast what everyone else is going to do to be 'different.'"
How To Repurpose Your Old Radio To Listen To the Leonid Meteor Shower Nov. 17 through Nov. 18.
"Even stars can get lost in space." As many as half of all stars reside outside of galaxies, study finds.
Trekkies Rejoice: Star Trek Communicators Are Finally Here.
"All About That Space" is A Sci-Fi Parody of the hit Meghan Trainor Song. Per Laughing Squid: "The video acts as an open letter to director J.J. Abrams, pleading that he do as good a job reviving the Star Wars franchise with Episode VII as he did with his first Star Trek film." (Bonus: another Star Wars Parody: It's All About That Base, No Rebels.)
An Art of Air and Fire: Brazil’s Renegade Balloonists.
fMRI Data Reveals the Number of Parallel Processes Running in the Brain.
Here's what a nuclear bomb detonating in space looks like.
How far does gravity reach? Despite it’s reputation as an “infinite range” force, the realities of our Universe place a limit on its reach.
Crocheted versions of the five Platonic solids, by June Gilbank.
Birdsongs and People-Songs Share the Same Math.
Almost Perfect: Cosmic Music and Mathematical Ratio.
The Raven's Chamber (sculpture by Art Donovan) resembles a mad scientist's alchemical apparatus.
Humans have innate grasp of probability. Study of indigenous Maya people finds probabilistic reasoning does not depend on formal education.
Higher Homotopy Groups Are Spooky. "Two things are homotopic to each other if you can drag one of them onto the other without cutting anything."
The Contenders. Using an experimental online game, video gamers solve a biological puzzle that has stumped scientists for years.
Longhorn beetle inspires photonic crystal ink to combat counterfeiting.
Origin of Mysterious Portuguese Mathematical and Geographical Tiles Revealed.
'Seven Hours of Terror': Harpooning a Comet Isn't Easy, But It's About to Happen. Related: ESA Releases Another Adorable Rosetta Video, Prepares for First Ever Soft Landing On Comet's Surface. Learn more about the Surreal Task of Landing on a Comet. Also: Rosetta's Philae Comet Landing Site Named 'Agilkia.'
Optimal Airline Boarding: "The first person in line should be in the back row, window seat (on either side of the plane). The next person would be in a window seat, two rows up. The line should proceed this way, skipping a row between each window-seated passenger all the way to the front of the plane. It would repeat this on the other side, then start filling the window seats in the empty rows between those already filled. The pattern repeats for the middle seats on each side, then the aisles." Related: Airlines Can't Use Fast-Boarding Algorithms Because Humans Can't Follow Directions.
At the Very Bottom of Reality Is Planck's Constant.
The intersection of art and science: Statistician Edward Tufte turns scientific notations into artwork.
A New Acoustic Instrument That Creates Sound Like a Digital Synthesizer. "The Yabahar can be played in a variety of different ways using mallets or with a bow, relying on a combination of two drum-like membranes, long springs, and a tall fretted neck to create music."
Meet the Bartender Who's Using Science to Reinvent the Cocktail.
A trapezee troupe embodies plant-soil feedbacks to win this year's Dance Your Ph.D. contest. Among the category winners, MIT's Hans Rinderknecht won the physics category for his dance about nuclear fusion. Enjoy!