On the latest episode of the Know Brainer Podcast, I chatted with host Christina Ochoa about Self- Experimentation, Time and Identity, and Body Fluids in Art. It's available on iTunes or via Libsyn direct feed for your listening pleasure. And check out prior episodes of this most excellent podcast.
Everything was coming up Rosetta this week as the spacecraft gets ready for the next phase of its exploration of comet 67P: the European Space Agency has identified a suitable site for the perilous landing of its Philae probe, 500 metres from jets that produce comet's tail. The mission aims to discover whether comets were the source of water and amino acids vital for the origin of life on Earth. The Guardian went all out with its coverage including a nifty animation of landing on a comet, as well as an interactive graphic of Rosetta's mission impossible.
The friction coefficient of banana skin and other winners of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes. “Measured frictional coefficient was about 0.07. This was much lower than the value on common materials and similar one on well lubricated surfaces.”
Nickel Retains Its Double Magic Status. Experiments confirm that nickel-78, while rare, is surprisingly stable due to the number of protons and neutrons it contains.
Red Sprites and Green Glow: Two Rare Phenomena Caught on Video.
Postcard from Norway: the Sky Shimmers With Green Fire Following Two Gargantuan Explosions on the Sun. This is What Aurora Borealis Looks Like in Real-Time. Related: Our Planet Dances In The Fire Of The Solar Wind. Also: Why did so few people see Auroras? Finally: Auroras are Quantum Physics in the Sky. Per Matt Strassler:
"Huge energies involving magnetic fields on the Sun have blown particles — the same particles that are of particular significance to this website — into space. Particle physics and atomic physics at the top of the atmosphere lead to the emission of light many miles above the Earth. And the remarkable surprises of quantum mechanics make that light not a bland grey, with all possible colors blended crudely together, but instead a magical display of specific and gorgeous hues, reminding us that the world is far more subtle than our daily lives would lead us to believe."
What Hawking Really Meant: Fermilab physicist Don Lincoln explains the idea of a metastable universe, what it has to do with the Higgs boson, and why we're still in good shape.
A possible sign of dark matter will eventually become clear, according to promising signs from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment. Related: Could Dark Matter Be A Bose-Einstein Condensate? Also: Reinterpreting cold dark matter with new data from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Finding Dark Energy in the Details: The astrophysicist Joshua Frieman seeks to pinpoint the mysterious substance driving the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Like Sassy Teenagers, Atoms Talk Back. Researchers have captured sound from an artificial atom.
A Mathematician (Emanuel Candes) Plays Battleship and Saves Lives. "Candes and his collaborators tell us that if we have a data set with a lot of interdependencies and those interdependencies well distributed across the data set, then if you give him a good random sampling across the data set he can reconstruct the entire data set with a high degree of accuracy."
Using Doom To Design A Room: The program for a classic demon-slaying game is helping construction companies design hospitals and office buildings.
Traffic Physics Can Be Counter-Intuitive: So What Exactly is a 'Road Diet'? "some localities implemented a type of road diet: reconfiguring the four lanes (two in each direction) into three (one each way plus a shared turn lane in the middle). The change dramatically reduced the number of "conflict points" on the road—places where a crash might occur."
Astrophysics at the edge of the Earth: Conducting research at the South Pole takes a unique level of commitment.
Building the Largest Rocket in History Calls for the Largest Tools.
Why the Story of Materials is Really the Story of Civilization. From the stone age to the silicon chip, materials are the fundamental building blocks of culture, argues scientist Mark Miodownik.
Ahoy! There’s science hiding in that fiction! A lesson in cryptography, as embedded in an episode of Stargate. Related: The Physics of the Death Star: How to destroy an Alderaan-sized planet. Also: How Star Trek could solve football's concussion crisis. Bonus: Can You Find Spock By Solving This 1983 Math Problem? "Published in the May 1983 issue of the journal Mathematics Teacher, this amazing math problem challenges students to locate the USS Enterprise's missing first officer—in 50 minutes or less—using compass and straightedge."
The Paradoxes That Define Our Relationship With Science Fiction. Bonus: The Most Feminist Moments in Sci-fi History. Also: Sci-fi writers, scientists imagine the future. A new project pairs science fiction authors with scientists to envision worlds that are both inspiring and achievable.
I Sing the Body Atomic: Nuclear Transformation in the Marvel Universe.
Explore Interstellar's Universe Before You See the Movie. "Launching today, the team behind Interstellar have crafted a game capitalizing on the physics and space travel featured in the film. You play as the Endurance — the space-warping ship of Interstellar — tasked with completing collection-based missions using finely-tuned physics and gravity simulations."
Invisibility cloaks closer to becoming a reality thanks to 'digital metamaterials'.
Superstrong and Lightweight Nanostrutured Ceramics for Building Better Planes and Batteries.
Phase-Change Materials Set New Speed Limit For Silicon. Such materials "are capable of reversibly switching between two structural phases with different electrical states – one crystalline and conducting and the other glassy and insulating – in billionths of a second."
Falco Solitons: Physics at the Pool. "if you feel like performing your own particle collision experiments, there’s no need for a bulky proton accelerator; grab a friend and a pair of plates, find an empty swimming pool, and watch a ballet of motion unfold amid the shifting patterns of sunlight on the bottom."
Sharks are Accidentally Good at Math. Andy Reynolds, a bioresearcher at Rothamsted Research,found that sharks aren’t natural mathletes, "they just don’t like being pushed around by ocean turbulence."
Liquid Metal Flows Into Different Forms, T-1000-Style. The alloy can even take a humanoid form.
Uncovering Hidden Text on a 500-Year-Old Map That Guided Columbus: "it’s packed with text historians would love to read—if only the faded paint and five centuries of wear and tear hadn’t rendered most of it illegible." Related: How Technology, Not Shovels, Revealed What Lies Beneath Stonehenge. Also: Check out this BBC documentary on Stonehenge. Also: see how people Visualized Stonehenge in medieval manuscripts.
The Calculus of Contagion: In the battle against disease, the difference between a raging epidemic and a passing fever comes down to a single number. Related: The Mathematics of Ebola Trigger Stark Warnings: Act Now or Regret It.
The Quantum Truth Seeker: Watching particles fly through an interferometer might help to unveil higher-order weirdness behind quantum theory.
New Football Helmets Take a Page From Nuclear-Plant Safety.
Friction Isn't Always What You Think It Is. The introductory physics model for friction is just a model. It doesn't always work - here is an example of where it breaks.
How Network Theory Is Revealing Previously Unknown Patterns in Sport. Analysing the network of passes between soccer players reveals that one of the world’s most successful teams plays an entirely different type of football to every other soccer team on the planet.
The Future of Robotics is Soft and Practically Indesctructible. "Fire, snow, water – and being crushed by a car – are no problem for a new “bio-inspired” robot. robot. Related: Cool Experiment Puts Asimov's First Law Of Robotics To The Test.
Artificial 'squid skin' nanophotonics project yields vivid color display.
How did evolution optimize circadian clocks? Some circadian clocks optimize regularity and flexibility to adjust to day/night cycles.
Ambulance-Chasing Large Hadron Collider's Collisions. "[W]hen some recent data disagrees with the Standard Model of particle physics and researchers come up with an interpretation in terms of new physics, they are called ambulance chasers."
Astronomers Discover a Potential Thorne–Zytkow Object, A Neutron Star Inside of a Red Supergiant.
Scientists Are Studying Radiation Exposure From The 1945 Trinity Blast.
CERN physicist John Ellis On The Ascent Of The Standard Model.
Superfast Data Using Radio Waves Rather Than Optics.
Cosmic Ray Delays Spacecraft Headed for Dwarf Planet.
Animated Life: Seeing the Invisible: this animated documentary celebrates the 17th century scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, whose discovery of microbes would change our view of the biological world.
"Honeybee" robots replicate swarm behavior. Computer scientists have created a low-cost, autonomous micro-robot which in large numbers can replicate the behavior of swarming honeybees.
Golfer Gets Hole-in-One, Wins Trip into Space.
A Galaxy of Tatooines: About half of all exoplanets in the galaxy are in binary star systems.
Neutrino scattering could explain discrepancies in measurements of muon spin.
The Future of Cryptography Is ... Outdated Nokia Phones? Physicists create cryptographically-secure random numbers using only a discontinued Nokia phone and the physical properties of light.
This Ant-Sized Radio Is Powered by the Messages It Receives: “One of the benefits of going to high frequencies is that the wavelengths get smaller and you can put the antennas on the chip itself."
More in Pilot Waves: Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy.
The sciences can be a sanctuary for LGTB individuals, but biases may still discourage many from coming out.
The View From Nowhere: Cartography's Heart of Darkness. "It is not enough that the map is right; it must also be right in the right way.
Geometric Dichroic Glass Installations by Artist Chris Wood. Per Colossal: "Wood works with colored glass to create colorful, prism-like mazes and mandalas of light installed vertically on walls. Her most common material is dichroic (meaning ‘two color’) glass, a material invented by NASA in the 1950s that has a special optical coating meant to reflect certain wavelengths of light while letting others through. At some angles the glass appears completely reflective, somewhat like a mirror of gold."
What happens when you dunk a man in a Menthos suit into a pool of Diet Coke? This!
Advanced LIGO should be ready by next summer.
"When people ask me how I can be a math major and still say I’m not good with numbers, I’m like ‘here, let me draw you a picture.’"
Congress Doesn't Have the Power to Make Asteroid Mining Legal.
DOE watchdog to look into why Los Alamos scientist was fired.
Quasicrystals and the Whimsy of Nature, 32 years later.
Peter Higgs: A Pioneer as Elusive as His Particle.
Five sigma and all that: Why do particle physicists demand 99.9999% certainty before they believe a new discovery? And what do you do if you can’t be that sure?
'Smart material' chin strap harvests energy from chewing.
Meticulous Visual Recreation Of Moon Landing Shows It Wasn't A Hoax.
Biology is inherently, inescapably noisy. Why identical twins aren’t identical.
Strange little galaxy hosts enormous black hole, astronomers say.
Nat Geo Wild's Radical Approach to Science TV: Being Truthful.
The 25 Greatest Scientific Hoaxes In History.
Finding the Universe's first atoms: How we discovered what the Universe was made of when it first formed.
Sean Carroll asks: how much cosmic inflation is likely to have occurred in the early universe.
Behind airplanes in flight, water vapor from engine exhaust may condense in the wingtip vortices, forming contrails.
New study helps uncover mechanism behind solid-solid phase transitions.
Circus of Science: "Account books might seem terribly dull but, as I’ve been discovering, they can provide some useful insights into the detailed, colourful (and strange and occasionally hilarious) daily life of eighteenth century London in and around Crane Court, the [Royal] Society’s headquarters at the time."
Quantum Short 2014 Film Contest Accepting Entries.
Smarter Every Day answers a common question: Why Can't I Put Metal in the Microwave? "We know we’re not supposed to put metal in the microwave, but why? We don’t microwave silverware but what about Hot Pocket wrappers? They have metal on the inside. How does that work?"