It was a big week for science--Nobel Prize week, to be exact. And the question weighing on JenLuc Piquant's mind was, would the physics prize go to LIGO or not? Lots of folks were rooting for LIGO, but the prize went to Michael Kosterlitz, Duncan Haldane, and David J. Thouless instead, "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”
I know many folks are disappointed that LIGO didn't get the physics prize this year, perhaps because the February announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves juuust missed the deadline. But it's pretty much a shoo-in for next year. And topological phases of matter are also very cool and hugely important, i.e., for the future of quantum computing. I wrote about related research for Gizmodo earlier this year: Physicists Create Pseudo-Particles for Error-Free Quantum Computing. See also this January story on successfully tying the first quantum knots.
It's a tough topic to explain to the general public, but courtesy of Vox, here's the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics, explained in 500 words. If you've got a bit more time, Inside Science had the best general reader explainer. At Quartz, an Oxford professor explained this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics in terms a high-school student would understand, while Chad Orzel offered a slightly more technical explanation at Forbes: The Phase Transition That Shouldn't Happen. And here's a fun side angle: Some Nobel Prize winners think they’re getting a prank call.
That said, Wired failed big time with this post: Nobel Prize in Physics Goes to Another Weird Thing Nobody Understands. Seriously? This is a prime example of what happens when science writers just throw up their hands in defeat and don't even try to do their jobs. Do better next time, guys.
Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter says his prize-winning scientific breakthrough ‘would not be possible’ today.
The Typical Nobel Prize Winner In Physics: "He’s a white guy who wears glasses. He’s balding. He graduated high school at age 15, and his favorite sport is golf. He is, in fact, John Bardeen." Related: It's been 53 years since a woman won the Nobel Prize in physics. What's the hold up? Also: Gabriel Popkin of Slate thinks One of these women deserved it instead.
All women physicists should jointly win a Nobel Prize for co-discovering a mysterious invisibility field.— Alex Parker (@Alex_Parker) October 4, 2016
Meanwhile, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (which often overlaps with physics) was awarded to Fraser Stoddart, Jean-Pierre Sauvage, and Ben Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines." Per the Washington Post, Stoddart "literally reinvented the wheel on a microscopic scale." Here's a nice explainer about the work in terms a high school student would understand. Related: The Typical Chemistry Nobel Winner Changed After 1980. Also: What's Next For Molecular Machines And The 2016 Nobel Prize In Chemistry?
Hurricane Matthew Is a Nightmare Scenario for Kennedy Space Center, although in the end the Center suffered limited damage. Related: Watch Hurricane Matthew Spin In These Trippy Rainbow Visualizations.
How to Cut Cake Fairly & Finally Eat It Too: an algorithm that can fairly divide a cake among any number of people.
At the bleeding edge of AI: Quantum grocery picking and transfer learning. Computer vision, neural nets, and deep learning are hot topics at UK R&D centers.
Try the 3-D puzzle game that teaches you to optimise quantum computer programs. "The idea behind the game is that a quantum program can power your spacecraft. But the program you have is too big and therefore has to be made smaller using various tools that can refashion it."
The NIST Do-It-Yourself Watt Balance--Made with LEGO® Bricks.
Just how strong is Luke Cage's skin? Kyle Hill at Nerdist did the calculation.
How do superheroes fly? The answer may be dark energy.
Ketchup Physics 101 — The science behind why the ketchup struggle is real.
The first bullet-proof vest was made out of silk–and its inventor was bullied out of the business.
5 Paradoxical Time Travel Stories.
The Beautiful and Complicated Art of Handcrafting Nixie Tubes, cold cathode displays commonly used before LEDs. Per Czech artist Dalibor Farný: "The nixie tube is a vintage display device which had been used until 70s when it was replaced with LED displays. The complex knowledge of manufacture of nixie tubes literally died with tube factory’s engineers, glassblowers and machine operators."
This scientist is using nanotechnology to build a better menstrual pad.
Dark Matter: Did we just hear the most exciting phrase in science? A new analysis shows a surprisingly simple relationship between the way galaxies move, and the distribution of ordinary matter within them. Unexpectedly this seems to hold however much mysterious dark matter they contain. That’s funny. A Natural Law for Rotating Galaxies: What Does This Mean for Dark Matter? Related: In the Dark About Dark Matter: Recent disappointments have physicists looking beyond WIMPs for dark matter particles.
Blinded by the Dark (Energy): Has it remained the same through the universe’s history?
Hunting the Nearly Un-huntable: The MINOS and Daya Bay experiments weigh in on the search for sterile neutrinos.
Lidar studies show an entirely new city lies hidden beneath Cambodia’s jungle.
Nuclear Weapons Tests Can Help Fight Elephant Poaching.
Snap, Crackle, Kale: The Science Of Why Veggies Spark In The Microwave.
Demystifying Spin 1/2: Nice metaphor using toy train set.
You can't solve a problem you don't understand. We need Astrobiology of the Anthropocene.
Failed hunt for Proxima b’s star transit leaves us in the dark.
A *fractal* interactive tree of life.
Fast lab-on-chip detects effects of poison: "It mimicks human metabolism."
Are The Beginning And End Of The Universe Connected?
During a supernova, shock waves moving outward push denser material into less dense plasma and gas.
Is there a place for women in physics? What does that place look like? In physics and in life, choice and possibility play against each other.
Can Game Theory Save Voters from Ourselves (and Donald Trump)?
Why Blind People Are Better at Math.
Meet the mathekniticians - and their amazing woolly maths creations.
Married couple Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer have been knitting and crocheting mathematical images and objects for more than two decades.
STEM Education Is Vital--but Not at the Expense of the Humanities. Politicians trying to dump humanities education will hobble our economy.
Chasing the Sun: Astronomer Annie Maunder achieved many firsts in her lifetime, but her story has slipped from history.
The Green Bank Observatory Is Going Rogue to Stay Up and Running after losing funding.
The splash of a drop (1895); study on the physics and aesthetics of a splashing drop, with some wonderful diagrams.
NASA rethinks approach to Mars exploration. Related: NASA Tests Its MARCO POLO/Mars Pathfinder System on a Simulated Martian Surface.
Meet the New Math, Same as the Old Math: The latest effort to overhaul math and science education offers a fundamental rethinking of the basic structure of knowledge. But will it be given time to work?
What College Physics Students Can Learn from Little Kids.
Voyage of Time, Terrence Malick IMAX film with Brad Pitt narration, is an awesome cosmic meditation. Related: A Trippy Cosmic History Lesson: Scientific American Editors Discuss Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time. Also: The Science Behind Voyage Of Time. Bonus: Einstein's Girl Gia Mora Chats with Voyage of Time’s VFX Supervisor Dan Glass.
The Perfect Marriage: Einstein and...Comics? The shock-haired genius had an alter ego who hung out with superheroes.
With This Smart Microscope, You Can Play Pac-Man With Live Microbes.
Why do we perceive causes and effects, even though the laws of physics don’t work that way? Sean Carroll and Minute Physics team up to explain: