Of course, on the personal front, the big news this week was the release of Sean Carroll's (a.k.a.my beloved spousal unit) The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. And to mark the occasion, the Time Lord wrote a series of blog posts describing each chapter. Part One: Cosmos. Part Two: Understanding. Bayes, bias, and planets of belief. Part Three: Essence, where we learn about quantum field theory and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia. Part Four: Complexity. If the universe is growing ever more disorderly, how did it get so complicated? Part Five: Thinking. Is "subjective experience" a way of talking about physical goings-on in the brain? Part Six: Caring. The universe doesn’t tell us what to do or who do be. We get to decide for ourselves. Bonus: an adapted excerpt from the book in Wired: Thinking About Psychic Powers Helps Us Think About Science.
Me at Gizmodo:
Has the Mystery Behind This Non-Newtonian Fluid Been Solved at Last? "Mixing corn starch and water makes for a crowd-pleasing staple of science demos. The resulting substance looks like a liquid, but hardens instantly when you punch it—in fact, it’s possible to run across a pool of the stuff. Now physicists think they’ve figured out just what’s going on when this unusual material switches from a liquid to a solid, hopefully ending a long-running debate. They described their findings in a new paper in Physical Review Letters."
A Terrifying Interactive Map Visualizes the Devastation of Nuclear Fallout. "The destructive power of nuclear bombs has been seared into our collective memory, thanks to archival images of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There’s the blast itself, and then all the radioactive fallout to contend with. A new interactive map shows what the damage from fallout would be if nuclear bombs were dropped on target cities today. It’s the result of a collaboration between the Future of Life Institute (FLI)—a volunteer organization dedicated to decreasing existential threats to the human race co-founded by MIT physicist Max Tegmark—and Alex Wellerstein, a science historian at the Stevens Institute for Technology in New Jersey who developed the hugely popular NUKEMAP a few years ago." [Image: Future of Life Institute/NUKEMAP]
Scientists Used the Stars to Confirm When a Famous Sapphic Poem Was Written. "Scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington used planetarium software to recreate the night sky of ancient Greece, the better to peg the date when lyric poet Sappho penned one of her most famous verses. They describe their findings in a new paper in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage."
We're One Step Closer to Better Tabletop Particle Accelerators. "A new generation of tabletop accelerators has the potential to accelerate electrons to near the speed of light, without the need for gigantic machines like the Large Hadron Collider. But that all-important energy beam is too spread out for optimal performance. An international team of physicists has figured out a way to address this shortcoming and described their method in a new paper in Physics of Plasmas."
Jazz Music and Physics Have a Lot More in Common Than You Think. "It might not seem like music has much to do with cutting-edge physics at first glance. In his new book, The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe, Brown University physics professor Stephon Alexander argues that using music as an analogy can shed light on some of the deepest mysteries in cosmology."
Other Cool Links:
And we're off! CERN declares start of 2016 LHC physics season. Weasels be damned! And first thing on the list is to find out whether ‘those bumps’ are new subatomic particles, or just statistical noise.
There was lots of Hyperloop news this week! First, the startup company HTT “exclusively licensed” passive magnetic levitation system developed at Livermore. Then a second startup, Hyperloop One, Breezed Through Its First Proof-of-Concept Test. Confused? Here's What’s Happening With Hyperloop, Explained, plus a short video on The Incredible Physics of the Hyperloop. Related: Hyperloop One Plans for Passengers by 2021, Here's Why Riding It Won't Kill You. Also: The Hyperloop Test Proves The Future Will Still Be Boring. And remember, The Biggest Hurdles for Hyperloop Are Still Land Rights and Bureaucracy, Not Tech. Finally, maybe America Doesn’t Deserve Hyperloops Until it Fixes Public Transit.
Fractal "Superlens" Defeats Diffraction Limit.
A Random Place at the Table: Can you find shortcut for solving problems that seem to require a lengthy calculation?
Physicists Collide Quasiparticles for the First Time.
The humble dung beetle has a fantastic way of navigating the world.
How Much Strength Does it Take to Bicep Curl a Helicopter? Related: Could Spider-Man Swing on Actual Spider Silk? Also: The Science behind Marvel's Giant-Man - What would it take to turn Ant-Man into a powerful behemoth?
José Ramírez's "physics-defying helmet" actually follows physics, as Wired's Rhett Allain explains.
Take a look at the Infinity Machine--It's not as scary as it sounds.
Fake Skinned Robot Bats Will Soon Be Creeping Us Out From the Skies Above.
The Bubble Circus explores the nifty physical properties of soap, water and bubbles:
NASA Wants to Build a Magnetic Force Field and a Deep Sleep Chamber For Astronauts on Mars.
Could A New Type Of Supernova Eliminate Dark Energy?
Dark Matter: Looking Beyond WIMPs.
The race to make plutonium-238, the nuclear power source we need to keep exploring space.
These physicists built Maxwell's demon for real - and discovered something fundamental about reality. Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?
How two determined scientists built a world-class lab out of Radio Shack parts.
Ask a Physicist: Would it be a bad thing to shoot our nuclear waste into the sun?
What Is the Limit to How Far We Can Travel in Space?
"What do the Martians Think of Us Now?" The Washington Herald, January 10, 1915.
College Students Use X-Rays to Reveal the Contents of a Mysterious Locked Box.
MIT Has Developed a Tiny Ingestible Origami Robot That Can Unfold Itself To Patch Wounds.
If Camelot were on Mars, this would be the map to use to find it.
Colonizing Venus doesn't turn out as planned in the new comic book miniseries Venus.
This Huge Art Installation Is Inspired By the LHC.
How to Confuse a Traveling Mathematician: An embellished account of a border crossing.
Why Ramanujan matters, by Ken Ono and Robert Schneider.
R.I.P. Sir Denys Wilkinson: Physicist and expert on the electromagnetic properties of nuclear isotopes.
List: Mathematical Word Problems for Introverts.
The Mathematical Explanation for Why You Can't Catch a Falling Dollar Bill with Your Fingers.
What Happens When You Travel At The Speed Of Light?
This Gorgeous Animation Shows a Spaceship Mysteriously Traveling to a Universe Beyond: