Everything's coming up LIGO this year, as the collaboration announced that it spotted gravitational waves from a second binary black hole merger. But there was plenty of other stuff going on this week, too, such as imaging the photons produced in neutron decay, some "shocking" insight into quasicrystals, and an inverted Cheerios effect.
Me at Gizmodo:
Here's the Physics Behind the 'Broomgate' Controversy Rocking the Sport of Curling. "Football has been rocked by the “Deflategate” scandal, swimming banned full-body “super suits,” and now the sport of curling—yes, curling—has its own raging controversy. Dubbed “Broomgate,” much of the fuss centers on a new kind of curling broom called the icePad, manufactured by Hardline Curling."
We Finally Know How These Mysterious Ultra-Rare Crystals Formed. "Quasicrystals are unusual materials in which the atoms are arranged in regular patterns that nonetheless never repeat themselves. Most are man-made in the lab; only one case of naturally occurring quasicrystals has been found thus far. And now physicists believe they’ve figured out how that happened. In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Caltech’s Paul Asimow and his co-authors describe how subjecting certain rare materials to extremely strong shock waves produces quasicrystals. Their results suggest that quasicrystals may form in rocky bodies during collisions in the asteroid belt, before falling to earth as meteorites."
Physicists Turn the Cheerio Effect Inside Out. "We’ve all noticed how those last few Cheerios in the cereal bowl seem to cluster together in the center and along the edges. It’s called the “Cheerios effect.” Now an international team of physicists has discovered a reverse Cheerios effect. They described their results in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
When It Comes to Vocal Range, It's Not Size That Matters. "Most people have a modest two-octave vocal range when they sing, but some rare talents can manage five octaves or more. Think the late great, Freddie Mercury of Queen, or Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, although composer-singer Tim Storms holds the Guinness World Record for the largest vocal range: a whopping 10 octaves. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that singers accomplish this using just two strings—the vocal cords—compared to, say, a piano’s 88 strings. But what determines that vocal range in the first place? A new paper in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that it all comes down to the stiffness and “stretchiness” of the vocal cords, which can be thought of as a bit like two guitar strings glued together with gelatin."
Finally, I've been experimenting with Facebook Live at Gizmodo, and had the chance this week to report directly from the floor of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in San Diego. Here's some handy tips on how to up your amateur astrophotography game, courtesy of OTP Telescopes.
Other Cool Links:
Scientists Have Detected Gravitational Waves Again, by Gizmodo's Maddie Stone. [Bonus: the post embeds my Facebook Live discussion with LIGO's David Reitze and Gabriela Gonzalez, and VIRGO collaboration spokesperson Fulvio Ricci--direct from the AAS meeting in San Diego, where the announcement was made. A bit hard to hear in places, but a great discussion.]
Related: LIGO data includes at least one more black hole merger. Gravitational waves capture a full second of the holes' death spiral. Also: For a second time, scientists from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations saw gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes. [Image: Caltech]
Additional commentary: Gravitational Waves Explained: Feynman's "Sticky Bead." Related: Second Gravitational Wave Makes It Official: Merging Black Holes Don't Burst. Also: LIGO’s Second Gravitational Wave Detection Refines Black Hole Theories. And from Vox: The simplest explanation of why we should care about gravitational waves. Bonus: this is what it sounds like when two black holes collide.
Scientists Shine a Spotlight on Photons Produced in neutron decay.
Physicists Find More Evidence That DNA’s Hidden Layer is Real.
How the Butterfly Got Its Spots: University of California, San Diego, physicists used x-ray lasers to find out.
Despite massive reliance on GPS, there's still no Plan B if it crashes. So what happens if it fails?
Light pollution has effectively eliminated the night sky for 4/5 of Europe and the U.S.
If you drop an ant from the top of the Empire State Building, will it die?
Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet? The surprising performance and physics of the fish kick.
Carbon nanotubes too weak to get a space elevator off the ground.
New Calculation Shows We Should Make Contact With Aliens in About 1,500 Years.
Is Infinity Real? Three puzzles test whether the concept of infinity has purchase in the physical world.
Fighting ISIS With an Algorithm, Physicists Try to Predict Attacks.
Why a bit of noise in your noggin is normal. The brain’s background activity might be more than useless noise.
Meet Earth's 'quasi-satellite' -- a tiny asteroid that's followed us for a century.
What an astronaut's dive on the Andrea Doria has in common with space exploration.
A Strange New Molecule in Space Could Solve a Major Mystery About Life.
A New Device Harvests Energy From Your Body as You Walk and Swing Your Arms.
New Metallic Paintings by Miya Ando. Per Spoon and Tomago: "Using a combination of heat, sandpaper, grinders and acid, Ando “paints” her metallic canvases by “irrevocably altering the material’s chemical properties.” Ando’s new series, phenomenon, builds on her past work of producing light-reflecting gradients on metal but adds an element of interaction: the surfaces appear to change based on light and movement of the viewer." [Image: Miya Ando]
Which Superhero Is Best? Research Says Definitely Not Batman.
Why do the bottoms of shower curtains drift in toward the water coming from the shower head?
Here's Why NASA Is Purposely Lighting A Fire On A Working Spaceship: to test how fire behaves in microgravity and develop better fire protections.
Get Ready for Artificial Meteor Showers: A Japanese company aims to create on-demand sky shows by 2018.
Star Trek Is Right About Almost Everything: The epic series—celebrating its 50th anniversary this year—bases its science fiction on scientific fact.
Ancient Swedish space rock may be a whole new kind of meteorite.
This animation shows how aliens could contact Earth with giant laser doodles.
In the 19th-century, climate scientist James Espy built a miniature model of earth’s atmosphere in his back garden.
The Lost Art of Astropoetics: An 1881 Cosmic Masterpiece by the Forgotten Woman Who Popularized Astronomy.
The Hercules Number: How a Dimensionless Physical Parameter Got Its Name.
Fix your floppy pizza slice with Gaussian curvature.
Math Is For Everyone: Why Andrew Hacker is wrong. "Neither of these men had ever had the experience of being told...that math was not for them." And here's my own 2012 take on Hacker's original New York Times op-ed back when the cocktail party was hosted by Scientific American.
After 70 Years of Nuclear Fallout, Will Bikini Atoll Ever Be Safe Again?
When parallel lines meet, that is LOVE. Math-y poem by Bernadette Turner.
NASA's Mars Recruitment Posters Will Convince You to Go Die in Space.
Grandfather Clocks and the Big Bang: Entropy has been increasing since universe began, keeping time moving forward.
Scientist Stephon Alexander: 'Infinite Possibilities' Unite Jazz And Physics.
Winners of inaugural Stephen Hawking medal announced for propelling science into the public consciousness.
STEM Crisis: Teens Love Science, Just Not Their Science Classes.
Einstein's Brilliant and Unusual Life, in a Graphic Novel.
Nauseating Video Shows How Difficult It Is to Get Dizzy in Space.
Soap Bubble Magic: Magician Denis Lock shows off the clever things one can do with surface tension and thin films.
Las Vegas Looks Even Weirder in Infrared.