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Top 10 Martin Gardner Physics Stumpers

The list to follow is offered purely in a spirit of fun and education, and is not intended to be definitive. It concerns only the most basic physics concepts, and nothing electronic. No answers are offered. [more inside]
posted by jenkinsEar on Nov 27, 2014 - 52 comments

Pathetic vestigial organ or integral part of fearsome predator?

In this paper, we examine a first-year torque and angular acceleration problem to address a possible use of the forelimbs of Tyrannosaurus rex. A 1/40th-scale model is brought to the classroom to introduce the students to the quandary: given that the forelimbs of T. rex were too short to reach its mouth, what function did the forelimbs serve? This issue crosses several scientific disciplines including paleontology, ecology, and physics, making it a great starting point for thinking “outside the box..." Lipkin and Carpenter have suggested that the forelimbs were used to hold a struggling victim (which had not been dispatched with the first bite) while the final, lethal bite was applied. If that is the case, then the forelimbs must be capable of large angular accelerations α in order to grab the animal attempting to escape. The concepts of the typical first-year physics course are sufficient to test this hypothesis... Naturally, student love solving any problem related to Tyrannosaurus rex.
posted by ChuraChura on Nov 25, 2014 - 19 comments

The observer at the end of time: Of immortal watchers and imaginary data

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." (previously) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Nov 9, 2014 - 47 comments

√2N

At the Far Ends of a New Universal Law
The law appeared in full form two decades later, when the mathematicians Craig Tracy and Harold Widom proved that the critical point in the kind of model May used was the peak of a statistical distribution. Then, in 1999, Jinho Baik, Percy Deift and Kurt Johansson discovered that the same statistical distribution also describes variations in sequences of shuffled integers — a completely unrelated mathematical abstraction. Soon the distribution appeared in models of the wriggling perimeter of a bacterial colony and other kinds of random growth. Before long, it was showing up all over physics and mathematics. “The big question was why,” said Satya Majumdar, a statistical physicist at the University of Paris-Sud. “Why does it pop up everywhere?”

posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 28, 2014 - 17 comments

Make that fiftyone years

Any list like this will inevitably leave deserving people out, and probably this list is biased toward U.S.­–based physicists. It is not intended to be comprehensive or a “top 10 list,” or to be the last word on the topic, but rather to spark a discussion. And most importantly, it is intended to show that the 51-year streak of male physics laureates cannot be blamed on a lack of viable female candidates. So with that out of the way, let’s hope to soon see this tired streak broken by a third—and fourth and fifth—woman accepting the Nobel Prize in Physics.
The nobel Prize committee have decided to honour the inventors of the blue light LED with the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics, extending the half a century streak of only having male winners with another year. Yet as Gabriel Popkin's list of worthy female Nobel Prize candidates shows, there's no lack of female contenders.
posted by MartinWisse on Oct 8, 2014 - 48 comments

Of course, everyone knows about levers...

Elementary Mechanics from a Mathematician's Viewpoint [direct link to large PDF] by Michael Spivak - notes from his eight 2004 lectures (which eventually became a book). See the quote inside to get the flavor of it. [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Oct 4, 2014 - 24 comments

On the (Anti-) Matter of Planet Destruction

So you want to make a Death Star? You want to destroy a planet like Alderan? There are several theories. But the latest hinges on a simple matter of "neutral antimatter."
posted by cross_impact on Sep 19, 2014 - 32 comments

#WomenTweetScienceToo

This is Science Magazine; this is one of their featured front-page stories (date stamped 17 September 2014 8:00 am): "The top 50 science stars of Twitter", by Jia You. The list has 46 men and 4 women. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 18, 2014 - 23 comments

TL;DW - Biology first, THEN physics.

Why are Stars Star-Shaped? A SLYT of one of the innumerable little educational youtube channels explaining something that always fascinated me. [more inside]
posted by DigDoug on Aug 27, 2014 - 16 comments

All three volumes of The Feynman Lectures on Physics are now online.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics All three volumes of The Feynman Lectures on Physics are now online. A fantastic resource for anyone interested in Feynman or physics in general. (Previously, when the first volume was available.)
posted by citizenoftheworld on Aug 25, 2014 - 24 comments

there's nothing that is scientifically proven

(A theoretical physicist explains why) Science Is Not About Certainty [more inside]
posted by flex on Aug 5, 2014 - 33 comments

How much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black.

One step closer to the Disaster Area stuntship. "It's so...black!" said Ford Prefect, "you can hardly make out its shape...light just seems to fall into it!"
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Jul 17, 2014 - 78 comments

21st Century Wiener

Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 11, 2014 - 12 comments

I'm leaving my body to science, not medical but physics

Let's Talk About Science is a blog devoted to discussing the world of science and technology communication with clear, beginner-friendly language, written and compiled by nanoscientist/physicist Jessamyn Fairfield and science educator ErinDubitably. [more inside]
posted by divined by radio on Jul 3, 2014 - 4 comments

Time : a flat circle :: Consciousness : a state of matter?

"While the problem of consciousness is far from being solved, it is finally being formulated mathematically as a set of problems that researchers can understand, explore and discuss.

Today, Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, sets out the fundamental problems that this new way of thinking raises. He shows how these problems can be formulated in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. And he explains how thinking about consciousness in this way leads to precise questions about the nature of reality that the scientific process of experiment might help to tease apart.

Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. 'I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,' he says."
posted by Strange Interlude on Jun 12, 2014 - 235 comments

Project Mogul

You may have heard how sounds travel farther during a temperature inversion, when air near the ground is cooler than the air above. But do you know how this phenomenon is related to the 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico? [more inside]
posted by mbrubeck on Jun 8, 2014 - 14 comments

Einstein reportedly bitter about not getting spooky action at a distance

Researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a technique for quantum data teleportation that uses deterministic methods to offer one hundred percent accuracy. Previous methods only worked reliably one in every 100 million attempts. [more inside]
posted by saulgoodman on May 30, 2014 - 87 comments

All in a day's work (tendril version)

Why yes, a video about cucumber tendrils can be fascinating!
posted by mudpuppie on May 13, 2014 - 9 comments

Researchers have discovered a new shape

Researchers have discovered a shape previously unknown...to everyone except every single grade 4 kid who has played with rubber bands.
posted by odinsdream on Apr 24, 2014 - 43 comments

"You can measure your life in a number of drops."

World's longest-running experiment captures elusive tar pitch drop fall on video after 84 years of waiting — though, sadly, too late for physicist and former pitch drop custodian Prof. John Mainstone, who passed away last year.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 19, 2014 - 15 comments

Pyro Board

Pyro Board. Or flammable sound waves and music. Danish Fysikshow demonstrates a 2-D Rubens' tube (wiki, demo).
posted by severiina on Apr 18, 2014 - 15 comments

Ottomans not included

For those of you who prefer your science isolated with a side of moody furniture, I give you Lonely Chairs at CERN.
posted by Diagonalize on Apr 14, 2014 - 19 comments

Eppur si muove

The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf) by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 8, 2014 - 10 comments

Drop it like it's hot

How to melt an aluminum slug (action heats up around the 2' mark) with a DIY induction heater (obl. wiki).
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 4, 2014 - 38 comments

Sir Roger Penrose: Cosmic Inflation Is ‘Fantasy'

(NPR Science Friday) Sir Roger Penrose calls string theory a "fashion," quantum mechanics "faith," and cosmic inflation a "fantasy." ... What's wrong with modern physics—and could alternative theories explain our observations of the universe? Full lectures: Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe (Lecture 1: FASHION)(Lecture 2: FAITH.)(Lecture 3: FANTASY.) [more inside]
posted by Golden Eternity on Apr 4, 2014 - 48 comments

Online Physics Class Taught By Brian Greene

Brian Greene is now offering an online course on the theory of relativity. There are two versions of the class, one with math and one without. Additional information was provided during Greene's recent Ask Me Anything on reddit, during which he agrees with a redditor who recommends Leonard Susskind's "Theoretical Minimum"(previously) as a good preliminary.
posted by Ipsifendus on Mar 11, 2014 - 43 comments

Do not taunt Waboba Ball

The Waboba ("WAter BOuncing BAll"), has attracted all sorts of fans since it went into production over five years ago. Now it can count one more: The U.S. Navy.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI on Mar 10, 2014 - 13 comments

there is no soundtrack

Finite time blowup for an averaged three-dimensional Navier-Stokes equation - "[Terence Tao] has shown that in an alternative abstract universe closely related to the one described by the Navier-Stokes equations, it is possible for a body of fluid to form a sort of computer, which can build a self-replicating fluid robot that, like the Cat in the Hat, keeps transferring its energy to smaller and smaller copies of itself until the fluid 'blows up.' " [1,2,3] (previously)
posted by kliuless on Mar 9, 2014 - 15 comments

That’s why it doesn’t matter if God plays dice with the Universe

Discovering Free Will (Part II, Part III) - a nice discussion of the Conway-Kochen "Free Will Theorem". [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 4, 2014 - 92 comments

John Baez on the maths of connecting everyone (and everything) on earth

Network Theory Overview - "The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks! People like to draw diagrams of networks. Mathematical physicists know that in principle these diagrams can be understood using category theory. But why should physicists have all the fun? This is the century of understanding living systems and adapting to life on a finite planet. Math isn't the main thing we need, but it's got to be part of the solution... so one thing we should do is develop a unified and powerful theory of networks." (via ;)
posted by kliuless on Mar 2, 2014 - 17 comments

The Theoretical Minimum

How condensed might one expect an overview of all modern physics to be? Leonard Susskind has an answer, and provides The Theoretical Minimum. [more inside]
posted by Alex404 on Feb 27, 2014 - 13 comments

ITER

A Star in a Bottle. "An audacious plan to create a new energy source could save the planet from catastrophe. But time is running out."
posted by homunculus on Feb 25, 2014 - 52 comments

The perfect billiards break

What would happen if a cue ball struck a rack of 15 perfectly round, frictionless billiard balls, exactly head-on?
posted by escabeche on Feb 3, 2014 - 31 comments

Looking Deep Inside Nature

X-ray photography of plants and animals by physicist Arie van’t Riet. [via]
posted by brundlefly on Jan 27, 2014 - 5 comments

Everybody Talks About The Weather...

From I Fucking Love Science: "In a paper posted online this week Professor Stephen Hawking claimed that black holes do not exist - at least, not as we currently understand them. He claims that the traditional notion of a black hole's "event horizon" from which nothing can escape, even light, is incompatible with quantum physics. If so, physicists will have to redefine black holes entirely." [more inside]
posted by runcibleshaw on Jan 27, 2014 - 44 comments

The Chain Fountain

A video showing a chain of beads behaving in a very peculiar way appeared on Youtube some time ago. Many people attempted to provide explanations, but most of them weren't quite satisfactory. [more inside]
posted by tykky on Jan 17, 2014 - 30 comments

I Was Told There Would Be No Math

M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe.
posted by COD on Jan 14, 2014 - 111 comments

Pterosaur Aerodynamics at GWU

A series of blog posts by George Washington University engineering students on the aerodynamics of pterosaur flight. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Jan 7, 2014 - 12 comments

See how the ants drip like syrup?

Physicists study fire ants (SLNYT)
posted by angrycat on Dec 28, 2013 - 14 comments

A Universe In Which Time Has No Beginning

"Maybe the Big Bang never happened because the universe never began because it has always existed." Scientific American magazine revisits the decade-old idea that we live in a "Rainbow" universe (where different wavelengths of light experience spacetime differently and where the big bang may never have happened) following the publication of new physics research on the subject.
posted by rcraniac on Dec 10, 2013 - 83 comments

One pill makes you nano, and one pill makes you giga...

The pressure of a human bite is about 1/9th of the atmospheric pressure on Venus. The fastest bacterium on earth is just outstripping the fastest glacier. A square meter of sunshine in the spring imparts about 1 horsepower. [more inside]
posted by kagredon on Dec 7, 2013 - 20 comments

Gravity Visualized

Dan Burns explains his space-time warping demo at a PTSOS workshop at Los Gatos High School, on March 10, 2012. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 3, 2013 - 27 comments

binding the andat

Closing in on the twin prime conjecture (Quanta) - "Just months after Zhang announced his result, Maynard has presented an independent proof that pushes the gap down to 600. A new Polymath project is in the planning stages, to try to combine the collaboration's techniques with Maynard's approach to push this bound even lower." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Dec 1, 2013 - 16 comments

ASCII fluid simulator

ASCII fluid simulator (source code)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Nov 30, 2013 - 24 comments

We Saw Nothing

"We have entered the new millennium and yet we still have no idea what 95% of the universe is made of." The Large Underground Xenon experiment has failed to see a single particle of Dark Matter. Will the Lux Zeplin have better luck?
posted by billiebee on Oct 30, 2013 - 79 comments

An animator explains why she studies physics

After all, she's not just sitting here doing nothing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Oct 27, 2013 - 9 comments

Maybe No Longer Forever 20 Years Away?

National Ignition Facility (NIF) achieves fusion break-even "...The latest achievement has been described as the single most meaningful step for fusion in recent years, and demonstrates NIF is well on its way towards the coveted target of ignition and self-sustaining fusion."
posted by growli on Oct 7, 2013 - 34 comments

The Leidenfrost Maze

When a liquid is dropped onto a smooth plate that is heated to a specific temperature well above its boiling point, boiled vapor will get trapped underneath the remainder of the droplet insulating it from the hot plate, allowing it to dance around the plate like oil on a wet surface in what is known as the Leidenfrost effect. Intriguingly, surfaces that are grooved into the shape of a saw blade will cause droplets suspended by the Leidenfrost effect to predictably skitter in the direction of the groove, allowing University of Bath undergraduate students Carmen Cheng and Matthew Guy to build a fascinating maze. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 2, 2013 - 32 comments

Level Up

Untold Riches: An Analysis Of Portal’s Level Design, from RPS, who have been looking at level design in their Level With Me series of interviews. Meanwhile Valve will be announcing something Monday morning - probably not Half Life 3.
posted by Artw on Sep 20, 2013 - 107 comments

My God, it's full of... everything

Revelations in the field of quantum physics have resulted in the discovery of the Amplituhedron, a jewel-like higher dimensional object whose volume elegantly predicts fundamental physical processes that took the brilliant Dr. Richard Feynman hundreds of pages of abstruse mathematics to describe. The theoretical manifold not only enables simple pen-and-paper calculation of physics that would normally require supercomputers to work out, but also challenges basic assumptions about the nature of reality -- forgoing the core concepts of locality and unitarity and suggesting that space and time are merely emergent properties of a timeless, infinitely-sided "master amplituhedron," whose geometry represents the sum total of all physical interactions. More: The 152-page source paper on arXiv [PDF] - Lead author Nima Arkani-Hamed's hour-long lecture at SUSY 2013 - Scans of Arkani-Hamed's handwritten lecture notes - A far more detailed lecture series "Scattering Without Space Time": one, two, three - Arkani-Hamed previously on MeFi - A hot-off-the-presses Wikipedia page (watch this space)
posted by Rhaomi on Sep 18, 2013 - 128 comments

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