Technically, melanin is a set of biomolecules that we think are synthesized by enzymes and that are notably very visibly colored. There are three types of melanin: the most common, eumelanin, which appears black or brown and occurs in skin and hair; the less abundant pheomelanin, which is on the yellow-to-red spectrum; and neuromelanin, which appears in high concentrations in the human brain, but the function of which we essentially don’t understand at all. For the most part, it seems, we don’t understand melanin. Despite this lack of scientific understanding, the social consequences of melanin are understood intimately by many of us.
Dilatant Compound 3179 (previously), better known to kids young and old as Silly Putty, may finally have a proper scientific use (besides the other semi-proper uses). Add graphene to the polymer, you get a very sensitive electro-mechanical sensor that can measure breathing, pulse and even blood pressure when placed on a person's neck or chest, and even detect the footsteps of small spiders (via NPR; abstract, paywalled article on Science Mag: Sensitive electromechanical sensors using viscoelastic graphene-polymer nanocomposites).
On January 15, 1919, in Boston's North End, a 50-foot-tall tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, unleashing a deadly wave that rose nearly 25 feet high at one point. The disaster killed 21 people and injured another 150. Nearly one hundred years later, an analysis carried out by a group of Harvard fluid dynamics physicists explains how "cold temperatures and unusual currents conspired to turn slow sticky goop into a deadly speeding wave." [more inside]
A group of Science YouTubers got together to perform a tribute to a scientist Hamilton, in the style of his political musical namesake.
Logic hacking - "Writing shorter and shorter computer programs for which it's unknowable whether these programs run forever, or stop... the winner of the Busy Beaver Game for N-state Turing machines becomes unknowable using ordinary math - somewhere between N = 5 and N = 1919." [more inside]
The demonstration began on the afternoon of May 21, 1946, at a secret laboratory tucked into a canyon some three miles from Los Alamos, New Mexico, the birthplace of the atom bomb. Louis Slotin, a Canadian physicist, was showing his colleagues how to bring the exposed core of a nuclear weapon nearly to the point of criticality, a tricky operation known as “tickling the dragon’s tail.” - The Demon Core and the Strange Death of Louis Slotin
Physics Fun is an Instagram account with short videos of physics, math and science 'toys.' An accompanying blog looks at some in more detail.
Nima Arkani-Hamed is championing a campaign to build the world's largest particle collider - "Two years ago, he agreed to become the inaugural director of the new Center for Future High Energy Physics in Beijing. He has since visited China 18 times, campaigning for the construction of a machine of unprecedented scale: a circular particle collider up to 60 miles in circumference, or nearly four times as big around as Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Nicknamed the 'Great Collider', and estimated to cost roughly $10 billion over 30 years, it would succeed the LHC as the new center of the physics universe. According to Arkani-Hamed and those who agree with him, this 100-trillion-electron-volt (TeV) collider would slam subatomic particles together hard enough to either find the particles that the LHC could not muster or rule them out, rescuing or killing the naturalness principle and propelling physicists toward one of two radically different pictures: that of a knowable universe, or an unknowable multiverse." [more inside]
Maybe Jesus could walk on water, but anybody can walk on this non-Newtonian fluid (SLYT)
Explore the deepest mysteries at the frontier of fundamental physics, and the most promising ideas put forth to solve them. A map of the frontier of fundamental physics built by interactive developer Emily Fuhrman.
“In 1999, two Canadian astrophysicists, Stéphane Dumas and Yvan Dutil, composed and sent a message into space. The message was composed of twenty-three pages of bitmapped data, and was sent from the RT-70 radio telescope in Yevpatoria, Ukraine, as part of a set of messages called Cosmic Call.” [more inside]
Science "explains things" in various ways. You can start with initial conditions, and apply laws of motion (classical kinematics). Or you can predict things via evolving probabilities (quantum mechanics). Or you can find emergent laws (thermodynamics). Or ... - There are many different modes of explanation. Recently, David Deutsch invented a new one: Constructor Theory. [more inside]
The Singular Mind of Terry Tao - "Imagine, he said, that someone awfully clever could construct a machine out of pure water. It would be built not of rods and gears but from a pattern of interacting currents." (via) [more inside]
Princeton researchers have discovered a long-theorized, never-observed variety of massless (quasi)-particle called the Weyl fermion. Exciting things to come maybe! (Bat-signal: expert.) [more inside]
French magician and juggler Antoine Terrieux created a series of remarkably self-sustaining sculptures using different arrangements of hair dryers, and has also incorporated them in funny ways in his stage performance. He also plays with a diabolo in ways that seem to defy gravity. [via]
At Robert Krulwich's NPR science blog, a couple of reflections on nothingness: Building Me and 2 Ways To Think About Nothing.
Frank Wilczek: Physics in 100 Years [pdf] - "Here I indulge in wide-ranging speculations on the shape of physics, and technology closely related to physics, over the next one hundred years. Themes include the many faces of unification, the re-imagining of quantum theory, and new forms of engineering on small, intermediate, and large scales." [more inside]
Twirl an upside-down soda glass and toss it down a tabletop (somewhat like the hero in the video game Tapper), and the glass will pull off in a direction opposite of the spin. Spin a granite curling stone and throw it down the ice, however, and it will travel in the same direction as the spin. Video blog SmarterEveryDay looks at physics theories that try to figure out why this counterintuitive result happens.
Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have captured "The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave" (images of the photo and the microscope in right hand column) using "EPFL’s ultrafast energy-filtered transmission electron microscope – one of the two in the world." The EPFL's explanatory video: Two-in-one photography: Light as wave and particle. Reference: Simultaneous observation of the quantization and the interference pattern of a plasmonic near-field. Nature Communications.
Follow the realtime path of a photon leaving the surface of our Sun
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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
Pyro Board. Or flammable sound waves and music. Danish Fysikshow demonstrates a 2-D Rubens' tube (wiki, demo).
For those of you who prefer your science isolated with a side of moody furniture, I give you Lonely Chairs at CERN.
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]
How to melt an aluminum slug (action heats up around the 2' mark) with a DIY induction heater (obl. wiki).
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)
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 ;)
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."
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]
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]
M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe.
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]
Dan Burns explains his space-time warping demo at a PTSOS workshop at Los Gatos High School, on March 10, 2012. [more inside]
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]
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]
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)
Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website are pleased to present this online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Now, anyone with internet access and a web browser can enjoy reading a high-quality up-to-date copy of Feynman's legendary lectures.