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2012 Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche (France) and David Wineland (US) for discovering ways to measure and manipulate quantum particles, a discovery which many are suggesting may soon allow us to build computers with virtually limitless capabilities. The Nobel press release provides a layman friendly PDF summary of the research and its potential applications, as well as a less layman friendly PDF with additional scientific background information. The press release cites two older Scientific American articles for further reading, and the magazine has made these articles available to read free online for the next 30 days:
Monroe, C. R. and Wineland, D. J. (2008) Quantum Computing with Ions, Scientific American, August.

Yam, P. (1997) Bringing Schrödinger’s Cat to Life, Scientific American, June.

posted by dgaicun on Oct 15, 2012 - 51 comments

The Beauty Of Physics

Ordinary objects made beautiful by physics: a red scarf surrounded by electric fans. Half-filled water balloons and Jello (previously) dropped and shot at 6200 frames per second. Two ball bearings welded together and set to spin with a breath.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul on Sep 4, 2012 - 34 comments

Flipping cat physics

The physics of how cats flip their bodies to land feet first also allows spacecraft to turn. Flipping cats [previously] is interesting. It's even more interesting if your dad works at NASA and you have access to people who use flipping-cat physics to make spacecraft turn in space.
posted by milkb0at on Aug 26, 2012 - 28 comments

Rolling in the Higgs

"I'm a harmony addict working on a master's in theoretical physics; what ELSE was I going to make a YouTube channel about?" And so was born A Capella Science, brainchild of lifelong harmonics junkie and physics master's student Tim Blais. His first track, "Rolling in the Higgs (Adele parody)", takes on the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs boson.
posted by Laminda on Aug 24, 2012 - 14 comments

My guy rode an excitebike

The Games We Play. [SLYT] And you thought you were the only one.
posted by Christ, what an asshole on Aug 20, 2012 - 114 comments

The Cause of the Formation of Meanders in the Courses of Rivers and of the So-Called Baer’s Law

Einstein described the "Tea Leaf Paradox" (more) to explain Baer's Law of erosion. [more inside]
posted by Algebra on Aug 19, 2012 - 9 comments

The Physics of physicality

WIRED has been running a fascinating series: Olympic Physics: Can Runners Benefit From Drafting?, Scoring the Decathlon, New [Swimming] Platform Is No Chip Off The Old Block [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 13, 2012 - 16 comments

"Because I'm in space, and I can, I get to name these yo-yo tricks."

NASA Astronaut Don Pettit uses his off-duty time to practice his microgravity yo-yo skills.
posted by OverlappingElvis on Aug 11, 2012 - 39 comments

Fun with kinematics!

Racetrack is a game with very simple rules which nonetheless does a surprisingly good job of simulating the acceleration, braking, and handling of a race car. It can teach not only about inertia and kinematics, but also about optimal racing lines. Racetrack can be played with nothing more than a piece of graph paper and a pen, but there is also an online implementation called Vector Racer.
posted by 256 on Aug 11, 2012 - 42 comments

Two More Cats Needed

High Speed Video of Flipping Cats A video in which a man claims watching him attempt to flip a cat (without pissing people off) will make you smarter. Bonus intro video. Gratuitous Father Guido Sarducci
posted by cjorgensen on Aug 10, 2012 - 41 comments

Reaching bottom at the top of the world

"As a climber goes up even higher in altitude, into the so-called death zone, the dangerously thin air above 26,000 feet, there is so little oxygen available that the body makes a desperate decision: it cuts off the digestive system. The body can no longer afford to direct oxygen to the stomach to help digest food because that would divert what precious little oxygen is available away from the brain. The body will retch back up anything the climber tries to eat, even if it’s as small as an M&M." -Excerpt from To the Last Breath: A Journey of Going to Extremes
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Aug 7, 2012 - 39 comments

FPP: Fundamental Physics Prize

Russian billionaire Milner's new physics prize is awarding nine scientists 3 million dollars each in its inaugural year. Aside from the size of the prize, it's different from the Nobel in physics in that it can be awarded to scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments. According to the Forbes article, the winners "can be groups of any size; scientists of any age; and there is no limit on how many prizes an individual can win." And soon the prize would be open to online nominations. [more inside]
posted by of strange foe on Jul 31, 2012 - 18 comments

A universe entirely made of antimatter wouldn't be a Michael Bay reality show

In case you needed another reason to love/fear them: With a tone that sometimes rings condescending or conspiratorial but always wonderfully flippant, the best minds of cracked.com discuss the grandest extremities of modern physics.
posted by es_de_bah on Jul 22, 2012 - 8 comments

noncommutative balls in boxes

Morton and Vicary on the Categorified Heisenberg Algebra - "In quantum mechanics, position times momentum does not equal momentum times position! This sounds weird, but it's connected to a very simple fact. Suppose you have a box with some balls in it, and you have the magical ability to create and annihilate balls. Then there's one more way to create a ball and then annihilate one, than to annihilate one and then create one. Huh? Yes: if there are, say, 3 balls in the box to start with, there are 4 balls you can choose to annihilate after you've created one but only 3 before you create one..." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 21, 2012 - 78 comments

Escape The Red Giant

Escape The Red Giant is a Flash game that is both incredibly relaxing and incredibly addictive. [more inside]
posted by motty on Jul 14, 2012 - 18 comments

For SCIENCE!

Science for the people: take a renowned scientist (Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman (Physics), Stephen Benkovik (Chemisty)) and sit them down on a street corner to answer questions.
Also: The No Excuse List (resources to learn just about anything), Minute Physics, Udacity (free, University-level courses online) and PetriDish, a Kickstarter for science projects.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul on Jul 13, 2012 - 7 comments

World's largest musical Tesla Coils

Your music played through giant Tesla Coils in Cleveland Ohio. [more inside]
posted by pallen123 on Jul 7, 2012 - 8 comments

A Rendezvous with Destiny for a Generation of Physicists

What began with one man in a patent office and the insight that mass and energy are the same has culminated at the largest particle collider ever built, employing 2400 full-time employees and 10,000 visiting scientists: CERN has announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a major vindication for the Standard Model of particle physics. [more inside]
posted by Eyebrows McGee on Jul 4, 2012 - 97 comments

How I learned to stop worrying and love reductionism

Scientists at CERN, using the Large Hadron Collider, may have discovered the Higgs Boson. (previously) and (previously)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar on Jul 2, 2012 - 157 comments

From 100 to 0

The Royal Society of Chemistry is offering £1000 to the person or team producing the best and most creative explanation of the phenomenon, known today as The Mpemba Effect [more inside]
posted by Kiwi on Jun 27, 2012 - 95 comments

A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing!

Modeling a Falling Slinky [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jun 19, 2012 - 22 comments

Extra carbon will glow: red, orange, yellow.

The Flame Challenge: The Center For Communicating Science asked scientists to answer the question, "What is a flame?," in a way that 11-year-olds would understand. Ben Ames won. In addition to his winning video, you can see the runners-up.
posted by OmieWise on Jun 8, 2012 - 56 comments

Cosmic vocab

Professor Brian Cox (previously) wondering about things.
posted by Artw on Jun 5, 2012 - 31 comments

Sugar Sugar

Sugar, Sugar: Friday Flash Fun.
posted by saladin on Jun 1, 2012 - 17 comments

Physics Demos that are Out of this World

Science off the Sphere is a video series by Don Pettit aboard the ISS showing off the neat things you can do in zero-gravity. [more inside]
posted by quin on May 31, 2012 - 13 comments

Measuring the Universe

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich has put together the fantastic short video Measuring the Universe which briefly describes the different techniques used to allow us to calculate the vast distances to stellar objects in space. [via]
posted by quin on May 30, 2012 - 11 comments

Happy Century Ruby

Have you looked at the sky today? You probably should. She would have been a hundred today, she just might have had a bit to do with how we understand our universe.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan on May 28, 2012 - 15 comments

SKA, music to an astronomers ears

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation recently announced a two site approach, in Australia-NZ and Southern Africa, a move that was applauded by the Australian team. Once fully operational in 2024, SKA's one square kilometre collecting area should lead to major advances in astronomy. [more inside]
posted by wilful on May 27, 2012 - 32 comments

Suppose a human and The Hulk were cylinders...

The physics of the Hulk's jump.
posted by latkes on May 3, 2012 - 76 comments

The Strangest Man

The trend of mathematics and physics towards unification provides the physicist with a powerful new method of research into the foundations of his subject, a method which has not yet been applied successfully, but which I feel confident will prove its value in the future. The method is to begin by choosing that branch of mathematics which one thinks will form the basis of the new theory. One should be influenced very much in this choice by considerations of mathematical beauty. [1939] [more inside]
posted by smcg on Apr 28, 2012 - 8 comments

Much Ado About Nothing

Physicist Lawrence Krauss wrote a book titled A Universe from Nothing. Philosopher David Albert wrote a rather scathing review. In a later interview with The Atlantic, Krauss suggested that philosophers feel threatened by science "because science progresses and philosophy doesn't." Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci weighed in on Krauss' comments, and Krauss non-apologized to philosophers who may have been offended. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne reflects on the controversy.
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Apr 27, 2012 - 84 comments

Experimental delayed-choice entanglement swapping.

"Using four photons, we can actively delay the choice of measurement on two of the photons into the time-like future of the registration of the other two photons. This effectively projects the two already registered photons onto one of two mutually exclusive quantum states in which the photons are either entangled (quantum correlations) or separable (classical correlations). This can also be viewed as ‘quantum steering into the past’." (arXiv, Nature Physics, Ars Technica)
posted by jeffburdges on Apr 25, 2012 - 80 comments

Before and after science.

Writing in the New York Review of Books, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg discusses his reason for suspecting that advances in particle physics and astronomy will not just slow down in the coming years, but cease entirely.
posted by Nomyte on Apr 23, 2012 - 41 comments

Captain Ultraviolet tells all

Late in life, Claude Monet had surgery to remove the lens of his left eye as a remedy for cataracts, and found that as the lens was no longer blocking them, he could now see ultraviolet light.* When Alek Komarnitsky, engineer and self professed geek, had the natural lens replaced in one of his eyes due to cataracts, he found that he, too could see UV. Naturally, he decided to test the limits of his newfound ability, and to show others what it's like to have ultraviolet vision.(*via Kottke)
posted by ocherdraco on Apr 17, 2012 - 39 comments

Ice

Ice
posted by jjray on Apr 15, 2012 - 33 comments

Economics meet Thermodynamics

"We do not share the view of many of our economics colleagues that growth will solve the economic problem, that narrow self-interest is the only dependable human motive, that technology will always find a substitute for any depleted resource, that the market can efficiently allocate all types of goods, that free markets always lead to an equilibrium balancing supply and demand, or that the laws of thermodynamics are irrelevant to economics."
posted by jeffburdges on Apr 12, 2012 - 59 comments

A snack of classical mechanics

What is the Dzhanibekov effect? Known as the Tennis Racket theorem in English and documented by Vladimir Dzhanibekov in 1985 space, it is the result of unstable rotation about a principle axis.
posted by Algebra on Apr 6, 2012 - 21 comments

April Fools for Physicists

Some physicists celebrate April Fools Day by posting spurious papers to the arXiv preprint server.

Non-detection of the Tooth Fairy at Optical Wavelengths
We report a non-detection, to a limiting magnitude of V = 18.4, of the elusive entity commonly described as the Tooth Fairy. We review various physical models and conclude that follow-up observations must precede an interpretation of our result.
[more inside]
posted by alby on Apr 3, 2012 - 16 comments

An Interview with Yanis Varoufakis

The New Priesthood - "The hapless economist uses the same tools as acclaimed physicists and astronomers. She has trained for years to speak precisely the same language as them, to understand the same advanced mathematics, to deploy most complex statistical methods which are an essential part of the scientific toolbox. It is, understandably, incredibly difficult to accept that her work is a form of higher order superstition; a religion couched in the language of mathematics and statistics. Tragically, this is precisely what it is." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 2, 2012 - 169 comments

A Shory Biography of Emmy Noether

Amalie Noether: The Mighty Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of
posted by jjray on Mar 27, 2012 - 49 comments

"The Hunger Games" costume design

You may have heard that they made a movie of the The Hunger Games. While others discuss its dystopian vision of a barbaric future America, we will concern ourselves with something more important: the clothes. [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Mar 25, 2012 - 84 comments

Traffic jams without bottlenecks—experimental evidence for the physical mechanism of the formation of a jam

The mathematical theory behind shockwave traffic jams was developed more than 20 years ago using models that show jams appearing from nowhere on roads carrying their maximum capacity of free-flowing traffic - typically triggered by a single driver slowing down. After that first vehicle brakes, the driver behind must also slow, and a shockwave jam of bunching cars appears, traveling backwards through the traffic. The theory has frequently been modeled in computer simulations, and seems to fit with observations of real traffic, but had never been recreated experimentally until recently (PDF of SCIENCE). The authors also released video of their experiments which has since been posted to YouTube. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Mar 24, 2012 - 42 comments

I see you!

MIT's new laser camera can see around corners (excellent explanatory video included). [more inside]
posted by darkstar on Mar 22, 2012 - 36 comments

and that's how science gets done

Today the Icarus Experiment released their measurement on the speed of neutrinos from CERN. Within small errors, they find them to be traveling at the speed of light, in accordance with the theory of relativity. [more inside]
posted by physicsmatt on Mar 16, 2012 - 45 comments

Weak Interactions

Weak Interactions is a blog that looks at the science in Breaking Bad and the non-science in Fringe.
posted by reenum on Mar 12, 2012 - 59 comments

We're gonna be like three little Fonzies here.

The Wirbelrohr! (aka, the Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube) You put a stream of air in, you get a hot stream and a cold stream out. Invented in 1930, there are no moving parts and no electricity supplied. [more inside]
posted by ctmf on Mar 5, 2012 - 27 comments

Walt Lewin's best lines

MIT's beloved professor Walter Lewin is famous for his engaging video lectures on classical mechanics. Here are some of his best lines.
posted by starkeffect on Mar 3, 2012 - 20 comments

Get ready for ?

We’re on the verge of two world-changing antimatter discoveries While the Large Hadron Collider is looking for the Higgs boson, we're on the verge of two huge antimatter-related breakthroughs. One could finally solve the universe's oldest mystery, while the other could reveal strange new particles that are perfect for quantum computers.
posted by zardoz on Mar 1, 2012 - 43 comments

Listening to the past, recorded on tin foil and glass, for the first time in over a century

Towards the end of the 1800s, there were three primary American groups competing to invent technology to record and play back audio. Alexander Graham Bell worked with with Charles Sumner Tainter and Chichester Bell in at their Volta Laboratory in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., while Thomas A. Edison worked from his Menlo Park facilities, and Emile Berliner worked in his independent laboratory in his home. To secure the rights to their inventions, the three groups sent samples of their work to the Smithsonian. These recordings became part of the permanent collections, now consisting of 400 of the earliest audio recordings ever made. But knowledge of their contents was limited to old, short descriptions, as the rubber, beeswax, glass, tin foil and brass recording media are fragile, and playback devices might damage the recordings, if such working devices are even available. That is, until a collaborative project with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory came together to make 2D and 3D optical scanners, capable of visually recording the patterns marked on discs and cylinders, respectively. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2012 - 21 comments

Is the Earth getting lighter?

Is the Earth getting lighter? BBC Radio's More or Less ("the mathematical icing on the cake of life") talks to some of the Naked Scientists from Cambridge about whether the Earth is gaining or losing mass, revealing some surprising and interesting facts.
posted by philipy on Jan 31, 2012 - 12 comments

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