Thursday, September 20, 2018

Simulating the Sun, Researchers Pinpoint a Fruit Fly's Neural Compass

When you think of fruit flies, many words likely come to mind: buzzing, hovering, annoying...but navigating probably isn’t one of them. As it turns out, these tiny insects are known to travel up to nine miles per evening in search of food. Since they often live in barren deserts, Dr. Ysabel Giraldo reasoned that they must have some way of keeping a straight course—there’s just no way they could survive otherwise. It’s been shown that without the presence of external cues, most insects and animals—humans included—tend to wander in circles, so Giraldo wanted to uncover the secret to the fruit fly’s navigation. “Even though there have been so many studies on Drosophila, surprisingly no one really knew much about how fruit flies navigate,” she says.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Fool's Gold" May Hold Value After All

Famous for raising hopes of riches beyond imagination—and then dashing them—the mineral pyrite is better known as fool’s gold. Its metallic yellow luster has fooled many over the years, with consequences that helped shape the modern world, along with the fortunes (and misfortunes) of individuals: According to one story, a fool got what he deserved by marrying a woman for the “hills of gold” on her land that—as you might have guessed—turned out to be hills of pyrite.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Scientists Reveal "Lensless" Camera

Cameras have come a long way since the days of photographers hiding under a cloak amidst a startling puff of smoke. At any camera store, you can find video cameras that can record underwater, devices that takes photographs with breathtaking clarity at incredible distances—or even ones that do both. However, regardless of how advanced they get, every digital camera currently in existence is constrained by one thing: the need for a focusing lens.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Numbers In the News: The Physics of a Flying Tesla

A few months ago, Elon Musk famously launched his own car into space on top of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. It was an unprecedented stunt, and one that's unlikely ever to be repeated, but last week the world saw another Tesla launched skyward . . . this one didn't go nearly as well.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The World’s Fastest-Spinning Object Could Lead to Quantum Insights

What's the world record look like for RPMs? One of the fastest-spinning objects in the world is a tiny, levitating dumbbell created by a team of American and Chinese researchers—a nanoscale rotor that can spin more than a sixty billion times in just one minute.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

What Wind Farms Can Learn from Football Teams

Winning football teams are composed of members that work well together, capitalizing on each other’s strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses. But that mindset can be applied in a lot of different circumstances—it turns out that wind farms can benefit from this strategy, too. New research shows that by incorporating cooperation, wind farms could output as much as ten times more power per area than they do now...and that would be a win for all of us. The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Fluids.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Numbers in the News: Can I Really Have a Set of Artificial Gills?

According to a story in CNN, you may soon be able to slip into a set of artificial gills, and take to the water without having to haul along a pressurized tank of the atmosphere.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

From the Military to Mars: 3D Printing with Whatever you've Got

Prosthetics, tools, homes, cars—the possibilities of 3D printing are vast and exciting, even more so as researchers develop ways to use on-site materials in remote locations for printing.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Becoming the Noise, Part II: Putting Humans into the Physics Equation

Read part I of this story here.
When I set out for Orfield Labs, I expected the anechoic chamber to capture my full attention. After all, so many people come to experience the quietness that the lab had to start charging for tours, to compensate for lost productivity. As I talked with founder and president Steve Orfield about the evolution of his career and his lab, though, I started to appreciate that the chamber is a tool. And eventually I concluded that, like all tools, the true value lies in what it can do in the hands of an artisan.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Numbers in the News: How Big is that Lake on Mars?

In case you missed it, last month NASA announced the discovery of what looks like liquid water on Mars: a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) wide lake hiding under 1.5 km (~1 mile) of ice. A lake 20 kilometers across sounds like a lot of water, even if it is deep under the ice. Why did it take so long to find if it is such a large feature? Let’s put this into perspective and compare the size of the lake on Mars to the size of a dot on a basketball. The comparison might surprise you.

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