Friday, December 09, 2016

The Quarter That Defied Physics

Recently, a video landed in my inbox, sent in by a reader who observed what seemed to be an impossible phenomenon: He spun a quarter and, in flat defiance of the law of conservation of angular momentum, the thing spontaneously switched the direction that it was spinning halfway through.

Take a look for yourself and see if you can figure out what's going on:

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Robot Parkour: Powerful Jumping Robot Inspired by Search-and-Rescue Needs

Meet Salto, a cute robot with unprecedented jumping skills. Don’t be fooled, though—Salto is more than a fun experiment and something most kids (ok, and adults) would like to own. He’s an incarnation of new research that could help address critical search-and-rescue needs in urban areas. Built in a lab at the University of California at Berkeley, Salto was inspired by galagos (also called “bush babies”), which are small, nocturnal primates that can reach great heights with numerous powerful jumps in quick succession.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Ask a Physicist: Introduction to Cavitation

Talitha, from Australia, writes:
My boyfriend insists that if something moving fast underwater, the water wouldn't be able to move behind the object at the same speed and would create an air bubble. This doesn't seem right to me—please help!

So here's the deal: your boyfriend is almost right, but it's not quite an air bubble—the process he's describing is called cavitation, a name which comes from the word cavity.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

9 Awesome GIFs from 2016's Gallery of Fluid Motion

It's that time of year again! The American Physical Society's 2016 Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting has wrapped up, and the most striking, visually appealing graphics from it are on display in this year's Gallery of Fluid Motion. The GFM's offerings are always somewhere between art and science, so enjoy the clips!

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Learning to Sniff from Man’s Best Friend

They sniff out drugs, cadavers, missing people, explosives, and even cancer. Dogs are more than man’s best friend, they are some of the best chemical detectors in existence. They are so good that by modifying a commercially available explosives detector to act like a dog’s nose, researchers were able to make the detector much more effective. That’s great news for most of us, not-so-great news for drug smugglers.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Towards a safer, better nuclear energy future

Compared to most industries, nuclear power looks like (and often is) one of the slowest to innovate. Advances in batteries, solar cells, and biotech hit the news every day, while the phrase “nuclear innovation” rarely makes headlines. Look a little closer though, and you’ll see that researchers are making exciting, innovative, and rapid progress toward a better and safer nuclear energy future.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Futuristic “Photon Sails” Fail in Simulation, Shredded by Laser

Imagine a spaceship, coasting silently through the dusty void of our solar system, outward-bound on a journey away from both our sun and the pale blue dot that is Earth. Slowly, with mechanical precision and a slight whirr that’s inaudible anywhere but inside the ship, telescoping arms deploy from their hatches positioned around the circumference of the craft. Each close to a mile long, they give the impression of a shining asterisk gliding away in the endless night, or a very leggy spider.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

The Truth About Star Names

This is the highlight of the holiday shopping season for bargain shoppers. Deals and steals await those willing to sacrifice sleep on Friday and click at lightning speed on Monday. Sometimes the quest for the perfect gift can be as difficult as searching for new planets among the stars. If you’re looking to the heavens for gift ideas this season though, keep in mind that stars aren’t really available for purchase. Neither are their naming rights.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Heavy Lights at America's Oldest Lighthouse

Boston Light, America's oldest lighthouse station, turned 300 this year. Built on a small, rocky island near the entrance to Boston Harbor, it draws visitors not only for its age, but for the chance it offers to view a piece of technology that some argue changed the course of the 19th century: a massive lens made from hundreds of sparkling glass prisms.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Your Friday Reading: Magic

It’s Friday afternoon! Let’s look into the archives of physics and pretend we’re still working.

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