Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Small Chirps Could Provide Big Insights on Tiny Structures

Chirps, short bursts of (often annoying) high-pitched sounds, are generally a way of conveying information. Birds chirp to warn their feathered friends of impending danger. Male crickets chirp to announce their intentions to females. Smoke alarms chirp to keep you awake all night until you finally get up and change that low battery.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

How To Build Better Rockets By Crumpling Beer Cans

Knowing more about how a metal tube crumples might improve the design of everything from beer cans to space rockets. Now scientists find that poking such cylinders in the side could help predict when they might buckle from weights or pressure from above.

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Celebrate the Holidays with Famous Physicist Snowflakes!

It's the holiday season again, and the PhysicsCentral HQ has become a festive wonderland of garlands, snowflakes, and enormous tins of flavored popcorn tempting us at every turn. Today, we're going to help you get into the holiday spirit with the help of our friends at the Niels Bohr Library, who have cooked up a special set of winter decorations for your home, classroom, and office!

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

What Does a Leader Sound Like? Scientists Reveal the Power of a Voice

What is it that makes us trust one politician over another? Surely vision and values are key, but as science demonstrates, we are influenced by much subtler things as well. It turns out that our perception of political leaders and even our voting preferences can be swayed by something as simple as the acoustic properties of a leader’s voice, according to Rosario Signorello and Didier Demolin from the Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie in Paris. This is the subject of the work they presented at this week’s 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Surprising Complexity in One Dimension

Unlike one-dimensional personalities, one-dimensional materials are actually very complex—so complex that scientists are still working to decipher their behaviors. In 1-D materials, particle movement is confined to a line. Two independent groups of researchers, one based in Australia and one in China, performed some of the first experiments to put a 50-year-old theory about such materials to the test.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Whispers of Light Reveal Secrets of Ultracold Water

How low can you go? That's the question a collaboration of sixteen European scientists have set out to answer, in regards to one of the most ubiquitous-yet-mysterious substances on Earth: water.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Mysterious Case of the Excess Positrons

In 2008, the European satellite PAMELA detected a surprisingly large concentration of high energy positrons above our atmosphere. The presence of so many positrons, the anti-matter counterpart of electrons, goes against theoretical predictions but has been verified by other detectors. In new research published earlier this month by the AAAS journal Science, a team of researchers from Germany, Mexico, Poland, and the United States now cast doubt on one of the leading explanations for the mysterious excess—leaving its origin still unknown.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Widespread Impact of Bursting Bubbles

What really determines clouds and rain? Why does burning rubber smoke so heavily? What gives sparkling wines their distinct and lively aroma? The answer to all of these questions leads back to bubbles, according to Alfonso Gañán-Calvo from the University of Seville in Spain. When small bubbles on the surface of a liquid burst, they often send tiny droplets of the liquid flying into the air. These tiny droplets spread out through the air and, if they contain solutes or particles, the relics after liquid evaporation become seeds for clouds, far-reaching scents, or heavy smoke.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Bringing Tiny Points of Darkness Into the Light

“Light is intriguing and still full of surprises, even though we use it every day to perceive the world around us,” says Lorenzo De Angelis, a PhD student at the Kavli institute of Nanoscience in Delft, the Netherlands. He speaks from experience. An unexpected aspect of light’s behavior was just uncovered by a team including De Angelis, Prof. Kobus Kuipers, and collaborators from Delft and the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom. Their work originated at AMOLF in Amsterdam and was published this week in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"String Theory": Musician-Physicist Tackles Whammy Bar Dissonance

The leverlike guitar accessory known as a whammy bar is best used to bend and distort a single note—think Jimi Hendrix's famous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock 1969. But it doesn't sound very nice if used when playing multiple strings simultaneously, such as when strumming a chord. To solve this problem, a researcher from the U.K. has engineered new guitar strings that respond tunefully and as a group when you use a whammy bar.

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