Monday, November 12, 2018

Now You Can Listen to the Moon Landing

On July 20, 1969, just before 11 p.m. Eastern time, Neil Armstrong planted the first human footprints on another world. It was a defining moment in a journey that had transfixed the planet.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Surprising Discovery Gives "Plasma Lenses" a Clearer Future

It might surprise you that scientists at CERN—the home of the world’s largest particle accelerator—don’t always think bigger is better. At 17-miles in diameter, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It’s the hub of high energy physics research, drawing scientists from around the globe and managing to make the Higgs boson a household name. But as CERN researchers look to the future, some of them are thinking small. Well, small in size, not small in impact.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Next-Gen Satellites May Use Lasers to Part the Clouds

Scientists of the future huddle around a computer, waiting for an HD live stream of the incoming asteroid. As the probe that will provide the crucial communication slowly moves into view of the asteroid, they know that every second counts. In a surprising move, they tune their receivers not to radio frequencies, like we do today, but to a much higher frequency—somewhere in the near-infrared. But they think nothing of it—infrared and visible light allows for a much better transmission of data, and all of the leading satellite producers have switched over by now. But at the last minute, a cloud rolls in above the station, scattering the message from the relay satellite in all directions and cutting off the receiver.

That’s where the work of Dr. Jean-Pierre Wolf comes in.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Smashing (Frozen) Pumpkins: Celebrate Halloween with Triboluminescence!

Pumpkins have a very important role this time of year. Not only can they be used as decorations, jack-o-lanterns, and in pumpkin pies, but we can use them for some unique autumnal science, to demonstrate the phenomenon of triboluminescence: when solid objects emit light under physical strain. This isn’t like putting a candle inside a jack-o-lantern, mind you—the pumpkin itself can glow...but only for a split second, before it stops being a pumpkin altogether.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Surprising Behavior of "Whirlpools" of Light

The fastest timescales. The highest pressures. Absolute zero. The nanoscale. These conditions are far from our everyday experience, but studying how things behave in different situations can reveal a more complete picture of their nature—and can lead to revolutionary breakthroughs.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

How Dandelion Seeds Float Seemingly Impossible Distances

A single breath from a playing child can send dozens of fluffy dandelion seeds floating into the air. Now scientists find these seeds can keep themselves aloft by generating a type of vortex previously thought too unstable to exist, helping explain how these flowers have dispersed across the planet.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Newton's Apple

As someone whose job it is to help people understand and appreciate physics, I absolutely hate the way most people talk about Isaac Newton and how he developed his theory of gravity. It's not the apple bit that I have a problem with; that's an important part of the story, and even historically accurate! The thing that kills me is the way the idea is framed, and the gulf that it creates between his observation and his insight. What do I mean by that? Let's unpack the story, as I remember first being told it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Exotic "Ice VII" May Form on Ocean Worlds

Ice VII (or "ice-seven") is an exotic form of ice that grows so rapidly it could, under the right conditions, freeze an ocean-world's worth of water in just a few hours. A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has recently uncovered the unusual process by which that freezing takes place. Their results were published in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

"Ricequakes": How Breakfast Cereal is Helping Scientists Understand the Physics Behind Collapsing Dams

The crackle of wet rice puffs is more than snappy advertising strategy: Pouring milk into a bowl of cereal might help shed light on the collapse of ice shelves and dams of compacted earth, a new study finds.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Raising Spiders in a Physics Lab Reveals There's More than Strength Behind a Spiderweb's Sturdiness

Spider silk has been seen as "the material of the future"...for about 300 years now. Since the 1700s, people have been so anxious to harness its strength, durability, and flexibility that they’ve coordinated massive spider-catching operations, painstakingly harvested threads from hundreds of spiders in silk factories, and even genetically modified goats to produce it in their milk. We're wooed by images of Spiderman and giant helicopter-snaring nets, or bridges supported by pearly white cables stronger than steel. The New Yorker claims, “In the Future, We’ll All Be Wearing Spider Silk”. We love the stuff, even if making use of it has turned out to be a practical impossibility.

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