Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Consequences of Friction at the Nanoscale

How steep does an incline need to be before a box will slide on it? It's a classic question in physics classrooms, and the answer depends on two factors—the box's weight and a factor called μ (mu): the coefficient of friction. The value of μ depends on things like the box's material, the texture of the incline's surface, and whether the box is already moving or sitting still, but in some situations there's another surprising factor that can affect how easy it is for an object to start sliding along a surface—how long the object has been sitting still.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Get to Know Your Neighbors (and Maybe Find Planet Nine in Your Spare Time!)

Instead of binge-watching one more episode of Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory, consider taking a few minutes to look at your cosmic neighborhood. You could be the one to discover a neighbor that has never been seen before—such as the alluring, hypothetical Planet Nine.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nature’s Optics Teacher: The Cockeyed Squid

The Histioteuthis heteropsis, also known as the cockeyed squid, spends its days drifting through the ocean, eyes on alert for signs of predators or prey. Squid are intriguing creatures in general, but it’s the eyes of Histioteuthis heteropsis that draw you in. Or, rather, the contrast between the eyes—a large, bulging, yellowish one on one side and the significantly smaller, more traditional looking eye on the other side.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Leaving Convention Behind: Bending Multicolored Light with a Flat Lens

A good pair of lenses can transform your life, assuming you are one of the 4.2 billion people in the world with less-than-perfect eyesight. A good lens can also transform our understanding of life and this world we inhabit. From the discovery of microorganisms to the moons of Jupiter, lenses shine a light on things too small or too faint to see with the naked eye. They also help us capture and preserve the milestones and everyday moments that make up a life. That’s a lot to ask of ground glass.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Keeping Nanoparticles—and Treatments—on Target

We all know that the human body has weaknesses. Whether the cause is genetic, environmental, personal choices, pure dumb luck, or some combination of factors, it’s not uncommon for diseases to take hold and destroy a body cell-by-cell. In the fight against these diseases, one of the most promising approaches involves using tiny nanoparticles to carry toxic drugs to precisely the right place: the infected cells.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Physicists Devise "Black Hole" on a Chip

Black holes are one of the best-known and most intriguing concepts in astrophysics. They're places where a literally unstoppable force—usually the domain of philosophers—manifests. They've given rise to countless thought experiments and what-ifs, provided a theoretical tool to probe the nature of our universe, and inspired generations of scientists and science enthusiasts alike to stretch their imaginations to the extreme...and beyond.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

ZAP! Why is Winter Static Season?

We're fast approaching what are usually the coldest, driest months of the year (at least here in the northern hemisphere), and with that comes the annoying tendency of doorknobs to shock and startle us whenever they're touched. It happens to some extent almost everywhere, but it wasn't until I spent a week at a conference in Montana—and found myself flinching every time I had to press the elevator button—that I really gave some thought to this usually-minor annoyance.

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Exploring Cosmic Rays Through the Shadows

At this week’s American Physical Society Meeting in Washington, DC, researchers from an observatory in Mexico unveiled unique images featuring a kind of shadow of the moon and sun. The images don’t contain a lot of new information about the sun and moon, but are a way of studying charged particles known as cosmic rays that move at really high speeds—their properties, interactions with magnetic fields, and even a bit about where they come from.


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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Is the Universe a Hologram?

The question might seem like nothing more than mental gymnastics, a thought-provoking but “out there” question meant to give college students something to discuss at 3am. However, work published last week in Physical Review Letters provides observational evidence that this could actually be the case.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Metallic Hydrogen at Last?

“We have produced atomic metallic hydrogen in the laboratory at high pressure and low temperature,” say Harvard scientists Isaac Silvera and Ranga Dias in a new article that appears today in the AAAS journal Science. This straightforward comment could mean the end of an 80-year quest...and the start of an energy revolution.

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