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Fighting Ice With...Ice?

If you live in a part of the world with cold winters, you probably know the awful feeling that comes with an unexpectedly early frost or snow—one that covers your car in a layer of ice before you’ve pulled out your gloves and ice scraper for the season. The one that makes your fingers freeze in anticipation as you blast the defrost and pull out a credit card so that you can begin chipping away at the windshield.
Recent posts

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.

How to Fortify Your (and Your Kids’) Screen Time with a Dose of Physics

By Rebecca and Chrystian Vieyra As teachers, students, and their families have navigated online learning this year, science education has taken a bit of a hit. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported that only 38% of teachers who responded to a survey said that they had been able to engage their students in hands-on laboratory activities during the spring semester after the pandemic forced many school buildings to close. Distance teaching and learning can be tough, especially when teachers can’t count on having the right materials in students’ homes. Fortunately, one thing most families do have in their possession are mobile devices. In the U.S., more than 80% of adults and 96% of 18-29 year olds own at least one device . In turn, teachers and students around the world have increased their use of apps like Physics Toolbox Sensor Suite and phyphox to make data collection with the smartphone’s internal sensors a possibility. With these tools, high

Allotropy: Why Winter Spells Trouble for the Tin Man

Tin is a commonplace metal that’s used industrially in a thousand different ways. From the solder that holds your computer’s motherboard together to the PVC plumbing under your sink, tin compounds are everywhere. In spite of its versatility, tin possesses an interesting physical property which is responsible for its tendency to wear down over time outdoors. This phenomenon, known as “tin pest”, is certainly not due a biological organism, but is widely mistaken for an oxidation reaction. Instead, tin pest happens thanks to something called allotropy—the metal’s atomic lattice can take on multiple different shapes, depending on the temperature it’s kept at. 

Art and the Elegant Universe

By Lindsay Olson Scientific Adviser:  Dr. Don Lincoln Curator: Georgia Schwender  Neutrinos  II As Fermilab’s first artist in residence, my workspace had some unusual supplies for an artist’s studio. Pinned to my idea board I had a list of subatomic particles, quotes from popular physics books, the names of inspiring physicists, and a picture of Nobel Laureate Marie Curie. I use my art project to explore and explain how particle physics underpins all of life. Using science and art together not only energized my studio practice, but it also changed the way I see our universe. Early in 2014, Georgia Schwender invited me to tour the lab after attending one of my art events. In the middle of the tour, she turned to me and asked me if I wanted to help her establish an artist residency at the lab. Fermilab’s founding director Dr. Robert Wilson was himself both a scientist and an artist. Georgia wanted to extend his vision of using art as a powerful form of outreach to help others u

Scientists Search for Rudolph's Red Nose, and other great stories.

Dutch scientists journeyed close to the North Pole to pursue a question that has baffled scientists for generations: Why is Rudolph's nose red? Image Credit: Kia Krarup Hansen You may recall the most famous reindeer of all, though you might not have realized that a species of reindeer really does have a particularly rosy snout. In the study , published in the holiday  edition of the British Medical Journal,  the team of researchers found that reindeer noses contain a dense network of capillaries that are rich in red blood cells.

Holiday Instability

It's a typical December scenario: The family trip to the tree lot. The Fraser Fir tied to the roof of the car. Dad under the branches screwing the stand to the trunk. And the inevitable wobbling of the 7-foot holiday embellishment as it threatens to topple over and onto the floor, scattering needles everywhere. When it comes to holiday decorations, why do we work so hard to put out fragile items easily destroyed by Fifi and Fido? (Not to mention Frank and Francine...) Holiday decorations are unstable. (We're talking about physics here. We'll leave their emotions aside.) To take a closer look at what we're dealing with, I've considered three of the most popular items from the array of December decor: The Christmas tree, the Hanukkah menorah and, of course, the Festivus pole . Which of the three is the most likely to topple over when cousin Fred bumps into it after sampling too much egg nog? Just as you would expect, the answer comes down to center of mas