Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2009

Interview with a Physicist: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

A few months ago we met an amazing young physicist at the annual conference for the National Society for Black Physicists (NSBP) and the National Society for Hispanic Physicists (NSHP). Not only is she a fantastic physicist but she also has a great name: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.


Chanda is a graduate student at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada where she researches quantum theories of gravity.
Her research forces her to ask the BIG question like:
What is space and time?
How did the Universe start?
Here is an interview with Chanda talking students about the other questions that you rarely hear from a physicist: http://pirsa.org/08070049/
Does a physicist have a life aside from research?
What does a physicist actually do during the day?
What is it like as a female physicist?

Masters of their Center of Mass

WOW! This new video of trick bike rider Danny MacAskill tearing it up around his hometown of Edinburgh is absolutely incredible.



Just as unbelievable is this video of unicycling champion Kaori Matsuzawa showing off her moves on only one wheel.



On the one hand, both of these videos show some pretty gnarly moves by their riders. With a repeat watching though, and an eye towards the physics of what's going on, you can see how these amazing professionals are able to pull off some of these tricks.

The key in both of the videos is balance. Some of the most amazing moves both MacAskill and Matsuzawa pull are when they're hardly moving at all, and just balancing on an almost stationary cycle. It takes years of practice, but the way they can stay up there like that is by perfectly aligning their body's center of mass over their bike's center of mass, supported over a stable surface. A center of mass is the position in an object around where all weight is evenly distributed. You ca…

Free Energy and the Press

Science journalism is in trouble at a time that needs it the most. Over the last few years, budget crunches have forced the media has to scale back their coverage of science news across the spectrum. The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Columbus Dispatch to name just a few, have had to drastically reduce or eliminate their science sections.

This tragedy of timing comes at a time when knowledge about energy technology is most critical. The hunt for new sources of abundant and clean energy has opened up a veritable gold rush for new methods and processes to produce energy on a grand scale. Many scientists and researchers have attacked this with aplomb, looking at refining old techniques, or tapping a previously unused source of energy. But there are always those who are either misguided or only looking to make a quick buck and cash in on this expanding field of renewable energy research. It is normally the job of the press to weed through and prevent such people from cheating the publ…

The Origins Symposium Part 5 of 5

Today we wrap-up our coverage of last week's Origins Symposium with part 2 of our Southwest correspondent, Alaina Levine's exclusive interview with acclaimed theoretical physicist Brian Greene.

Brian Greene Interview: Part 2 of 2Alaina G. Levine: Getting back to the Origins Symposium, when you hear the word "Origins" what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Brian Greene: It is always the origin of the universe because that's what I really hold out is the main reason why we're studying fields like string theory and quantum gravity, things of that sort. AGL: Related to your research, what are you working on now?BG: Trying to apply string theory to cosmology and see whether the unusual features of string theory like the need for extra dimensions and things of that sort, can help us resolve various puzzles and problems that the standard approach can't deal with. AGL: Such as? BG: The thing I'm working on now is a problem of string theory's own…

The Origins Symposium Part 4 of 5

Today, we continue our week long coverage of last week's Origins Symposium with a real treat: The first half of an exclusive interview with renound theoretical physicist Brian Greene, all thanks to our southwest correspondent, Alaina Levine.

Brian Greene Interview: Part 1 of 2
While in the Phoenix area attending the Origins Symposium, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Greene, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University, author, lecturer, and of course, string theorist extraordinaire. In town to present a few lectures about the origin of the universe, he was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about origins, science public outreach, and physics as celebrity. I asked him about the World Science Festival, which he co-founded and launched last year in New York City. Described by Claudia Dreifus of The New York Times as "monumental" in its approach and the fact that it involved the whole city, the Festival brought tog…

Higgs: It's What's for Dinner?

The Origins Symposium Part 3 of 5

The third part of our five part series on last week's Origins Symposium by our southwest correspondent, Alaina Levine.
Part 3: Other highlights, scientifically-based and not
Discussions of life in the Universe: Everyone knows about the Big Bang. But Paul Davies, Director of ASU's BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, discussed some big holes in theories about life on Mars and Earth. He stated that in the histories of the two planets, both have been "contaminated" by rocks bouncing off one planet and hitting the other and vice versa. So if life is ever found to be on Mars, he claimed, we will not be sure whether that life is original to Mars or not.
There was much discussion about what other kinds of life, besides microbial, might exist in the Universe. Davies suggested that there might be another form of life on Earth that we just have not yet discovered, and "until we find that there's life on Earth that’s different, we cannot make the assumption…

The Origins Symposium Part 2 of 5

Today we continue our in our series on last week's Origins Symposium with southwest correspondent, Alaina Levine.
Part 2: Hangin' with Mr. Wilczek

Upon viewing the schedule of speakers, one quickly sees that this truly was an intellectual extravaganza. So as I settled into my chair to listen to the first scientist-only discussions on the afternoon of Friday, April 3, I couldn't mask my elation. But I was especially enthusiastic to discover that Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Laureate in physics and Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT, was to give the opening speech of the Symposium.

I had first met Wilczek a few years ago when he visited the University of Arizona, where I teach and direct a master's program. He was there to give the colloquium, and in speaking with him, I found him to be fascinating, open, and completely approachable. I followed up with him by email to arrange a phone interview about the importance of physics public relations and outreach, two subjects…

The Origins Symposium Part 1 of 5

Attention Physics Buzz Blog fans. We've got a special treat for all of our loyal readers. This post will be the first in a series running all this week from the recent Origins Institute kick-off event. The four day event included presentations and discussions from leading scientists that delve into the origins of life and the universe. The following was written by our southwest correspondent Alaina Levine from The University of Arizona and Quantum Success Solutions. Stay tuned for full coverage of the physics of the meeting, culminating with an exclusive two-part interview with Brian Greene at the end of the week!

Origins: The Big Questions, Disagreements and Laughter Amongst Scientists, and Hangin' with Frank Wilczek

By Alaina G. Levine
While the nation is embroiled in economic woe and stimulus skepticism, famed physicist and author Lawrence Krauss launched a new type of stimulus plan in the desert of Arizona last weekend that has guaranteed results. The currency here was not mo…

Food Physics

Pizza has been on my mind a lot lately. On the one hand it may just be that I missed lunch today. On the other hand, it's on my mind a lot no matter what. Mmmmmmm. Anywho, it's also been on the minds of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne Australia. They just released a study of the physics of pizza tossing.

No joke! This is the first in depth analysis of the mechanics of pizza flight. I'm just sort of amazed it's taken this long for people to look at the mechanics of the most marvelous food in the world. I would have thought some engineering student at MIT would have tried late one night while pulling an all-nighter before a final exam.

I don't mean to make light of the work, because really it does have practical uses and applications. The pizza toss works almost exactly the same as an ultrasonic motor, except using an Italian chef rather than vibrations. In an ultrasonic motor, like ones found in an automatic camera lens, very fast vibrations rotate a rin…

We are the Robots: not just German techno pop anymore

Last week we saw that robots are taking over the blogosphere. Not only will robots take the roll of writing blogs but it looks as though they will also read and comment on them too. This takes the burden off of us humans to read and write them... so why am I bothering to write this?

Even computer scientists are being replaced by computers that can write publishable research papers on computers. This almost sounds paradoxical. Just don't ask who shaves the computer.

A similar trend is growing in education. Computers are invading classrooms and will most likely replace students in the near future. Many schools now use computer simulations to replace actual physics labs because actual eqipment is costly and dangerous. They generate "empirical" data and perform calculations, leaving students with the only burden of making conclusions. Making conclusions and formulating a theory that encompasses fundamental laws is generally considered a profound human achievement. Certainly, t…

Statistically Gtalk doesn't wear Capri pants

Hello everyone out there! I don't post much because I am usually busy telling people why they should keep paying us to keep posting for y'all. Quick bio, I am a physicist trained at University of Texas (hook 'em) who now works for APS and likes to knit, play video games watch reality TV.

Statistics are funny things. You read about statistics all the time in the media. "4 out of 5 dentists agree....." but what does that mean? How many dentists did they ask? Were they all buddies of the person asking? How were they asked? Are they real dentists or do they just play them on TV? These are all things you need to think about before believing a statistic. One of the biggest marketing ploys is to tell you that a correlation, meaning when one variable changes another seems to change at the same time, implies that one variable is causing the change in the other: causation. But why should it? Every time I mention Capri pants in gtalk, my gtalk crashes. Absolutly…

National Ignition Facility: All Fired Up!

On Tuesday the Department of Energy declared that the National Ignition Facility was completed and ready to go. This gigantic science experiment will use dozens of high powered lasers to recreate the processes that power stars.

At the heart of the NIF is a small chunk of hydrogen inside a small pill sized gold casing. Aimed directly at this little target, are 192 of the world’s most powerful lasers. All together the lasers will produce an estimated 1.8 megajoules or energy, that's over 60 times more powerful than any laser system that's ever been assembled before.

When all 192 lasers are turned on it will heat up the pellet of hydrogen to over 800 million degrees Fahrenheit; hotter than the core of the sun. That much energy will begin fusing the hydrogen atoms together to form helium atoms. When hydrogen atoms fuse together, extra neutrons are converted to energy. When Einstein postulated that E=MC² he proved that matter can be turned directly into Energy. So the net amount of h…

Top physics news stories of the day

House approves string theory bailout

The $14-billion measure faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where standard model opposition remains strong.

Washington D.C.
April 1st, 2009

The House approved a $14-billion bailout for U.S. string theorists Wednesday after White House and lawmakers finalized a deal empowering a government "theory czar" to force the universe into bankruptcy by next spring if they don't restructure.

But the fate of the plan -- and of some of the nation's most storied physicists and institutions -- remained uncertain because of deep-seated standard model opposition in the Senate, where theorists cannot pass the bill without the experimentalists help.

Many experimentalists are weary of government bailouts and worry that providing money to string theorists will lead other researchers to seek aid. Many on Capitol Hill also are convinced they should have attached more strings to the $700-billion Wall Street bailout.

We would like to credit the original artic…

Higgs Boson Found

This news story just came in over the wires! It's incredible, I haven't seen it reported elsewhere yet so I'm just going to post it in full to the site!

Higgs Boson Found

The theorized Higgs boson, subject of intense research by physicists the world over, was discovered this morning wedged between the cushions of the Yonz family living room couch in Topeka Kansas. Scientists the world over have hailed the discovery as a tremendous advancement for fundamental physics, but have expressed surprise at some of the particles unique attributes.

"The boson is certainly larger than we expected. Our previous estimates had the particle pegged at about 1 millionth of a nanometer. Instead it turns out its closer in size to a ping-pong ball," said Dr. Adam Finder, researcher at Fermilab.

The boson, which is bright green in appearance, was discovered by the youngest member of the Yonz family, Barry age 9, when he was looking for the remote control to the TV. When Barry first happen…