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Showing posts from November, 2011

What’s the Higgs Boson Worth?

It might seem like a simple thought; what’s the Higgs boson Worth? That’s a tricky question and one that really doesn’t have an answer, but a man can postulate can’t he!? In a way there are two answers. On the one hand there’s strict economic amount, measured in real dollars and cold hard Euros. The Large Hadron Collider , the massive particle accelerator buried under Switzerland and France, was built at great expense in part to hunt for the elusive particle. Enormous, house-sized detectors are monitoring trillions of particle collisions looking for signals of the fundamental particle that gives matter its mass. To do this, supercomputers spread out at eleven top tier research institutions across the world are diligently picking apart the terabytes of data produced by the colossal machine.

Dancing Gumby Robot

What do breakdance moves, Gumby and robots have in common? More than you might think: Harvard scientists have created a Gumby-like robot that can do the worm and navigate through tight spaces. You can watch the soft-bodied robot in action below. Pretty awesome! The robot does the worm under an obstacle. Image courtesy Robert Shepherd/Harvard University via AP. Inspired by skeleton-less animals like jellyfish, worms and starfish, the team of researchers designed the robot to use compressed air to move its appendages. Equipped with four legs and a core, the robot can perform a variety of movements, ranging from the worm-like movement above to a crawling motion.

Black Friday Crowds: How Physics Can Prevent Tramplings

In the wake of Black Friday's shopping frenzy, several media outlets have reported on shoppers being trampled during the rush for bargains. While this problem rears its head every year, physicists have been researching this area for years. And they have some suggestions for preventing crowd disasters. A crowd gathers outside a Boise store for Black Friday deals. Image courtesy Robert Barney via Flickr. To model crowd interactions, physicists often turn to computer simulations of particles. In particular, researchers pored over video evidence of a stampede during a crowded religious pilgrimage that killed over 300 people several years ago. Their research culminated in a highly-cited paper that motivated several changes to the pilgrimage, making it much safer the next year.

Physics of Parade Balloons

Thanksgiving is full of traditions, but few have the same reach as the Macy's Day Parade that reaches 44 million television viewers every year. While bloated balloon animals seem to effortlessly float down New York City Streets, there's actually many hours of preparation required to make sure the parade goes off without a hitch. Below you can find a video detailing the science and "balloonatics" behind the annual event. An inside look at the Balloonatics behind the annual parade. Video Courtesy Science Friday.

Neutrino Update: New Doubts

Research conducted during the weeks after the recent faster-than-light neutrino observation has contradicted the original finding. When neutrinos travel faster than light, there should be characteristic radiation left in their wake according to new research. Not seeing this radiation in past results from the same beam used in the original experiment, an Italian team from the same laboratory has cast doubt on the existence of superluminal particles. A neutrino detector buried deep underground in Ontario, CA. Image courtesy A.B. McDonald/The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Institute. These results out of Italy represent an analysis of 2010 data through the lens of theoretical research carried out in October. Two researchers at Boston University (BU) published a paper in Physical Review Letters suggesting that neutrino beams should emit radiation in a process analogous to Cherenkov radiation.

Traffic Lasers: Angering Drivers One Ticket at a Time

Affecting about 1 in 6 people every year, traffic tickets can be a source of frustration, financial strain, and roasts by angry bosses when you finally arrive at work. Increasingly, officers are relying on laser technology to catch speeders. But is the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology accurate? Image Courtesy Highway Patrol Images on Flickr. According to a new report from the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper, some LIDAR guns can be wildly inaccurate. An independent expert tested the guns for the newspaper, finding that the guns would sometimes report high speeds for stationary objects and overestimate speeds for bicycles and cars.

World's Lightest Material Unveiled

Scientists have developed the lightest solid ever created—so light that it can rest atop a dandelion without damaging it. The ultra-low density material was inspired in part by lightweight architecture such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower. With an extremely small density, the material can sit atop dandelions. Image Courtesy Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC.

Make a Wish: the Leonids are Coming

Look up at the sky tonight, and there's a good chance you'll see a shooting star. Tonight will be the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower, but it won't be seen in all of its glory due to a bright moon. A Leonid fireball. Image copyright/credit: Lorenzo Lovato.

Liquid Lakes Form Europa's Blemishes

An artist's rendition of liquid water lakes and a deep, frozen ocean on Jupiter's moon, Europa. New research suggests these bodies of water give rise to "chaotic terrain" on the surface. Image Courtesy Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin. Scientists think they've uncovered a massive liquid water lake just under the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. While research has already suggested that there is an even larger frozen ocean buried deep beneath Europa, scientists now believe that the ocean is interacting with liquid bodies of water closer to the surface.

Fun Physics Simulations

Have you ever come across a physics phenomenon that you just couldn't wrap your head around? Physics can be tough, but the University of Colorado at Boulder Physics Department has provided a slew of interactive simulations that can help make some of the most difficult concepts a little more understandable. Click to Run A skate park simulation for learning about conservation of energy. Click above to run the simulation.

Stunning Time Lapse of Earth from Space

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS Above you can see some beautiful time lapse photography of the Earth as taken from the International Space Station. All of the footage was taken between August and October of this year. The video features spectacular views of auroras, sprawling city lights and lightning storms against a Milky Way backdrop. If you click on the link above, you can view the video in HD on Vimeo.

Robojelly, Wine Swirling and Supernovae

What do jellyfish robots, wine glasses and exploding stars have in common? They are all subjects of several novel research projects that will be presented at APS' Annual Meeting for the Division of Fluid Dynamics between November 20 and 22. Held at the Baltimore Convention Center, the meeting is celebrating its 64th year of unveiling exciting physics research. Below is a glimpse at some of the fascinating presentations to be presented at this year's meeting. Supernova Remnant EO102-72 with X-rays (blue), optical wavelengths (green) and radio (red). Image Courtesy NASA/CXC/SAO

Remote Antarctic Expedition to Reveal Glacial Secrets

13 scientists are traveling to one of Antarctica's most remote areas to examine how warm ocean waters are melting the underbelly of a massive glacier. Conditions are so harsh that the team can only work at their outpost for six weeks before heading back to Mcmurdo Station—Antarctica's science hub. Glaciologist Robert Bindschadler, the first person to walk on Pine Island Glacier. Image Courtesy NASA Using satellite measurements, scientists have found that Pine Island Glacier has been rapidly receding into the ocean. Researchers will investigate the area starting in December to determine how quickly the ice is melting and what implications there may be for rising sea levels. Comprising about 10 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Pine Island Glacier could contribute significantly to global sea-level rise if it continues to melt.

Spectra Saves Girl's Interest in Science

11 Year Old, Althea, Goes as Laser Super Hero, Spectra, for Halloween Photo courtesy of Kirsten O'Brien As Halloween creeps back into the shadows of October one PhysicsCentral reader and comic enthusiast shared her Halloween costume of 2011. This 11 year old from California, didn’t dress up like any regular super hero, no; she went as Spectra, the teenage girl with super hero powers of a laser.

Asteroid Hurtles Past Earth Tonight

At approximately 6:28 EST tonight, a 1,300-foot-wide (400m) asteroid will make its closest pass by Earth. Zooming 201,700 miles (321,867 km) above Earth's surface at its closest approach, asteroid 2005 YU55 will cruise within the moon’s orbit for the entire evening. Image Courtesy NASA Luckily for us, the asteroid will fly by without incident. An impact from this asteroid, however, could be devastating. For instance, in 1908, scientists believe that an asteroid or comet detonated above Siberia, demolishing 80 million trees across an area of 2,150 square kilometers (830 square miles). Known as the Tunguska event , the asteroid detonated with an energy equivalent to 10-15 megatons of TNT, 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. On top of that, the Tunguska asteroid was likely 4 to 8 times smaller than 2005 YU55.

Frisbee Flight

Hello Physics Buzz readers: As APS’ new science writing intern, I’m excited to join the Physics Buzz blog team. I’m migrating out east from the frigid Rocky Mountains where I studied physics and philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before coming to APS, I got my feet wet writing about everything water at the American Water Works Association. My blogger name, Hyperspace, was actually a nickname I picked up during college. I’m an avid ultimate frisbee player, and my quick feet coupled with my physics background gave rise to the name. In honor of one of my favorite pastimes, I’d like to use my first post to give you a crash course on the physics of frisbee flight.

Where Has All the Funny Gone?

There was a weird phenomenon that swept through the 1980s; scientists for half a decade seemed to get really funny. At no point in history have more comedies about scientists been released over such a short time. Science comedies, or sci-coms as I like to think of them, usually track some wacky scientist throwing together some physics-defying invention and having it all go awry, hilariously. It’s a genre that seems to have died, but I guess the flux capacitor that burns twice as bright, burns twice as fast. Ghostbusters (1984): The granddaddy of them all. Dr. Peter Venkman’s legendary axiom, “Back off man, I’m a scientist,” captures the essence of Ghostbusters, and really sci-coms as a genre. Bringing butt kicking science to paranormal phantasms, Dan Aykroyd , Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are on a mission to rid New York of all pesky ghosts, spirits and other supernatural specters. Technically the team’s made up of parapsychologists, but you have to have a pretty hefty physics bac

Laser Bug Blocker

I hate mosquitoes, and I love physics. That makes this a perfect storm of a story for me. Want, want, want.

Another Law of Physics Broken?

Just weeks after speeding neutrinos seem to have broken the speed of light, another universal law, the fine structure constant might be about to crumble. Or it might be as concrete and universal as ever, depending on whom you ask. The laws of physics might change depending on where you are in the universe, claims an Australian team behind a recently published journal article. The paper , appearing in the October 31 issue of Physical Review Letters, asserts that observations of over 300 distant celestial bodies show that the strength of electromagnetism may change at different places in the universe. However this claim has been greeted with much skepticism within the scientific community.

Magic Painting Changes with Heat

There are at least two approaches to creating paper-like computer screens and cell phones that roll up or fold. You could go the route that Samsung is pioneering with smart phones they're making ever more flexible , or you could start with paper and make it smarter. L.-O. Hennerdal and M. Berggren Appl. Phys. Lett. 99, 183303 (2011) Lars-Olov Hennerdal and Magnus Berggren of Linkoping University in Sweden are checking out the second option. They have a long way to go before they will have a piece of paper that acts like a computer display, but they've already made a sheet that can display two different images at the flick of a switch.