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Showing posts from March, 2012

Multiple Groups Claim to Create First Atom-Thick Silicon Sheets

Since its discovery in 2004, graphene -- sheets of carbon an atom thick -- has sparked a flurry of research into the nanomaterial's potential applications for blazing fast, tiny electronics. Now, several research groups claim to have created analogous thin sheets of silicon called silicene, igniting a controversy over who won the race to synthesize this promising new material. Image of the two-dimensional honeycomb structure of silicene as captured  by a scanning tunneling microscope. Credit: Patrick Vogt/TU Berlin   Smaller means faster in electronics. Conventional electronic devices based on silicon are being miniaturized, but they start to malfunction as they approach the limits of the single atom scale. Consequently, manufacturers need to find new solutions for faster electronics in the coming years. Because silicene and graphene are essentially two-dimensional they can work at the single atom level.

What Does a Scientist Look Like?

On movies and TV shows, scientists are often depicted as boring, socially inept men in white labcoats. But scientists are far more diverse than these depictions indicate, and one blogger is determined to dispel stereotypes surrounding scientists. This Is What a Scientist Looks Like is a Tumblr blog with new images of a different scientist everyday. The images typically feature the scientist out of the lab enjoying her favorite activities. And the message is clear: scientists definitely don't fit into a single mold. Kelly Peach, a Phd candidate in organic chemistry, is one of the most recently featured scientists on the site. Image Courtesy Kelly Peach/TIWASLL.

Does Information Really Spread 'Virally' Online?

This past weekend, I watched the 2011 disaster flick Contagion for the first time. For those who haven't seen it, the movie follows several people as they try to cope with a deadly global pandemic of an unknown virus. While following the spread of the virus, the movie also draws parallels between the disease epidemic and the spread of information (or misinformation) through blogs and Twitter. Contagion briefly touches on the models that scientists use to track epidemics, and real-life scientists have been applying these models to information spreading online. New research , however, suggests that the parallels between information exchange and disease spreading are shallow. In other words, 'viral' snippets of information, such as those that helped propel the Occupy movement into the national spotlight, may not spread like a virus. Instead, there's subtle distinctions that reveal 'viral' in this context can be a bit of a misnomer, according to the research.

Quantum Computing Research Leads to Improved MRIs

Fundamental research in physics can seem pretty far removed from everyday life at times. Although large projects like the LHC or the Very Large Telescope may be awe-inspiring, the tangible benefits of such research may seem distant. But science research can lead to unexpected results, and innovation in one field can have a large impact on another. Over the past 10 years, scientists having been diligently working on creating powerful quantum computers. Although quantum computers haven't realized their full potential, this research has inspired a new technique in medical imaging. Thanks to basic research, scientists have developed a different way of using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to take 3-d images of brains, bones, and even oil-bearing soil. A 3-D MRI image of a pork rib using a new technique targeting phosphorous atoms. Video Courtesy Meredith Frey et al./PNAS/Yale University.

The Girl Who was on Fire, The Physics of 'The Hunger Games' Fashion

Today marked the opening of one of the most anticipated movies of the year, ‘ The Hunger Games.’ Teenagers (and adults) around the globe lined up to watch Katniss , Peeta and the other children from the 12 Districts battle to the death in the arena devised by the Gamemakers . One of the most pivotal scenes in both the book and the movie is when Katniss enters the city set ablaze by her expert stylist, Cinna. Could such a fashion statement be possible with today’s technology?

Jupiter's Melting Heart Sheds Light on Mysterious Exoplanet

Scientists now have evidence that Jupiter's core has been dissolving, and the implications stretch far outside of our solar system. Credit: Forsetius via flickr. Jupiter might be having a change of heart. Literally. New simulations suggest that Jupiter's rocky core has been liquefying and mixing with the rest of the planet's innards. With this new data, astronomers hope to better explain a recent puzzling discovery of a strange planet outside of our solar system.

Fusion Finally on the Horizon?

If you're betting that we will one day rely on clean nuclear fusion for our growing energy needs, your odds are getting a lot better thanks to a laser-based technique called Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF). For many people, nuclear fusion is the ultimate alternative to dirty, planet-destroying fossil fuels and tsunami-vulnerable fission plants . The fact that we can look to the sun to see fusion in action makes it seem so easy, safe, and wholesome. There's just one small problem - stars can only shine if they're really, really big because you need lots of gravity to hold the churning mass of hydrogen and helium together tightly enough for fusion to take place.

Einstein Online: His Work, Life, and Loves

Yesterday, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem started uploading digitized documents from its massive Einstein archive. With over 80,000 documents, the archive includes scientific correspondences, letters that Einstein wrote to family members and even love letters. Hebrew University announced that they had uploaded 2,000 documents to the archive's online home . In addition they've included a more selective gallery divided into different sections (e.g. science, personal life, and Nobel Prize documents).

Earliest Spring in a Century Starts Tonight

For some parts of the country, spring officially starts early tomorrow morning for the East Coast, meaning Spring actually starts late tonight for the western part of the country. Now, the plants are blooming, the birds are chirping, and people across the world will try to balance eggs (although that can be done any other day of the year with equal amounts of patience). Usually, spring starts on either March 20 or March 21. Spring hasn't started this early in over a century, but it's not due to a changing climate. Instead, this early astronomical spring stems from several factors related to the Earth's tilt and orbit. A helpful video on the cause of the seasons. Video Courtesy of Ignite Learning.

Neutrinos Seen to Travel Merely at C

The ICARUS experiment has measured neutrinos moving at the speed of light in an experiment much like the OPERA collaboration experiment that first seemed to show faster-than-light neutrinos . From the abstract of the paper posted on the Arxiv . . . "The result is compatible with the simultaneous arrival of all events with equal speed, the one of light . . . This is in a striking difference with the reported result of OPERA that claimed that high energy neutrinos from CERN should arrive at LNGS about 60 ns earlier than expected from luminal speed."

New Gecko Insights Inspire Even Stronger Adhesives

Exploring newly appreciated roles of lizards' tendons and bones allows researchers to develop seriously sticky 'skin.' Photo courtesy of Mike Bartlett, Duncan Irschick, Al Crosby | University of Massachusetts Amherst   At first glance, a gecko skittering up a wall and a flat-screen television attached to the same wall have little in common. But researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have made the connection.

Party Trick: Flying Fiery Tea Bags

How do you make a tea bag fly? Simple: Set it on fire. This fun and simple science experiment is a great way to learn about the physics of convection currents. Below is a step-by-step guide to making your own flying tea bags at home (Note to our younger readers: Make sure you have adult supervision before trying this experiment).

Happy Pi Day Everyone!

It's here again, Pi Day! This is second only to May the 4th as the most important holiday on the geek calendar which includes such important days as Talk Like Pirate Day , Tweed Day , Mole Day and of course, April Fool's Day . This is not only a day to bake pies, browse dorky tshirts and calculate the circumference of your cereal bowls, it is also important to sing Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein who would be turning 133 today. I hope he was never one of the unfortunate children that got the dreaded "Pi day/Birthday" present instead of a present for each. Part of me would like to celebrate today by giving you a fantastic cherry pie recipe, but instead I'll give you a brief history of Pi and why we care about it enough to celebrate it.

Space Travel Damages Astronauts' Vision

When astronauts head up to the International Space Station for extended periods of time, they face a host of health dangers. In the microgravity environment of the ISS, bones and muscles weaken; radiation exposure increases; and swelling fluids give rise to "puffy" faces. Now there's a new likely danger to add to the list: deformed eyeballs.

Particles, Art, and Photo Graffiti Collide

CERN, the organization behind the Large Hadron Collider, welcomed its first artist in residence to its Geneva headquarters today. Julius von Bismark won a competition to hold the three month position, and he's teaming up with theoretical physicist James Wells for his artistic project. Bismark will spend two months at CERN developing his art project before realizing it with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, artists and designers. While no one know exactly what Bismark's project will look like, he's already attracted attention for his photo hacking device that implants text onto the photographs of unsuspecting photographers. Bismark's photo hacking device can implant hidden images or text onto photographs. Image Courtesy Julius von Bismark.

Did the Moon Help Launch the Iceberg that Sunk the Titanic?

A rare astronomical alignment may have doomed the famous ocean liner. On the night of April 14, 1912 the great White Star liner, RMS Titanic raked an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sank, taking 1,517 souls down with her.  

X-Class Solar Flares Are Here

Earlier this week, two X-class solar flares — the most massive group of flares — erupted on the Sun. The flares sent out a mixture of electrons, protons, and heavy nuclei toward the Earth at speeds exceeding 1,000 miles per second. The leading edge of this Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) reached the Earth earlier this morning. In the video below, you can see a spectacular video of the erupting solar flares taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory . This video of the recent solar flares was taken at x-ray wavelengths. The solar flares appear to have a ripple effect across the surface of the sun. Video Courtesy NASA/SDO. Although these flares aren't expected to cause significant damage, previous solar flares have had huge impacts. Previously, CMEs have downed satellites, exploded generators and disrupted power grids.

Sweet Science

I've recently given up chocolate (and most other sweets) in a futile attempt to get in better shape for my upcoming race season. Of course this means I can think of nothing but sugar. ("Did you say ice cream?!?! No, I said 'ion beam.'" ) So I figured I would talk about all the tasty physics treats I can't currently eat. Enjoy, because I know I won't!

Improving Origami Planes With Physics at the APS March Meeting

Not many know, but the APS March meeting hosts quite a large number of undergraduate students from all over the world. They present posters about their research, lecture about their REUs and publications, and network with like-minded professional physicists. And they fold paper planes, too. All in the name of science!

Spider Silk Violin

A Japanese researcher has created violin strings out of spider silk collected from 300 spiders. And these spiders were hard at work: Each violin string consists of between 9,000 and 15,000 filaments. Shigeyoshi Osaki from the Nara Medical University in Japan bundled the filaments together to create A, D, and G note strings. The violin's novel material produces a "soft and profound" timbre — the tone quality or tone "color" of a note. Professional violinists even rated the spider silk sound quality more highly than traditional string quality. You can hear the violin's unique sound on BBC News .

Can Ants Count? Science Cartoons Answer

Earlier this week, APS hosted a panel of speakers on the topic of communicating science to the public at the annual March Meeting. A cartoonist, artist, and science festival organizer were among the speakers, and each of them has made their own unique contribution to making science more fun and accessible. The first speaker whom I saw was Todd Rosenberg — also known as "Odd Todd." Ironically, Odd Todd started his career in cartooning after being laid off. Since then, he has started making cartoons covering science for outlets such as NPR. Below, you can see his cartoon made with Robert Krulwich that explains research on ants' ability to count their own steps.

The Best Acoustics Session

A favorite tradition at the APS March Meeting is the annual Physics Sing-Along! Old show tunes and contemporary classics alike are remixed and reworded with a distinct physical sciences flavor. Old favorites made an appearance like "Oh How I Love to Do Physics" sung to the tune of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma and numerous Tom Lehrer ditties. My personal favorite of the evening was "Fabricate" sung to the tune of "Cabaret", about the notorious physics fraud Jan Hendrik Schön . The whole event was organized by Walter F. Smith of Haverford College, who keeps a whole database of songs at his website .