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Showing posts from December, 2015

Podcast: Lava in the Lab

From prodding streams of lava , to molten rock poured in the lab , to miniature flows made of analogue materials , there are many ways to study this red-hot force of nature. Today’s podcast joins planetary scientist and volcanologist Dr. Elise Rumpf on a deep dive into the physics of lava flows, from the field to the lab.

Ask a Physicist: Wind Farms and Weather

Foster, from the USA wants to know: Could the tens of thousands of windmills across the United States be at least partially responsible for the recent change in weather patterns, and particularly the drought in California? I know energy is conserved, so I have to wonder what effect it has on weather patterns when we start introducing massive energy sinks in high-wind areas. Wouldn't it cause more air to flow around the farms?

Scientists Find Method to Pinpoint Candidate Catalysts for Carbon Fixation

While gaseous carbon dioxide has been a harmful byproduct of human industry—it is the main greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency—it is an essential ingredient for plant life. Artificially fixing carbon to use as an energy source, by converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, could not only provide power but could also cut carbon dioxide emissions and therefore help reduce the effects of global warming.

Stunning Visuals From 2015's Fluid Dynamics Meeting

Every year, the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics publishes the Gallery of Fluid Motion , a repository of the most striking, awe-inspiring, and illuminating experiments presented at the annual meeting. This year’s submissions are just as spectacular as ever, showcasing everything from a water droplet being blown apart by a laser pulse to new ways of controlling the rainbow patterns on soap films.

Ask a Physicist: Slingshot Blueshift

Bruce, from the Netherlands, wants to know: When manmade probes are sent out into our galaxy, they are sent in such manner that they take advantage of the 'slingshot' gravitational effect of large orbiting masses (planets) in order to accelerate. We know that that same gravitational force impacts upon light rays, bending them as they pass those large orbiting masses. Therefore, why is the velocity of light not also accelerated by the same 'slingshot' effect?

Podcast: Fluids and Flocks

Birds often travel in flocks, and fish in schools — but can physics help us understand why?

Ask a Physicist: Gild the Moon

Dr. Madhav Pakare from Mumbai wants to know: How much gold would it take to cover the moon in a layer one atom thick? Gold has been renowned for its malleability since ancient times and, while we've yet to create graphene-like structures that are a single atom thick, you can come close with tools no more complex than a hammer and some parchment; it's possible to expand a gold nugget to 20,000 times its initial surface area, creating sheets less than a thousandth of a millimeter in width. Right now, scientists working on the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope are using innovative manufacturing techniques to produce ultra-thin gold coatings for the telescope's mirrors, a process that you can learn more about in NASA's "Behind the Webb" series .

Seeing Photons in a New Light

If I asked you to picture a photon, an electromagnetic wave, I’d expect the image that popped into your head to look something like the one below, with the characteristic intertwined sine curves of the electric and magnetic field vectors. Image Credit: Wiki user P.wormer,  CC BY-SA 3.0