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Showing posts from August, 2016

Spaceship Simulations Create Psychedelic Spiral Artwork

About 350 years ago, as the story goes, an apple fell near British physicist Isaac Newton and planted the seeds of the laws of motion. Now, in celebration of the anniversary, retired math teacher Stan Spencer has borrowed what Newton learned to create art from simulated rocket motion and get others interested in understanding science.

Resolving Starlight with Quantum Technology

Light is one of the most powerful tools we have for exploring the unknown. From a flashlight in a dark cave to starlight from distant galaxies, light illuminates the things and physical processes that surround us. In an article published yesterday in the American Physical Society’s Physical Review X, a team of scientists from the National University of Singapore describe how we can learn even more from light, using measurement techniques rooted in quantum mechanics. Their work could lead to dramatic improvements in the images we can resolve with microscopes and telescopes.
Imagine looking out into the dark sky and focusing on one pinprick of starlight. How do you know if you’re looking at a single star, two stars, or a billion stars? Zoom in with a powerful telescope and what looks like one star can transform into a star cluster, nebula, or even a galaxy. But what if the pinprick still looks like a single star? How can you be sure that it is one star and not, for example, a binary sta…

Why You Shouldn't Have Fallen for That "Helium Beer" Video

A little over a year ago, a video of two giggling, drinking Germans started making its way around the internet. As they take sips of their beers, the giggles rise sharply in pitch, thanks to the helium that's taken the place of the CO2 which ordinarily gives beer its carbonated bounce. Each burst of laughter sounds more ridiculous than the last, and the two lose themselves in a chain-reaction of such high-pitched hilarity that it's impossible not to be drawn in and find yourself laughing along. You can check out the video below.

The Dark Side of Ghost Imaging

Displays of candy corn and costumes may soon be replacing sunscreen and beach towels, but this post isn’t meant to detract from what’s left of the summer. Ghost imaging is a technique for imaging something that you can’t see directly. It does seem a bit spooky—imagine getting detailed images of the ground from a satellite-based optical system even when clouds or smoke obscure the line-of-sight. However, ghost imaging isn’t a supernatural feat. It’s just another strange and mind-bending application of quantum mechanics.

In Combat and Car Accidents, Nanoparticles Could Fight Internal Bleeding

Injury is the number one cause of death in Americans ages 1-44. Resulting from violence and accidents, injuries claim nearly 200,000 lives per year in the United States alone. A team of researchers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is fighting back with a simple, nanoparticle-based technology to reduce blood loss from internal injuries.

Ballistic Fungi Use Surface Tension to Create Extraordinary Accelerations

Put a droplet of water on the table. Wet your finger and then, observing closely, touch your finger to that water droplet, and watch as the water on the table joins the droplet on your fingertip. It's a mundane process, but this humble mechanism is powerful enough to create some of the strongest accelerations on Earth.

The Forces in Spilled Coffee Awaken

Like much of the world, scientists thrive on coffee. It’s not just because of the caffeine though, it turns out that even spilled coffee fuels research.

Captured Lightning: Electrons Follow Fractals Through Insulators

Fractals, shapes that look similar to their parts no matter how much you zoom in, are everywhere from broccoli to seashells. Now, a new study of an old physics problem has found more: Electrons inside some conductive materials may be hopping around atoms in fractal patterns.

Escaping a Black Hole: Strongest Evidence Yet for Hawking Radiation

The exotic cosmic objects we call black holes aren’t truly holes, and it turns out that they may not be totally black either. In an article that appears today in the journal Nature Physics, Jeff Steinhauer from the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) outlines the strongest experimental evidence yet that energy can escape from a black hole.
Black holes are extremely dense areas of space defined by an event horizon, a boundary beyond which nothing that gets sucked in can escape—not even light (hence the “black” in “black hole”). Theory predicts that black holes can be the size of an atom or millions of times as massive as the sun, although smaller ones are less stable. As strange and unique as they seem, there are likely millions of black holes in the universe, including at least one at the center of each galaxy.

Nearly 50 years ago, bold work by then-graduate student Jacob Bekenstein inspired black hole expert Stephen Hawking to take a closer look at the theoretical physics gover…

This is Your Brain on Physics

Like the physics engine in a video game that brings to life car crashes, nosedives, touchdown passes, and other physical events, humans may have a kind of “physics engine” in the brain that helps us survive. After all, even non-physicists quickly swerve to miss an oncoming car, duck to avoid being hit, and reflexively catch falling objects.

PhysicsCentral Welcomes its Newest Contributor!

Eran Moore Rea grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and recently graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics (Intensive) and American Studies (Intensive, cultural history). At Yale, she researched with the ATLAS experiment at CERN, working on optimizing and implementing the Run 2 Monte Carlo simulation of the Higgs boson produced in association with a vector boson and decaying to a tau lepton pair. Always alert to the absurdity of life, she created the comic Midwestern Nerd at Yale for the Yale Daily News. She previously wrote for the University of Washington’s technology transfer department. At APS, she is excited to find the story (as well as the humor) in physics research, new technology and unexpected innovation. Currently melting in the DC heat, she eagerly waits for the winter again.

Physicists Put "Backspin" on Laser Light

Like a pool shark developing trick shots, scientists are always finding ways to bend the rules. Now, physicists from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have demonstrated a technique that lets them change the dynamics of reflection. By using an intense vortex beam—a special arrangement of photons superimposed on one another to create a rotating, hollow "tube" of light—the researchers coaxed the reflected beam out of the plane of incidence, a rather extraordinary trick. Their work is slated to appear soon in the American Physical Society's journal Physical Review Letters.

Ghostly 4th Neutrino Most Likely Doesn't Exist

An international team of researchers from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory just announced with 99% certainty that a proposed particle called a sterile neutrino doesn’t exist. Why is the fact that something doesn’t exist big news? This ghost particle may have helped explain several mysteries of the universe, such as the origin of dark matter and why matter exists at all.

On Propelling Swarms of Underwater Robots

Underwater construction, salvage, rescue, and scientific exploration can be dangerous, difficult tasks even for highly trained individuals. They can also be expensive. Enter the underwater robot. Controlled by remote or autonomously, robots explore volcanoes under the surface of the ocean, install sensors on the sea floor, search for the wreckage of missing planes like Air France Flight 447, collect military intelligence, and map the seafloor for oil and gas companies, and they do it all without threat to human life.