Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The First Signals of a Magnetic Supersolid

We live in a world full of color, noise, and causes that demand attention. In order to avoid being completely overwhelmed, most people quickly and instinctively sort things into neat categories that help them make sense of the world.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

10 Facts About Light to Brighten your Day

May 16th is the International Day of Light, a worldwide initiative sponsored by UNESCO to celebrate the role light plays in scientific innovation, culture, and art. This day is a special day in history because it marks the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. In the past century, we have learned ways to manipulate light far beyond anything previously. Hopefully, these facts help you get lit, for the International Day of Light.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

To Build a Better Teapot, Researchers Create Liquid Helix

It is a truth universally acknowledged that nothing—nothing—is more pointlessly irritating than a poorly designed water jug. You know—the kind that mindlessly dribbles all over the table every time you try to serve yourself? For centuries ceramicists and potters have slowly perfected ways to get around the so-called “teapot effect”, but scientists have long struggled to properly model the phenomenon.

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Thursday, May 09, 2019

Using an X-Ray Laser, Researchers Make the Loudest Underwater Sound

Researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have produced an underwater sound so intense that it rivals the Earth-shaking roar of a rocket launch. “It is just below the threshold where [the sound] would boil the water in a single wave oscillation,” according to lead researcher Claudiu Stan, now at Rutgers University Newark. This research by Gabriel Blaj et al. was published in a recent issue of the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Fluids.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Gargantua: The Science behind Interstellar's black hole

If there is one thing that everyone thinks they understand about black holes, it’s spaghettification. After all, it’s a popular plot device in countless sci-fi books and movies; there’s just something incredibly gripping about the image of some intrepid—or massively unlucky—soul being strung out until she is merely atoms thick.  In fact, the concept is so ingrained in the minds of scientists and the general public alike that reviewers tore the 2014 film Interstellar to shreds (see here and here) precisely because the protagonist wasn’t stretched into oblivion!

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

Lab-Created Nano Aerosols Could Improve Climate Models

“Climate change will affect nearly every person on the planet in the coming decades,” according to Jake Fontana, a research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Our ability to reliably predict and reasonably prepare for that change depends on how well we can model the climate. Thanks to a new tool developed by Fontana and his team at NRL, more accurate models may be on the way. Their results are reported in a recent issue of the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review B.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What's a Marsquake?

On April 23rd, NASA InSight scientists announced they had detected a small seismic event on Mars, aptly referred to as a marsquake. This event, the first of its kind ever detected, promises to bring revolutionary insights about planetary interiors and seismic activity on other worlds.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Science of Knitting

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to receive a handmade sweater as a gift, you likely spent more time than strictly necessary listening to its creator describing each of its virtues in detail: Look, it won’t stretch out under your arms! The weight of this yarn will make the sweater grow with you. Notice how closely knit it is to keep you warm!

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Friday, April 05, 2019

Fluid Physics Tackles Fondue

During the cold of winter, the Swiss will often prepare a warm pot of fondue for supper. The famous melted cheese dish is traditionally made with grated cheese, white wine, a thickener like corn or potato starch and seasonings like garlic, pepper and nutmeg.


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Thursday, April 04, 2019

Vancouver's TRIUMF Lab Bottles Atomic Shrapnel

While visitors and locals flock to Vancouver’s parks for a taste of the region’s famous untamed beauty, at TRIUMF labs another kind of natural exploration is taking place. Nestled among three green spaces, the enormous particle accelerator center might seem a little out of place with its twelve and a half acres of research buildings and radiation warnings. Yet the researchers at TRIUMF work tirelessly to coax some of nature’s deepest secrets out of normally untalkative particles: neutrons.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

At Micro-scale, Peeling Tape Moves Faster than an F-15 Jet

Most of us are familiar with the screeching noise packing tape makes when it's peeled off a box, as well as the frustration of failing to cleanly remove a label from a new purchase. It turns out that the jerky stop-and-go motion we experience when peeling tape occurs at a microscopic level as well.

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

How to Cut a Car's Air Drag: More Air?

When you think of an aerodynamic car, what comes to mind? Smooth curves, sharp points, images of smoke streaming over surfaces in a wind tunnel—but what if we didn’t have to change something’s shape to help it cut through the air more efficiently? That’s the idea behind a new experiment reported in Physical Review Fluids, in which scientists showed that adding nozzles which shoot precisely timed jets of air can substantially cut a vehicle’s drag profile, potentially improving efficiency and gas mileage.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sound Waves May Have Negative Mass, New Study Reveals

The sound of a sonic boom may produce about the same magnitude of gravitational pull as a 10-milligram weight, a new study finds. Oddly, the findings also suggest the pull is in the opposite direction of the gravitational pull generated by normal matter, meaning sound waves might fall up instead of down in Earth's gravitational field.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Antimatter Cosmic Rays Shine a Light on Mysteries of the Universe

Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting laughed when I asked where all of the high energy electrons that hit his particle detector were coming from. “The data has just been published three days ago,” he told me, hinting at the depth of the mystery and the virtue of patience. “The most important thing is that none of our results can be explained by current models.”

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Friday, March 22, 2019

Do Rocks Contain Traces of Dark Matter?

For the past two decades, scientists have constructed a variety of experiments, including cryogenic detectors and tanks of liquid xenon, around the world in hopes of spotting the scantest signs of elusive dark matter particles. But time and time again, they've come up empty-handed. Now a team of scientists propose a completely different approach.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Machine Vision: How a Simple Hardware Hack Could Replace Thousands of Lines of Code

In an increasingly digital world, it’s small wonder that we’re constantly searching for ever-more-sophisticated ways to interact with photographs and images: designers scan a 3D prototype and import its dimensions into a computer; medical programs image an internal organ and delineate the tumor to be removed; robots avoid drop-offs by recognizing the shapes that stairs make on their detectors; teenagers transform their selfies into what appears to be a pencil sketch.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New Simulation Suggests We've Been Underestimating the Strength of Asteroids

The size of a small city, the target asteroid is imposing. The cracks and craters on its surface reflect years of wear in the extreme and dangerous environment of deep space.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Artificial Intelligence Helps Hunt Down Superconductors

Finding the next miracle material can be a tedious process. Thomas Edison and his fellow researchers famously tested thousands of materials before finding the right one for making lightbulb filaments. The search for superconductors, and in particular materials that can sustain superconductivity up to room temperature, is perhaps a modern-day equivalent.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

How a Space Telescope's Accidental Discovery Overturned Everything we Thought we Knew About Lightning Storms

The GRAPES-3 muon telescope in Ooty, India was designed to study the cosmos—events that took place millions of years ago at distances that confound the human imagination. What researchers didn’t expect was that it would also shed light not just on cosmic history, but on a mystery much closer to home: the massive power hidden in a thundercloud.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Meet LANER: the "Network" Laser

It seemed like a simple idea: shine a laser through a complex network of optical fibers and see what pathway(s) the beam of light preferred. But once he got started, Giovanni Giacomelli realized that his project had opened the way to something much bigger—something that would eventually lead him to revisit the handful of laser designs currently in existence.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

"Transparent Wood" Could Build the Greenhouses of the Future

Inspired by a technique first developed by botanists during the 1990s, materials scientists in the past few years have been making an almost oxymoronic-sounding material: transparent wood. While the biologists, who were studying the structure of wood, needed only small pieces, materials scientists have proposed applications like load-bearing windows and have focused on scaling up the technique.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

WATCH: Waves in Liquid Metal Form Entrancing Patterns, Offer Hints on Quantum Theory

Cymatics. If you know the word, it conjures images of hypnotic geometries, shapes of sand that shift and rearrange into ever-more-elaborate configurations, while a humming sound in the background rises in pitch to become a whine, and then a high, warbling tone.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"Structural Paints" Could Create Brilliant Colors That Never Fade

Have you ever taken a moment to admire the brilliant blue of a bluebird’s feathers or the vibrant green of a beetle’s wings and wondered why you can’t buy that color in a paint can? Nature has long since perfected a kind of coloration that we humans still struggle with—but it may just be a matter of time before it decorates your living room.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Astronomers Spot a Pudgy Dragon in the Orion Nebula

Since ancient times, people gazing up at the night sky have seen animals, gods and goddesses, and other entities in the patterns of stars. Now scientists, using modern technology to peer heavenward, have spotted a new celestial object: a somewhat pudgy dragon lurking in the clouds of the Orion Nebula. The dragon's fat shape holds clues about how stars form—and how the process stops.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scientists Use Mathematical Modeling to Fight Encroaching Deserts

The Gobi Desert in Asia is the fastest growing desert in the world. Aided by deforestation and overgrazing, the desert devours more than 2,000 square miles of grassland each year. The expansion causes food scarcity, unemployment, migration, and massive dust storms. Wherever the desert spreads, it devastates the local economy, threatens political stability, and endangers public health.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

What the Physics of Phase Transitions Can Teach us About Deadly Stampedes and Crushing Crowds

After the polar vortex that recently plunged much of North America into subzero temperatures, examples of stunning phase transitions abound. Videos of boiling water condensing into snow and supercooled water instantly crystalizing swept the internet alongside my personal favorite: bubbles freezing before your eyes.

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Thursday, February 07, 2019

Two Phases, Two Faces: "Janus Oscillators" Undergo Explosive Synchronization

What do algae, grandfather clocks and a two-faced Roman god have in common? On the face of it, not much—but they all play a part in a recent paper out of Northwestern University.

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Monday, February 04, 2019

More Precise Data Can Lead to Worse Decisions, Study Shows

Key political, business, and personal decisions are regularly made on the basis of data and, increasingly, big data. In general, that’s a good thing—intuition is often a less reliable guide. But, as shown by new research published in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Physics Education Research, interpreting data is a tricky skill to master.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Particle Accelerator X-Ray Blasts Help Create Ultra-Slo-Mo 3D Videos

Researchers have come up with a new technique to take 3D X-ray images and even slow-motion movies. The new method could help uncover the internal structure of tiny things, such as viruses and proteins, and shed light on processes that occur at super high speeds, such as the deformation of materials during high speed collisions. The results are reported in a recent paper in the journal Optica.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery of "Rogue Waves"

For centuries, sailors have returned to land with tales of being swept up in 100-ft swells, enormous waves appearing from an apparently calm ocean to terrorize even the most stalwart crew members, before sinking into nothingness just as suddenly as they appeared. The mariners who claim to have seen such “rogue waves” were few and far between—but it’s also not the sort of event that vessels can withstand, and there have always been ships lost at sea but never accounted for.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Using Just a Digital Camera, a New Method Lets Scientists See Around Corners

Shadows aren’t usually credited with bringing things to light. They're more often associated with clandestine meetings and dark corners, at least in spy movies. In contrast, new research published today in the journal Nature describes a technique developed by researchers at Boston University that uses shadows to reveal things otherwise hidden from view.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

To Measure Gravity, Scientists Drop Individual Atoms

Since interferometry was developed in the 19th century, physics has not been the same. The technique, which relies on manipulating a wave’s path, has been used to measure everything from the speed of light to gravitational waves with remarkable precision. Now, physicists are applying it to an entirely different type of problem: determining the acceleration that matter experiences thanks to the gravitational pull of the Earth.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Controversial "Cow" Explosion

It’s a supernova… It’s a tidal event… It’s a cow?

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Research Turns Tornado Models Upside Down

As we reflect on the best and worst things about 2018, here’s one reason many in the state of Oklahoma are grateful: no one was killed in a tornado last year.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

There's an Excessive Amount of Radioactivity in this Middle Eastern Water Supply—but is it Actually Dangerous?

People in Egypt's western desert are drinking groundwater with naturally high levels of radium, a radioactive element, according to research presented last month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington. Experts disagree on the cancer-related health risks, but babies who rely on the most radioactive wells could get more than 100 times the maximum levels recommended by the World Health Organization for long-term exposure from drinking water, according to the researchers. Many communities across the Middle East and northern Africa are likely also using water with elevated levels of radiation.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Starlight and Pink Poo: Studying Penguins from Space

December is behind us, but there's still a lot icy-cold winter left in our part of the world. That means we’re surrounded by snowmen, sleds, and cute little images of penguins and polar bears. This season I’m seeing those penguins in a whole new light, thanks to research presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting last month.

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