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Showing posts from December, 2019

Astronomers Illuminate Giant Magnetic Ropes in the Sky

This time of year, people in many parts of the world are digging out boxes of holiday light, untying and untwisting the strands to create beautiful, sometimes tacky, glowing displays. Throughout the season, people will gather in front of the best displays, maneuvering around one another to get a better view of the twinkling shows.

25 million light-years away, astronomers have captured another brilliant display. We can’t see it with our eyes, but astronomers with the international CHANG-ES* collaboration have maneuvered telescopes and carefully processed data to make it visible. What they’ve found could shed light on the behaviors of galaxies like our own Milky Way, and might help us better understand some mysterious large-scale features of the universe.

The whale galaxy is a spiral galaxy, although it looks like a long smudge through Earth-based telescopes because we see it from the side. Like all spiral galaxies, the whale is surrounded by a glowing halo–a less dense region of gas an…

Cancer-preventing pizza, deceased magnetic cockroaches, and cube-shaped poop discoveries honored in the 2019 Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was held in September at Harvard University, where the world’s top thinkers gathered to celebrate the year’s strangest scientific advances. The competition was fierce. The particles in the air were ionized by the sheer dynamicity of it.

 Science, at times, can be a little stuffy. Scientists, on the other hand, can be exceedingly ridiculous people. In recognition of the latter, the Ig Nobel Prizes recognize achievements that make people laugh...then think. Sometimes science answers questions about the fundamental wonders of our galaxy, but other times, it answers far smaller and weirder questions. Every year, 10 prizes are awarded to scientists with discoveries that are exceedingly eccentric.


 The ceremony itself is a rather strange affair. It begins as all distinguished ceremonies do, with a paper airplane competition, where audience members must aim for a helmet-clad human target on stage:

 Let’s take a closer look at this year’s winners:

 Medicine: P…

“Walkers” Go Super

Without context, you might think a “superwalker” is an extra-fast power walker, topnotch zombie, or even a high-tech mobility device. But this is a physics blog, so that’s your first clue that we’re headed in a different direction. The superwalkers in this story don’t even have legs—they are small drops of liquid with surprising capabilities that were serendipitously discovered by researchers at Monash University in Australia.

Before we get into the details of superwalkers, let’s start with regular walkers. About 15 years ago, researchers discovered that if you vibrate a small, open container of liquid in the right way and under the right conditions, a droplet of the same liquid will “walk” horizontally across the liquid surface.

Sáenz, et alSpin lattices of walking dropletsAPS Gallery of Fluid Motion
When a droplet hits the liquid for the first time, it bounces upward and creates waves in the liquid. When it falls back down again, the droplet interacts with the waves it created p…

Scientists Discover a Mechanism Behind Jupiter’s Mysterious Winds

When the astronomer Galileo Galilei first set his sights on Jupiter through his telescope in 1610, he noticed two strange things: First, there four small moons orbiting the planet, and second, planet had these strange alternating bands of color. Now, over 400 years later, we’re looking at these stripes on the Solar System’s largest planet in a way we never have before.

 Fast forward to the year 2011: NASA has launched the Juno spacecraft (who’s name has a strange origin story) towards Jupiter, and after a lengthy four-year trek, it finally began its orbit of the gaseous planet. The Juno mission’s overarching goal is to understand how Jupiter formed, which could tell us about the enigmatic origins of our solar system. Equipped with a magnetometer, an energetic particle detector, a UV spectrograph, and a host of other analytical devices, Juno is transmitting a boatload (or spaceshipload if you will) of data back to earth. With that data, scientists aim to unlock the secrets of this mass…