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Showing posts from December, 2020

How to Fortify Your (and Your Kids’) Screen Time with a Dose of Physics

By Rebecca and Chrystian Vieyra As teachers, students, and their families have navigated online learning this year, science education has taken a bit of a hit. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported that only 38% of teachers who responded to a survey said that they had been able to engage their students in hands-on laboratory activities during the spring semester after the pandemic forced many school buildings to close. Distance teaching and learning can be tough, especially when teachers can’t count on having the right materials in students’ homes. Fortunately, one thing most families do have in their possession are mobile devices. In the U.S., more than 80% of adults and 96% of 18-29 year olds own at least one device . In turn, teachers and students around the world have increased their use of apps like Physics Toolbox Sensor Suite and phyphox to make data collection with the smartphone’s internal sensors a possibility. With these tools, high

Allotropy: Why Winter Spells Trouble for the Tin Man

Tin is a commonplace metal that’s used industrially in a thousand different ways. From the solder that holds your computer’s motherboard together to the PVC plumbing under your sink, tin compounds are everywhere. In spite of its versatility, tin possesses an interesting physical property which is responsible for its tendency to wear down over time outdoors. This phenomenon, known as “tin pest”, is certainly not due a biological organism, but is widely mistaken for an oxidation reaction. Instead, tin pest happens thanks to something called allotropy—the metal’s atomic lattice can take on multiple different shapes, depending on the temperature it’s kept at. 

Art and the Elegant Universe

By Lindsay Olson Scientific Adviser:  Dr. Don Lincoln Curator: Georgia Schwender  Neutrinos  II As Fermilab’s first artist in residence, my workspace had some unusual supplies for an artist’s studio. Pinned to my idea board I had a list of subatomic particles, quotes from popular physics books, the names of inspiring physicists, and a picture of Nobel Laureate Marie Curie. I use my art project to explore and explain how particle physics underpins all of life. Using science and art together not only energized my studio practice, but it also changed the way I see our universe. Early in 2014, Georgia Schwender invited me to tour the lab after attending one of my art events. In the middle of the tour, she turned to me and asked me if I wanted to help her establish an artist residency at the lab. Fermilab’s founding director Dr. Robert Wilson was himself both a scientist and an artist. Georgia wanted to extend his vision of using art as a powerful form of outreach to help others u

Scientists Search for Rudolph's Red Nose, and other great stories.

Dutch scientists journeyed close to the North Pole to pursue a question that has baffled scientists for generations: Why is Rudolph's nose red? Image Credit: Kia Krarup Hansen You may recall the most famous reindeer of all, though you might not have realized that a species of reindeer really does have a particularly rosy snout. In the study , published in the holiday  edition of the British Medical Journal,  the team of researchers found that reindeer noses contain a dense network of capillaries that are rich in red blood cells.

Holiday Instability

It's a typical December scenario: The family trip to the tree lot. The Fraser Fir tied to the roof of the car. Dad under the branches screwing the stand to the trunk. And the inevitable wobbling of the 7-foot holiday embellishment as it threatens to topple over and onto the floor, scattering needles everywhere. When it comes to holiday decorations, why do we work so hard to put out fragile items easily destroyed by Fifi and Fido? (Not to mention Frank and Francine...) Holiday decorations are unstable. (We're talking about physics here. We'll leave their emotions aside.) To take a closer look at what we're dealing with, I've considered three of the most popular items from the array of December decor: The Christmas tree, the Hanukkah menorah and, of course, the Festivus pole . Which of the three is the most likely to topple over when cousin Fred bumps into it after sampling too much egg nog? Just as you would expect, the answer comes down to center of mas

A New Way of Learning Quantum Computation: Just Through Visual Cues

You can now play a video game called Quantum Odyssey, which teaches all you need to rigorously understand quantum computation. Understanding the logic (set of rules, laws) followed by the building blocks of our Universe is no trivial matter - even more, to use this very logic and create meaningful computation, such as solving a real-world problem on a quantum computer, many argue that that one has to completely drop any previous Computer Science knowledge they might have and start from scratch. Many aspects of quantum computing defy our intuition. Our daily lives' logic is the same logic we have built within our classical computers. The careful study and understanding of the atom now allow us to go deeper into thinking about problems. By harnessing the way matter behaves at a quantum level, many companies and research institutions are racing to build quantum computers. Although early quantum hardware exists for many years now, we haven’t really managed to use these quantum c

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.

How Imaging Science Reveals Historical Secrets

By: Hannah Pell In the 2004 movie National Treasure, the main character Ben Gates — a historian, cryptographer, and treasure hunter played by Nicholas Cage — is determined to solve the generational mystery passed down to him from his grandfather. The only clue that Ben has is: The secret lies with Charlotte. Based on this, he leads his team to a lost Arctic ship named Charlotte, in which he finds another clue that leads him straight to the Declaration of Independence. “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence,” he declares. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie: he does. A treasure map is supposedly hidden somewhere on the Declaration. Once they’ve successfully stolen it, Gates and his team turn the document over very carefully and — with the help of lemon juice and hair dryers — an Ottendorf ciphe r written in invisible ink gradually begins to appear. A map! The long lost historical secret is finally revealed. Unfortunately, movies are just movies. If a real hi

Learning to Sniff from Man’s Best Friend

They sniff out drugs, cadavers, missing people, explosives, and even cancer . Dogs are more than man’s best friend, they are some of the best chemical detectors in existence. They are so good that by modifying a commercially available explosives detector to act like a dog’s nose, researchers were able to make the detector much more effective. That’s great news for most of us, not-so-great news for drug smugglers.

The Surprising Behavior of "Whirlpools" of Light

The fastest timescales. The highest pressures. Absolute zero. The nanoscale. These conditions are far from our everyday experience, but studying how things behave in different situations can reveal a more complete picture of their nature —and can lead to revolutionary breakthroughs.

Becoming the Noise: A Visit to One of the Quietest Places on Earth

Scratchy . My ultra-smooth gel pen made a distracting and mildly irritating sound that I can only describe as scratchy with each stroke. I became acutely aware of the process involved in forming each letter. I flipped a page in my memo pad to make room for more notes, but the loud, prolonged crinkling of the page only left me more distracted and further behind.

Want to Build a Nanobot? This New Shrinking Technique Could Help

Researchers from MIT have come up with a new way to fabricate nanoscale structures using an innovative "shrinking" technique. The new method uses equipment many laboratories already have and is relatively straightforward, so it could make nanoscale fabrication more accessible.