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Showing posts from February, 2021

Radio Signals from Proxima Centauri

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Parke Radio Telescope detected unnatural signals from the region around Proxima Centauri on April 29 2019. Photo by Stephen West. Scientists at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have detected a narrow band of radio signals coming from a narrow area around Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor star at 4.2465 light-years away. Observed on April 29, 2019, the signal dubbed Breakthrough Listening Candidate 1 (BLC1) was detected at a frequency of 982.002 MHz with little scatter which makes it a candidate for a technosignature, a sign of intelligent life. Radio signals are naturally produced by various stellar and planetary bodies due including our sun and Jupiter however these occur over a broadband of frequencies. The needle-like thin signal is difficult to explain by natural processes. Of course, the signal could be from intelligent life; it could be our own signal. Humans produce huge amounts of radiation from WiFi, cellphones, sate

How to SciComm, According to a Physics Blogger

  By: Hannah Pell  With instantaneous communication and access to far more information than any of us could ever know or need, it’s important that there are people we trust to clearly explain the messiness of the world around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has especially demonstrated the challenges of disseminating complex scientific research to the general public. For these reasons alone, there is certainly no time like the present to get involved in science communication. This week, I’ve been asked to offer my advice for how to write about science. I’m not going to break #scicomm down into “10 Easy Steps” or organize quick tips in a bulleted list because, well, I don’t think it’s that simple or straightforward. Unlike in physics, there is no formula to optimize a piece of writing; I can’t plug and chug my way through a blog post. In my view, effective communication is a nuanced reflection of our varied experiences; whatever we choose to write about and however we do it are fundamental

Perseverance Rover's New Home

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Elevation map of the Jezero Crater, landing site of the Perseverance Rover. NASA/Tim Goudge Located on the Northwest side of Isidis Basin, Jezero Crater’s lay undisturbed except for dust storms and meteorite impacts for countless eons. Jezero Crater is an uneven half-circle where the Northeast side is worn away. There are countless craters like it on Mars, yet Jezero was selected over 30 other candidates as the new playground for NASA’s Perseverance Rover. In the future, it may become the most studied site on Mars when the samples from Perseverance are returned to Earth in a future sample return mission scheduled to launch in 2026 and return to Earth in the early Thirties. What makes Jezero Crater so special? Currently, there is very little liquid water on Mars but in the past, billions of years ago, Mars’ climate and atmosphere could sustain liquid water. Jezero Crater was once a large stately lake. Although the water is gone, today we can detect tra

The “No” Theorems: Physics’ Unbreakable Rules

  By: Hannah Pell Physics  Physics tells us a lot about what we can do. We can use it to predict the motions of the stars to the most fundamental constituents of matter and nearly everything in between; physics can be a powerful tool for us to realize new possibilities beyond what we’ve known before. However, sometimes it can be just as helpful to know what we can’t do. Just as there are rules that govern our daily lives limiting what’s permissible — no talking in the library; no running by the pool; no shirt, no shoes, no service — so too there are restrictions on what’s permissible in the physical world. Many of these rules can be grouped together simply as the “no” theorems. No-Go Theorems and Quantum Information Theory  A “no-go” theorem in theoretical physics is, well, exactly what it sounds like — a theorem describing a situation that is not physically possible. In mathematics, the way to show that something cannot happen is to argue a proof of impossibility , which is actu

Do Trilobites Bite?

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison You are enjoying a sunny beach day, showing off a new swimsuit. You take a dip in the water, you feel something brush your foot. You look down and it’s a trilobite. Your first panicked thought: Do trilobites bite? Other than the fact that trilobite went extinct 252 million years ago, this is actually a quite complicated question. First, we have to define bite. If that definition includes any mention of a jaw structure, then the answer is no, you have nothing to worry about. Jaws, like humans have, did not evolve until 440 million years ago in the Placoderms. Trilobite did not have jaws the way humans or fish or dogs do. For a creature to bite, does it have to have a jaw? That’s a question for the philosophers. The question for the paleontologists is: what did trilobite have instead of a jaw? First off, trilobites, the class of trilobita, a category which comprised 10 orders, 150 families, 5,000 genera, and 20,000 unique species. And are known for

How Does the Power Grid Work?

  By: Hannah Pell Being homebound during winter often means higher electricity bills for those of us north of the Sun Belt. And for many currently working remotely or attending school virtually, there may be added strain on top (although hopefully not to the same extent as the Griswold family's infamous holiday lights ). When so many aspects of our modern lives depend on electricity (which itself requires a massive, interconnected network to function every day), it can be easy to take it for granted. As I cranked up the heat for the umpteenth time on this blistery, snowy afternoon, I wondered: How is it that I can simultaneously turn on my heater, flip a switch, and charge my electronic devices whenever I need to? How is electricity (almost always) immediately available, whether I want to plug in to the wall or the world wide web? What does it mean when it’s suddenly not available? To answer these questions, we’ll need to understand the structure of the electric grid — one o

The Lava Lake Returns to Kilauea

Kilauea summit lava lake at a depth of 515 ft (156 m) taken 8 a.m. Dec. 23. USGS photo by H. Dietterich By Allison Kubo Hutchison On December 20, 2020, at about 9:30 PM, Halema’uma’u Crater, the traditional home of the goddess Pele, hosted the first eruption of the Kilauea volcano since going silent in August 2018. Lava erupted from three vents in the crater's sides and vaporized a small lake that had formed in the base of the crater. But a new lake began forming, a lake of lava. Before the eruption began, earthquakes indicated that magma was moving beneath the surface of caldera. These signals would ramp up then down until an earthquake swarm occurred an hour before the eruption, and then the lake of water approximately 167 ft (51 m) deep began to boil off. At the beginning of the eruption, the emission of sulfur dioxide, a common volcanic gas that can cause air pollution, reached over 50,000 tonnes per day and then decreased for a week and remained roughly the same level of

Critical Reading: Hannah’s Nuclear History Rec List

  By: Hannah Pell Is learning something new on your 2021 resolutions list? Have some extra time because your work commute has been significantly shortened? Either way, I assume you’re here at Physics Buzz because you hope to learn a bit of new physics. So I thought I’d put together a few resource lists to help you dive a little deeper into the aspects of physics you find the most interesting. Here’s my first recommendations list for an introduction to nuclear history. Nuclear history books [1] Nuclear Renewal: Common Sense About Energy by Richard Rhodes (1993) First published in 1993, Nuclear Renewal offers an accessible and succinct history of nuclear power spanning decades, nations, and perspectives. Rhodes — who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb — covers the first nuclear chain reaction in Chicago 1942, cultures of nuclear safety in France and Japan, the challenges of risk communication, dynamics between regulators and utilities, as well as the importa

Real Physics Live

  By Cristian Cernov and Tatiana Erukhimova With support from the American Physics Society, we started Real Physics Live. Since then, our 14 person team composed of Texas A&M undergrads, grads, and one faculty member has produced over 20 high-quality videos, which you can view at our website:   Needless to say, Real Physics Live has been a dramatic success! The videos are not only educational but also entertaining, exuding excitement and curiosity. The effort and time students and contributors put into writing the scripts, acting, and editing the videos clearly shows. Our flagship physics festival and outreach programs are geared towards in-person experiences and Real Physics Live allows us to make our plethora of demonstrations available for everyone! Our videos are viewed by people of all ages belonging to the general public with the mean age range of middle to high school, which was our intended audience. We tried to make videos using a variety of equ