Physics

Cosmology and Philosophy at La Pietra | Cosmic Variance

I’ve traded off my reasons for not blogging much of late. Last week and before it was The Particle at the End of the Universe (in stores November 13!), but that’s now been handed in and I can kick back and catch up on my martini-drinking.

What Makes Droplets Dance Around a Hot Surface and Then Fly Away? | 80beats

To test the temperature of a frying pan, people often dribble a few drops of water onto the surface. If the pan is cold, the water sits placidly on the surface. But if the metal is hot, the droplets will skitter around like deranged dancers. What makes them move?

The Smart Scanner That May Put Shampoo Back Into Your Carry-on

It has become one of the ritual frustrations of modern air travel: getting to the security check-in and having to throw out drinks, cologne, wine, snow globes—any large bottled liquid you might have inadvertently carried with you. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not allow through any containers holding more than 3.4 ounces due to the risk of liquid explosives. The rule is dumb and broad because standard X-ray scanners cannot distinguish one fluid from another.

Dark Matter Still Hiding | Cosmic Variance

After a few provocative hints over the last few years, new results in the search for weakly-interacting dark matter have come up empty. The latest is from XENON100, a liquid-xenon scintillation detector under the mountain in Gran Sasso, Italy.

The Funky Physics of Turning an Animal Transparent

A few weeks ago, I missed a half-day of work, transfixed by what looked like two clear Gummi Bears on my computer screen. It wasn’t a mid-afternoon blood sugar crash; I was contemplating photos of a mouse brain and embryo turned transparent after soaking in Scale—a cheap “clearing agent” that can be used to peer into normally opaque biological tissue.

Running on Physics: Why You Can Walk on Water and Cornstarch

Cornstarch and water have launched a thousand geeky pool parties. Stirred together in roughly equal proportions, they form a fluid that turns miraculously solid for a fraction of a second wherever it's struck. This means, as numerous YouTube clips attest, that you can run across the surface of a wading pool filled with the gooey mix without sinking.

Time the Destroyer | Cosmic Variance

Andy Albrecht of UC Davis gave an entertaining TEDx talk on entropy — or as he calls it, “destruction” — and the arrow of time. I especially like how he is willing to look clumsy in the cause of greater pedagogy!


DARPA’s New Machine for Blowing Out Fires—With Sound Waves | Discoblog

Music may have charms to soothe the savage breast—but it can also do a number on flames. In the above video, a blast of sound easily conquers fire. When researchers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA’s, placed two speakers on either side of the burning liquid fuel, the sound waves increased the air velocity and thinned the fire. As for the fuel itself, the higher velocity led to more fuel vaporization for a wider and cooler flame. Both effects made the blaze easy to snuff out.

Shhhhh... Scientists Are Listening for the Universe's Smallest Possible Noise

On a planet coursing with sound and fury, physicists are listening for the softest possible sound in the universe. Called the quantum phonon, this subatomic acoustical wave can be detected only by intricate instruments that distinguish pure silence from its smallest possible deviation.

Particle Physics and Cosmology in Auckland | Cosmic Variance

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m now in Auckland. Richard Easther, a repatriated Kiwi who came here from Yale last year to head up the physics department, has organized a workshop on “The LHC, Particle Physics and the Cosmos“, at which I gave a talk this morning.

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