"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. Regular readers know that Cocktail Party Physics celebrated its five-year anniversary back in February. Since then, it's morphed into a group blog, and back to a solo blog, and gotten a much needed design facelift, but it's always been consistently at the same site. That's about to change. Earlier today, Scientific American officially launched its spiffy new blog network, and the (newly rebooted) Cocktail Party Physics is among the 40 or so blogs selected for inclusion. That means from now on, our main site will be over at Scientific American rather than here.
Say what? Some of you might be thinking, and with good reason: until now, we've had an almost pathological need to remain independent. I've turned down past invitations to join similar bloggy conglomerates (most notably SEED's Science Blogs, back when I was just starting out). But the science blogosphere is changing rapidly, with more and more bloggy networks springing up, and the cocktail party has to adapt to those changes. Besides, the "blogfather" himself, Bora Zivkovic, is the mastermind behind Sci-Am's new network, and how could I say no to Bora?
Other than the hosting site, nothing much will change. Jen-Luc will still preside over the festivities, I'll be covering the usual fun whimsical topics, and there will still be the Friday Fodder feature. The Sci-Am design is pretty darned spiffy, and might even encourage me to write shorter posts. (The Time Lord scoffed in derision when I brought up this possibility, so perhaps not.)
What's gonna happen to the original site? Well, I will continue to mirror new posts here, with a 24-hour delay (mostly for archival purposes, and to keep this site active in case the whole network experiment doesn't work out), but comments will be disabled. And really, wouldn't you rather read the posts over there on the fancy new site when they're spanking fresh and new? Right now, there's just a welcome post, but that will change as we get up and running. I'm really looking forward to this new adventure, and hope you all will come along for the ride.
In the meantime, what with all my travels, we haven't really had a cool links roundup in awhile. So here's my picks from the last two weeks of the niftiest stuff we found around the Interwebs.
The Physics of Fireworks. This is a favorite topic on the Fourth of July weekend, and Ethan over at Starts With a Bang weighs in this year with a richly pictorial overview of the science behind those sparklers.
Grilling for Geeks. The folks at Scienceline have some tips about the science of grilling that perfect burger for the holiday.
M-80s or Gunshots? For those (like us) who live in urban areas, EastersiderLA has some handy tips to tell if that pop-pop-pop or loud bang you just heard was from fireworks, or an outbreak of gunfire.
Hitler Sucks at Math. Herr Hitler tries to learn about open and closed sets, and ends up unleashing his fury at those stupid topologists who keep making up confusing terms like "clopen sets." (Do we really need to warn you about the NSFW language? Everyone knows Hitler has a potty mouth!)
Lightning in Super-Slo-Mo. Via Laughing Squid, we thrilled to the site of Rob Flickenger setting up an array of ten cameras to capture the lightning emitted from his Tesla coil. The result: a video effect that resembles that awesome super-slo-mo bullet sequence in The Matrix.
Arizona Wildfires Threaten Los Alamos. Wildfires in Arizona began encroaching on Los Alamos National Laboratory last week, prompting worries about radioactive material getting airborne. Fortunately, Daniel of Cosmic Variance was on the scene to give a clear-eyed assessment of the real state of affairs — check out part one and part two. Physics Buzz also covered the story.
The Physics of Tibetan Singing Bowls. Via io9, we learn that "The physics of the bowls are the same as a tuning fork, or a wineglass that is stroked around its rim. The friction of an object moving against it causes the overall object vibrates at a certain frequency. This vibration gives off the tone that we hear when a wine glass is played, or a tuning fork is struck." Not only do the bowls sing, they can also fizz and spit. Resonances. It's all about the resonances, people. And speaking of resonances…
Aural Geometry. The folks at Coilhouse tipped me off to the amazing video below exploring the geometry of sound. "A group of over 30 animators and sound artists teamed up to create short pieces between 12 and 20 seconds with the aim to 'explore the relationship between geometry and audio in unique ways.' The result is a series of warped, surreal sound visualizations."
Mythbusting About Baseball With Physics. Working with colleagues from the University of Illinois and Kettering University, Washington State University physicist Lloyd Smith investigated cheating in baseball, resulting in a new paper in American Journal of Physics: "Corked Bats, Juiced Balls, and Humidors: The Physics of Cheating in Baseball."
Can the Coriolis Effect Influence a Baseball? Over at the Virtuosi, Corky takes an in-depth look at the Coriolis force — "one of the artificial forces we have to put in if we are going to pretend the Earth is not rotating" — and how it might impact a baseball's trajectory on a home-run hit.
Life in the Atomic City. Over at Believer Magazine, there is a lovely memoir by Millicent G. Dillon about her experiences in the late 1940s as an employee of the nascent Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It's a fascinating inside look at a very different world. Here is her recollection of hearing about the infamous 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
I thought of electrons spinning around a nucleus, held in place—could one speak of “place” in such a small universe?—by the forces binding the atom together, an enormous ergy locked within. But now that energy had been unlocked in a sudden, violent release that brought about the annihilation of a city….
And, later, a second city—to show that the annihilation could be repeated? Even later I would learn—we would all learn—of the many thousands dead in an instant, of survivors walking in a daze, their skin stripped, hanging, some walking with their eyeballs in their hands, of the many dying thereafter, slowly, of radiation.
Listen Up: Particle Physics Windchime. Symmetry Breaking recently featured Stanford particle physicist (and trained musician) Matt Bellis and his development of the Physics Windchime: "a computer application that could take particle physics data such as particle type, momentum, distance from a fixed point, and so on, and turn it into sound."
Last, but certainly far from least, I give you The Ultimate Late-Night Geek-Out, featuring sci-fi/fantasy author Neil Gaiman's star turn on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Just try to keep up with the hardcore geekitude.