Physics Week in Review: April 14, 2018

The ADMX experiment is all set to hunt for dark matter particles called axions; the physics of diving peregrine falcons; and why fastballs are unlikely to get any faster in baseball. Read about all that and more in this week’s roundup of physics highlights.

It’s technically not physics, but our sweet one-year-old rescue kitty, Ariel, made her modeling debut at the top of this Inverse article by Rae Paoletta: Why Cats Slow Blink at Humans, According to Science.

This May Be the Experiment That Finally Discovers the Dark Matter Particle. Related: If Tiny Dark Matter Particle called the Axion Exists, The ADMX Experiment Is Now Ready to Find It. Also: Scientists on the Axion Dark Matter Experiment have demonstrated technology that could lead to the discovery of theoretical light dark matter particles called axions.

Mathematicians Explore Mirror Link Between Two Geometric Worlds. Decades after physicists happened upon a stunning mathematical coincidence, researchers are getting close to understanding the link between two seemingly unrelated geometric universes.

The hunt for the elusive Majorana qubit: Weird objects that act as their own antiparticles could possibly form the basis for more robust quantum computing.

A Revealer of Secrets in the Data of Life and the Universe: The statistician Donald Richards lives to uncover subtle patterns hiding in real-world data.

Is there something inherently quantum about photosynthesis, or are researchers barking up the wrong tree?

Falcon Attack: How Peregrine Falcons Maneuver At Nearly 225 MPH. 3D computer simulations reveal the fascinating physics of the peregrine falcon’s most lethal move.

A ‘Quantum Radar’ System Will Watch for Stealth Aircraft and Missiles in the Arctic. Canada is investing $2.7 million to develop quantum radar technology.

Why It’s Almost Impossible for Fastballs to Get Any Faster. Advances have fueled a dramatic upward trend in world-record athletic performances, but the baseball pitch is stuck. The reason is physics.

What Random Walks in Multiple Dimensions Teach You About Life. There are real world applications of the stochastic mathematical process known as a random walk—really.

Scientists Solve Part Of The Mystery Of How The Columns Of Devils Tower Formed.  Related: Volcanologists use samples from Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland to recreate famous hexagonal columns in laboratory.  I wrote about this phenomenon over ten years ago at Cocktail Party Physics, also in the context of Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. The geophysics of columnar joints continues to be very cool.

Why symmetry gets really interesting when it is broken. “In both art and science, perfectly symmetrical patterns can be monotonous. Indeed, there’s a sense in which symmetry is the opposite of information.”

The Mesmerizing Animation of Sinusoidal Waves in GIFs by Étienne Jacob. “24-year-old French student Étienne Jacob produces black and white GIFs that transform the curvature found in sinusoidal waves into a multitude of experimental forms. The animated spheres imitate the appearance of mutating microbes or fiery stars, yet tend to remain in a 2D plane.” [Image: Etienne Jacob]

Scientists Create Beautiful Iridescent Material That Could Be Edible. “scientists have created a material [from common cellulose] that, much like soap bubbles and certain insect wings, displays a gorgeous iridescence—a shifting rainbow of colors they can tweak with the same surface.”

Mirror, mirror: The world on the other side of Alice in Wonderland’s looking-glass is not what it seems, but the mirror-like physics of the superconductor-insulator transition operates exactly as expected.

“To settle a debate about when the photograph … was taken, Texas State University astronomer Donald Olson looked to the sky, using astronomical hints to determine the exact date, time, and location it was shot.”

Prankster George Gamow and Léon Rosenfeld determine the velocity of a heavy object — Wolfgang Pauli — moving through water in a bathing suit.

Psst! An optical version of a whispering gallery (for light instead of sound) boosts solar cells. p

The Body Electric: Batteries are the weak link for wearable and implantable devices. But what if you could harvest energy from the heat, sweat or vibrations of the wearer?

“Pay attention after a rainfall, and you may notice beads of water gathering in the corners of a spider’s web or along the leaves of a cypress tree.” Physics explains why.

Muons for Nuclear Waste Inspection: Muons could be used to check whether spent fuel rods are missing from the casks used to store waste nuclear material.

What Astronomers Wish Everyone Knew About Dark Matter And Dark Energy.

This Simulator Shows What Would Happen if a Nuke Dropped on Your City.

Seismic Cloak Successfully Deflects Earthquake Waves. “The experiment was the largest field test thus far of ongoing efforts in Europe and the United States to create a seismic barrier that would shield or perhaps even cloak key infrastructure from an earthquake’s deadly force.”

Chemtrails Aren’t the Geoengineering Debate We Should Be Having (Because They Aren’t Real).

Nibiru Celebrates 23 Years Of Non-Existence With A New Prediction For April. After failing to appear and start the End Times no less than three times in 2017, we have a new date with fake destiny for 2018.  Related: Fox News Gives Up and Goes Full Hack Tabloid: Either Planet X Will Kill Us All on April 23rd or the Rapture Can Happen Any Time, Take Your Pick. “NASA repeatedly has said Planet X is a hoax.” But yanno, some folks will believe anything.

This very cool discovery of super-salty lakes beneath a giant glacier in the Canadian Arctic could be a good model for Europa and Enceladus—both of which may host microbial life in their subterranean oceans.

Elon Musk wants to send humans to Mars, but a large-scale experiment from the 1990s remains one of the best illustrations of the challenges ahead.

The Solution to Dangerous Space Junk is, Evidently, a Giant Harpoon.

The amazing story of 11 deaf men that helped shape NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program.

Math, Music and Imagination: Math can be experienced as play much as music is—just what’s needed to enlarge the tribe of creative problem solvers in mathematics and other human disciplines.

Scientists Share Their Favorite Equations: “There’s beauty on the blackboard.”

Experimental Physicists Are A Lot Like Little Kids. Little kids and many physicists have a tendency to act as if it’s okay to just start playing with anything new they encounter.

Some music theory for your weekend: How Secondary Chords, Syncopated Rhythms and Functional Harmony Make Toto’s ‘Africa’ So Iconic.

The Famous Schrodinger’s Cat Thought Experiment Comes Back to Life in an Off-Kilter Animation.

Invisible London: A near-infrared look at the British capital. “It might look like these pictures are just black and white, but if you look more closely, you can start to see there’s something strange about them… What we’re seeing here is called near-infrared. It isn’t heat. It’s a color just beyond the red end of the rainbow.” (Bonus: See my 2008 blog post about Caltech physicist Tom Prince’s own forays into infrared photography.)