Physics Week in Review: April 21, 2018

“Electric blood” could enable soft robots, collective behavior in the NBA, and analyzing the mechanical behavior of rope in action films are among this week’s physics highlights.

Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos: In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems.

Heated Debate Surrounds Galaxy Seeming to Lack Dark Matter.

Collective Behavior in the NBA:  how the Philadelphia Sixers uncrowd the court to create space for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to shoot by having other players shoot from behind the arc.

An Expanding Universe in the Lab: The rapid expansion of a Bose-Einstein condensate can mimic the expansion of the Universe.

Ultra-Accurate Clocks Lead Search for New Laws of Physics. Atomic clocks are letting physicists tighten the lasso around elusive phenomena such as dark matter.

This Glitter-Filled Algae Is a Living Opal. “The plant has light-controlling crystals inside its cells to help with photosynthesis.”

Massive Gravity, or You Only Live Twice. Gravitons, like photons, are probably exactly massless. But physicists investigate alternatives to make sure, and things turn out to be quite subtle.

The Suspense in Failure: A Simple Model of Breakage Goes Universal. “Neglecting a few ‘Deus ex machina‘ elements, the mechanical behavior of the rope is qualitatively well reproduced in action films.”

Scientists are developing liquid metal or “electric blood” that can move and form 2D shapes. This may revolutionize the field of soft robotics.

How ravens caused a LIGO data glitch. The birds used ice on a pipe as a thirst quencher. “While the data was amassing, suddenly there came a tapping,/ As of something gently rapping, rapping at LIGO’s door.”

LIGO Misses 100,000 Black Hole Mergers A Year, But if a radical new idea comes to fruition, maybe we can find them after all.

Detecting gravitational waves was just the beginning. Soon gravitational astronomy will probe the expanding universe, the insides of neutron stars, even the 1st moments after the Big Bang.

A physicist just wrote a paper on why destroying the Death Star would have wiped out the Ewoks. Opening Line: “The Ewoks are dead. All of them.”

A Redesigned Hourglass Questions How We Perceive Time. “In collaboration with INAC, a Japanese company that manufactures samples and prototypes, [Japanese design firm] Nendo designed four different types of unique hourglasses that each dissects the concept of time in different ways. Just like Einstein’s theory of relativity suggests that time is not as constant as everyday life would suggest, the hourglasses break free from their previous form, allowing time to move more freely.”

These Spiders Can Fly, And This Is How They Do It. Darwin called them ‘little aeronauts’, but exactly how these spiders manage take-off was unknown until now.

Physics Explains Why Braves Fans Can’t Beat the Freeze. A spandex-clad superhero keeps beating Atlanta Braves fans…even when they have a huge head start.  Related: You Don’t Want Super Speed, Because Science.  Also: Humans may not be fast enough to run across water, but we’ve found other ways to conquer the waves.

A Physics Video Game: Kirchhoff’s Revenge. “he player is dropped into a labyrinth of puzzles, where they must assemble larger-than-life circuits—guided by the disembodied voice of a snarky Gustav Kirchoff.”

The Hidden Geology In Leonardo da Vinci’s Art. The paintings of polymath Leonardo da Vinci are surrounded by many mysteries and apparently Da Vinci also included some geological secrets in his art.

MIT scientists make long sheets of graphene using a roll-to-roll process.

Building Blocks of Innovation: 11 Cutting Edge Materials Set to Shape the Future. “Woven carbon fiber, ultra-strong but amazingly thin concrete, transparent wood and 3D-printed sandstone are among the innovations that could break free of the traditional constraints and result in a new era of lightweight, durable, versatile forms in all sorts of organic and mathematical shapes.”

This Experiment With Shrimp and Lasers Could Unlock the Ocean’s Secrets. “The collective motion of brine shrimp up and down the water column can actually mix the water up. If the findings hold true in the open ocean, they could provide a whole new understanding of how our oceans get mixed.”

These diamonds from space formed inside a long-lost planet, scientists say.

The chemistry of Neuromancer: “the pharmaceutical elements of the book… are almost entirely used by Case and Peter Riviera, its two biggest junkies.”

Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician. By making the first progress on the “chromatic number of the plane” problem in over 60 years, an anti-aging pundit has achieved mathematical immortality.

How Seashells Take Shape: Mathematical modeling reveals the mechanical forces that guide the development of mollusk spirals, spines and ribs.

Incredibles 2 Asks: What’s the Right Way to Solve a Math Problem?

Late in his career, brilliant polymath Christian Huygens tried to learn about the newfangled “calculus” and, struggling, asked plaintively “will I ever need to know this?” An enlightening historical episode.

The Science Of Why Tornadoes ‘Miss’ Cities. Or Do They? Saying cities cannot be hit by a tornado is a myth. Greensboro, North Carolina recently was and other cities have been too. Here is the science of urban tornado frequency.

Space Communications Are Stuck In The Dial-Up Age. Which Means It’s Time For More Lasers.

The Turn-of-the-Century Pigeons That Photographed Earth from Above.

Chain Reaction: How a Soviet A-Bomb Test Led the U.S. Into Climate Science.

Virginia Trimble reveals her favourite Feynman stories, including the time she posed for a drawing for him.

When Will the Gender Gap in Science Disappear? A new study estimates that it will be 16 years before women and men publish scientific papers in equal numbers. For physics, it will be 258.

Whose Physics Is It Anyway? Q&A with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on Why physics and astronomy communities must take diversity issues seriously in order to do good science. Related: The Scully Effect: Women Who Watched The X-Files Pursued More Careers In STEM.

New Netflix documentary Mercury 13 Celebrates the Women Who Passed Tests for Spaceflight but Were Denied Because of Their Gender.

Why Science Is Essential For Liberal-Arts Education (And Vice Versa). “A liberal-arts education necessarily includes science– preferably a laboratory science– because students need to experience this process in action. They need to know that the explicit process of science– looking at the world, thinking about why it works that way, testing your theory, and sharing the results– is a powerful and general approach to just about anything.”

What the History of Math Can Teach Us About the Future of AI. Nathan Myhrvold writes, “Doomsayers say it will put us all out of work, but experience suggests otherwise.”

Amadeus Code uses machine learning to generate tunes based on music dating as far back as the 16th century.

Attempting to create the world’s largest ice carousel. “Cut a very large circle into a frozen lake and you may be able to get the ice to spin.”

This Swordsmith Hacks Ancient Weapons to Unlock the Secrets of Viking Metallurgy.

The Most Unknown is “an epic documentary film that sends nine scientists to extraordinary parts of the world to uncover unexpected answers to some of humanity’s biggest questions. How did life begin? What is time? What is consciousness? How much do we really know?” Trailer:

Scroll to Top