Physics Week in Review: September 3, 2016

Too_CoolJenLucThis week's physics highlights included a strong SETI signal that turned out to be of terrestrial origin, a SpaceX rocket was destroyed at Cape Canaveral, and physicist James Cronin died at 84.

Me at Gizmodo:

The Same Microbe That Led to Black Death Also Caused a Huge Plague Centuries Before. "Centuries before the Black Death decimated the population of Western Europe, an earlier plague epidemic took out over 50 million people (about 15 percent of the population) in the Byzantine empire. A team of German scientists has confirmed that the two plagues were caused by the same bacterium, albeit genetically different strains."

New Analysis Confirms Why the Skagit River Bridge Collapsed. "In May 2013, a bridge spanning the Skagit River along Interstate 5 in Washington state catastrophically collapsed, after an oversized trailer clipped one of the bridge’s cross beams. A new analysis by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign confirms the many factors that contributed to the collapse, and offers recommendations for how to prevent similar failures in the future."

Vxdjqjgiwov26dnmpmjvThat's Candle Wax, Not Bird Droppings, Staining The Scream. "A team of Belgian researchers has closed the case on the origins of a mysterious smudge on Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s most famous painting, the Scream. Long believed to be bird poo, they found that it is bees wax."

Why Superman's Lame Disguise Might Actually Work. "It’s been a longstanding complaint since the first Superman comics debuted in the 1930s: why doesn’t anyone see through Clark Kent’s lame disguise and realize that he’s really Superman? New research suggests that Kent’s trademark glasses actually might work as a disguise—at least around people who don’t know him well."

Year-Long Simulation of Humans Living on Mars Comes To an End. "One year ago, six volunteers—an astrobiologist, a physicist, a pilot, an architect, a journalist, and a soil scientist — entered a 36-by-20 foot dome, located near a barren volcano in Hawaii, to simulate what living conditions would be like on Mars. Today they re-emerged from their year-long isolation."

Watch the Cosmic Evolution of the Universe in This Stunning Short Film. "In Infinitude, abstract, geometrical shapes condense into stars, which explode into supernovae, sending an asteroid careening through space towards a nascent Earth. The mixed media short film is the creation of Canadian filmmaker Scott Portingale."

Other Cool Links:

SETI has observed a “strong” signal that may originate from a Sun-like star.  The internet went wild over the possibility that the signal came from aliens. Scientists aren’t convinced, so don't get too excited. Turns out the signal astronomers saw was “strong” because it came from Earth.

How We'll Get Our First Big Clue About Life on Proxima b. Related: Why We Can't Tell How Your Car Will Perform On That New Earth-Like Exoplanet. Also: How NASA's exoplanet modeling software simulated conditions on Earth-twin Proxima b.

Physics Confronts Its Heart of Darkness: Cracks are showing in the dominant explanation for dark matter.  Related: Make It, Shake It, Break It: Tracy Slayter is A Seeker of Dark Matter’s Hidden Light.

SpaceX Rocket And Its Cargo Explode On Launch Pad In Florida. Here's What the Explosion Means for the Future of SpaceX. But Elon Musk Says It Wasn't an Explosion That Took Out SpaceX's Rocket. Also: Rocket Launches Are Actually Surprisingly Successful. The recent SpaceX launchpad explosion is a reminder that rocketry is tricky, but also remarkable for accomplishing as much as it does.

A New Way to Predict Infection’s Toll.

Resolving Starlight with Quantum Technology. Related: What Starlight Teaches Us About Space (Pretty Much Everything).

Lightning’s Strange Physics Still Stump Scientists.

Dark Matter Riches? Why Some Galaxies Have More Than Others.

Scientists Think They've Found A Giant Ice Volcano On Ceres.

This new plastic fabric could make clothes that keep you cool.

In 1975, a cat co-authored a peer-reviewed physics paper.

Why You Shouldn't Have Fallen for That "Helium Beer" video last year.

What In the World Just Happened to Comet 67P? "February 19th, 2016 was going to be just another day on Comet 67P—until suddenly, the icy space rock lit up in a blaze of glory, as if suddenly slapped by an angry angel."

Will Driverless Cars mean The End of Traffic Jams?

Will the Periodic Table Ever Be Complete?

Take a Look Inside a House Meant for Mars. The solar-powered home has six bedrooms, a composting toilet, Wi-Fi with a 20-minute delay, and some seriously strict house rules.

Want to Boil Water? Step 1 – Grab Some Bubble Wrap. MIT engineers have invented a bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device that uses sunlight to boil water, even on relatively cool, overcast days.

NASA's Impossible Space Engine, The EMdrive, Passes Peer Review (But That Doesn't Mean It Works).

Can A Tesla Model S Really Accelerate Faster Than Gravity?  Related: The Hardest Thing To Grasp In Physics? Thinking Like A Physicist.

Orbital mechanics, not sexism, likely cause of astronaut Peggy Whitson missing record for most time in space. Whitson is now scheduled to end her flight two days short of Jeff Williams' mark.

James Cronin, Who Explained Why Matter Survived the Big Bang, Dies at 84.

How Converting between Addition & Multiplication Makes Math Easier. The power of logarithms, zero, and the word or.

Why We Need Quantitative Sports History.

The Secret of Floppy Paper: Use math to amaze (and educate) your friends.

Math Exams with Only One Question. "It’s like Scattergories, except the category is always 'fractions.'”

Don’t Worry, Math Is Still Everywhere

Ernest Rutherford: Master of simplicity, mentor extraordinaire.

It from Bit: Physicist John Wheeler on Information, Nature of Reality, and Why We Live in a Participatory Universe.

A bond by any other name: How the simple definition of a hydrogen bond gives a glimpse into the heart of chemistry.

"The Phenakistoscope — a Victorian parlour toy— is widely considered to be among the earliest forms of animation."

Study shows 1 way scientific progress is broken: Virtually nobody reads/understands rebuttals to scientific findings.

Turning a Refrigerator into a Solar Powered Race Car. The Icebox Derby helps young women explore their passions for STEM careers.