We’re off to Japan for ten days, so there will be no link-fest next Saturday. We’ll resume our regular linkages in April. In the meantime, here’s this week’s physics highlights, including graphene hair dye, what physics has to say about team work, and dissecting Stephen Hawking’s final paper.
Two articles I wrote for the wonderful new magazine, Alta (technically Journal of Alta California) are now available online. First, I visited Douglas Fudge’s lab at Chapman University, where he studies California’s Snot Snakes: Last year, 7,500 pounds of live eel-like creatures spilled all over an Oregon roadway and caused a five-car pileup. Meet the hagfish. Second: Thinking Machines: Many in Silicon Valley — including Elon Musk and Facebook — see brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) as the next technology gold rush.
Before passing, Stephen Hawking published a final paper that discusses how we can find traces of multiple big bangs: a Multiverse. (You can read the full paper here. And the American Physical Society releases 55 previously paywalled Stephen Hawking physics papers. ) Related: What Stephen Hawking’s Final Paper Says (And Doesn’t Say). Hawking’s final paper is not a testable prediction about the end of the universe, but the seed of a new idea about how it began. Also: Sabine Hossenfelder says Hawking’s “Final Theory” is not groundbreaking. Bonus: The Silicon Valley quest to preserve Stephen Hawking’s voice. How a Silicon Valley team helped rebuild his distinctive robotic sound. Finally: Stephen Hawking’s ashes to be interred near Sir Isaac Newton’s grave.
Black Hole Echoes Would Reveal Break With Einstein’s Theory. Gravitational waves have opened up new ways to test the properties of black holes — and Einstein’s theory of gravity along with them. “If the horizon of a black hole is obstructed by something like a firewall, then the horizon could potentially reflect gravitational waves.”
Dark radiation may fix our broken understanding of the universe. We have two ways to measure the accelerating expansion of the universe, but they don’t line up. If dark matter gives off radiation, it could make them agree.
The Difficult Birth of the “Many Worlds” Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Hugh Everett, creator of this radical idea during a drunken debate more than 60 years ago, died before he could see his theory gain widespread popularity.
Want to Win? What physics has to say about teamwork. “a team of Japanese scientists lays out a simple model based on “social forces” that provides insight into the social skills necessary for excellent team coordination.”
Materials science for goths: graphene hair-dye. Graphene Hair Dye Is Gentle on Your Locks. But Is It Safe? Unlike traditional hair dyes, graphene coats the hair surface without chemically altering it.
A future colorfully lit by mystifying physics of paint-on semiconductors.
Although questions about the toxicity of nanoparticles from consumer products have been in the news lately, Alexander Orlov, materials scientist, believes there are ways of designing nanoscale materials that avoid such potential problems.
“Scientists have made significant experimental strides in understanding how, when and where the constantly moving atoms in molten metal ‘lock’ into place as the material transitions from liquid to solid glass.”
Recreating a 500-year-old lost southern African city with laser technology: “LiDAR, was used to “redraw” the remains of the city, along the lower western slopes of the Suikerbosrand hills near Johannesburg.”
Mould gets artistic to take particle decay photo to a new level. “At the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, physicists are used to looking for signs of particle decay in the detectors. But as they were digitising archival photos of particle collisions, Matteo Volpi and Jean-Yves LeMeur came across a different kind of decay: mould.” [Image: Volmeur/CERN, 2017]
Earwig’s wing inspires compact designs that fold themselves. ” to mimic the earwig’s wing, an origami-style folding approach won’t do.” So scientists “designed a selection of meta-stable designs which rapidly flip between folded and unfolded states.”
How Much Energy Can You Store in a Rubber Band? On a scale from “light thwack” to “geez, watch it with that thing!”
Looking for Planet Nine, Astronomers Gaze into the Abyss. Two years on, the search for our solar system’s missing world is as frenzied as ever—and the putative planet is running out of places to hide.
The universe may end in a collision with a bubble of nothingness. The most precise calculation of the lifetime of our universe finds that a bubble of vacuum energy made by the Higgs boson could envelop us all in 10139 years.
The hairyflower wild petunia reduces drag when it flings its seeds by spinning them 1600 times a second.
The math behind the perfect free throw: From a mathematical viewpoint, basketball is a game of trajectories.
How Reading Novels in Math Class Can Strengthen Student Engagement. “Students who more easily self-identify as ‘English types’ immediately get a little more comfortable in math class if they experience those types of (literary) questions regularly.”
How the Jaegers in Pacific Rim Uprising Violate Physics: Sometimes real science isn’t nearly as exciting as pretend science. Related: Piloting a giant robot would be *hard* because multitasking is a myth.
In Search of God’s Perfect Proofs: The mathematicians Günter Ziegler and Martin Aigner have spent the past 20 years collecting some of the most beautiful proofs in mathematics. “You don’t have to believe in God,” Paul Erdős used to tell other mathematicians, “but you should believe in The Book.”
“Grand Unified Theory of Math” Nets Abel Prize. Robert Langlands’ ideas unearthed connections within mathematics that have helped to solve centuries-old problems and aided researchers in disparate fields. Here’s an explainer of what the Langlands Program is all about, courtesy of Quanta.
Was Giordano Bruno Burned at the Stake for Believing in Exoplanets? Most historians say no, but new evidence suggests otherwise.
Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison Talks Diversity in STEM: “They Think of It as a Nicety. No, It’s a Necessity.”
Chemical Archaelology: Digging up our Chemical Past in Interstellar Space.
ESA’s upcoming ARIEL mission will sniff the atmospheres of planets around other stars, clarifying how we fit in with the vast diversity of worlds out there.
Instruments of Wonder: As one observatory prepares to make history, another seeks to preserve it.
A Pew Research Center analysis showed most people get their science news from the social-media network, and a lot of it is ads or outright fiction.
An Elaborate Rube Goldberg Maze That Connects the Fluid Motion of Fidget Spinners With Marbles.
Watch the Slow Mo Guys get “knocked flat by giant swinging balloons of paint, and, as you might expect, the splashes are spectacular.”
But what is the Fourier Transform? A visual introduction.