Physics Week in Review: May 19, 2018

We are spending the weekend in Vegas, partly to celebrate my birthday and partly to accept the 2018 Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association — a tremendous honor to be sure! But Jen-Luc Piquant still managed to collect a bunch of fascinating links to physics-related writings around the Web. This week’s highlights include disproving the strong cosmic censorship conjecture, the physics of why king penguins act like a liquid, and a scientist who made a molecular model of a tesseract to calculate Thanos’ strength in Avengers: Infinity War.

A Chemist Shines Light on a Surprising Prime Number Pattern. When a crystallographer treated prime numbers as a system of particles, the resulting diffraction pattern created a new view of existing conjectures in number theory.

A Missing Piece in the Neutrinoless Beta-Decay Puzzle. The inclusion of short-range interactions in models of neutrinoless double-beta decay could impact the interpretation of experimental searches for the elusive decay.

Scientists measured the pressure inside a proton and it’s extreme. “The particle’s centre withstands a billion billion billion times the pressure found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.”

How the nature of cause and effect will determine the future of quantum technology. A test of one of quantum theory’s most counterintuitive predictions sheds new light on the nature of reality and how we can exploit it with quantum technologies.

Can a quantum drum vibrate and stand still at the same time? A team of researchers have made a key step towards understanding the boundary between the quantum world and our everyday classical world.

Physicists Introduce “Quantum Fraud” Detection Tests. “When quantum computers hit the market, how will buyers know they’re not getting duped…or settling for something that isn’t quite as “quantum” as they think?”

Mathematicians Disprove Conjecture Made to Save Black Holes. Mathematicians have disproved the strong cosmic censorship conjecture. Their work answers one of the most important questions in the study of general relativity and changes the way we think about space-time.

040418_DG_penguin_featIn a colony, king penguins act like a liquid.  Positions of king penguins in a breeding colony resemble molecules in a 2-D liquid, a new study finds. The birds congregate during breeding season —but never too closely.  For more on penguin physics see my 2013 blog post: Bring me your huddled penguins who move like cars in heavy traffic. [Image: Aul-Emile Victor/French Polar Institute]

Why hasn’t an earthquake toppled the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse, can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events.

Suddenly there came a tapping: Ravens cause blips in massive physics instrument at Hanford’s LIGO facility.

A scientist calculated the ludicrous strength of Marvel villain Thanos. “Based on a recent “whimsical by design” analysis, Northeastern University engineering assistant professor Steven Cranford calculated that Thanos is powerful enough to dead-lift the RMS Titanic. To get to that calculation, Cranford made real molecular models of a fictional cube called the Tesseract. The peer-reviewed journal Extreme Mechanics Letters published his models earlier this month.”

Time and Tesseracts: “What might we be able to know about four-dimensional space even if we have trouble imagining it?”

The Physics of a Tesla Model X Towing a Boeing 787. This Dreamliner weighs 130,000 kg—but actually, even a human could pull a full-sized aircraft.

Scans reveal secrets of medieval ‘Harry Potter’ book and medical texts at Penn. “The technique … is called multi-spectral imaging — illuminating each page with brief bursts of colored light at a series of very precise wavelengths, then capturing the reflected results with a massive, 60-megapixel camera.”

Cosmic Conflict: Diverging Data on Universe’s Expansion Polarizes Scientists. A disagreement between two canonical measures of intergalactic distances could signal a renaissance in physics—or deep flaws in our studies of cosmic evolution

Moon of Jupiter prime candidate for alien life after water blast found.
Nasa’s Galileo spacecraft flew through a giant plume of water that erupted from the icy surface of Europa, new analysis shows. Related: Geysers Likely Found on This ‘Alien’ Ice Moon. Data from the Galileo probe have reignited the possibility that Jupiter’s moon Europa is spouting plumes into space.  Reality Check: Did the Galileo spacecraft pass through a geyser plume over Europa? Maaaaaybe.

“Schrödinger’s Cat” is one of the most infamous thought experiments in the history of science. What features must a real-world experiment have to count as a Schrödinger cat?

How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research. “The methodology allows researchers to find effects more easily compared with traditional statistics, but the way in which it is conducted undermines the credibility of these results. That MBI has persisted as long as it has points to some of science’s vulnerabilities — and to how science can correct itself.”

Is String Theory Worth Studying? “Yes, it is true that superstring theory merges general relativity and quantum mechanics. Is it successful? Depends on what you mean by success.”

“Time is a fascinating topic because it touches our deepest emotions. Time opens up life and takes everything away. Wondering about time is wondering about the very sense of our life. This is [why] I have spent my life studying time,” says Carlo Rovelli.

“Science is a self-correcting process, but not necessarily in one’s own lifetime.” The story of the forgotten pioneer who died scorned but paved the way for the most thrilling astrophysical discovery since Galileo, which just won Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Most Important Inventor You’ve Never Heard Of. Stanford Ovshinsky changed your life, and the full impact of his brilliance may still be to come.

A Beginner’s Guide to Hawaii’s Sublime Lava. Here’s what scientists and native Hawaiians see in the sublime photos emerging from the Kilauea eruption.  Related: An Incredible Indonesian Volcano That Burns a Vivid Bright Blue Due to Sulfuric Gas Combustion.

How long can a neutron survive outside an atom?

Do aliens exist in the multiverse? New studies show it’s way more likely than scientists thought.  Counterpoint: Aliens in the Multiverse? Here’s why dark energy doesn’t tell you anything.

Geologists Help To Solve Mysterious Origin Of Golden Treasure. Traces of lead in gold items discovered 60 years ago help to solve the archaeological mystery of a lost civilization.

NASA To Test First Helicopter On Another World; Will Travel On JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover.  Related: The Physics of NASA’s New Mars Helicopter. Needless to say, this coaxial, self-powered chopper is *not* your traditional helicopter.

NASA’s Atomic Fridge Will Make the ISS the Coldest Known Place in the Universe.

Exoplanet Everests May Be Detectable When Giant Telescopes Come Online. Astronomers have proposed a way of finding mountains, oceans and volcanoes on distant planets that are much too small to observe directly

Astronomy’s next big discovery is probably hiding in piles of old data.

Newly Unearthed Footage Shows Albert Einstein Driving a Flying Car (1931). “It was just a Hollywood trick of double exposure and a thrilling comedy, but not for the public. The master film was destroyed, and the only copy was given to the Einsteins.”

Stephen Hawking service: Possibility of time travellers ‘can’t be excluded’

How physics gender gap starts in the classroom. Some progress has been made in encouraging girls to study A-level physics, but not enough, says report.

Mesmerizing Slow Motion Footage of Small Magnets Completely Engulfing Larger Magnets: