Physics Week in Review: November 3, 2018

Metamaterials make a chip-sized synchrotron, a strange new state of matter called rigid light, and claims casting doubt on LIGO’s first detection of gravitational waves are among this week’s physics highlights.

Me at Ars Technica:

Signal to Noise: Danish physicists claim to cast doubt on detection of gravitational waves. LIGO responds: “There is absolutely no validity to their claims.”

A Shaky Foundation: New study sheds more light on what caused London’s Millennium Bridge to wobble. Pedestrians don’t necessarily need to synchronize their gaits to cause shaking. Bonus: the physics of how Death Eaters destroyed the bridge in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Going With the Flow: Study concludes that Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind. Tetris players can achieve a state of blissful distraction known as “flow.”

Crazy for Cacao: Chocolate has an even earlier origin than we thought, new study finds. Ceramic artifacts at ancient Ecuadoran site held traces of cacao starch grains.

Bloodsuckers on Staten Island: Vampires navigate NYC in first teasers for TV adaptation of 2014 cult classic mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows. Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement are creating their own weird cinematic universe.

On the Case: True Detective seems ready to return to top form in new S3 trailer. Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) stars in latest season, set in the Ozarks with three timelines.

Other Cool Links:

New Materials for a New Age. You probably haven’t heard of “multiferroics,” but they could lead to entirely new ways of designing technologies, some of which we are only just starting to imagine.

Rigid light is a strange new state of matter. It’s somewhere between a solid and a superfluid, and can’t be stirred, rotated, or even pushed.

Gravitational waves were only recently observed, and now astronomers are already thinking of ways to use them: like accurately measuring the expansion rate of the Universe.

Quantum Physicists Found a New, Safer Way to Navigate. GPS can be hacked, so airplanes and ships need a backup system. These quantum physicists think they have an answer.

“My grandfather thought he solved a cosmic mystery,” Veronique Greenwood writes in The Atlantic. His career as an eminent physicist was derailed by an obsession. Was he a genius or a crackpot?

Redefining the Kilogram: Officials will vote to overhaul the SI system of measurements, basing units such as the kilogram not on physical objects but on fundamental constants. See also my 2016 Gizmodo article.

Scientists Use Metamaterial to Make Chip-sized Synchrotron. Tiny antennas on a tiny microchip push a beam of light along a circular path to create terahertz radiation. [Image: Meredith Henstridge/University of Michigan]

How to Cook an Egg with Magnets. “By combining an old treadmill motor and a magnet array, these magnet aficionados were able to generate enough heat to fry an egg in a conductive pan.”

Why Physics Needs, And Deserves, A Post-LHC Collider. “the next logical step isn’t to go to higher energies, but to lower ones with a far greater precision.”

“There’s something about the way spiders move that many of us find inherently creepy. And that something, it turns out, is fluid dynamical.”

“Schrödinger’s Bacterium” Could Be a Quantum Biology Milestone: A recent experiment may have placed living organisms in a state of quantum entanglement.

Hirofumi Wada studies the mechanics of origami toys, elastic ribbons, french fry boxes—and just about anything else that he and his students encounter in their daily lives.

Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics.

The Proton Smash. “The unofficial song of Halloween, Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash, starts with a narrator working in a lab—but that’s where the science ends. So a few Fermilab singers got together and recorded a new, physics-themed version.”

Just How Fast Is the Parker Solar Probe? Astonishingly Fast. The probe just broke the record to become the fastest human-made object, relative to the sun.

Social Relationships as a Spatial Problem. The hippocampus appears to keep track of social dynamics just as it tracks us moving physically through real spaces.

From World War II Radar to Microwave Popcorn, the Cavity Magnetron Was There. This compact cavity magnetron gave the Allies a way of producing high-power microwaves for radar.

When NASA Has a Pumpkin Carving Contest Expect Over-Engineered Goodness.

Hawaiian Supreme Court gives go-ahead to controversial Thirty Meter telescope.

Requiem for a Revolutionary Space Probe. The Kepler Mission introduced us to a dazzling array of solar systems.

How ‘The Goblin’ may unravel the mystery of Planet Nine. The Goblin’ is a dwarf planet with an extreme orbit: far-flung and elongated.

Geometry versus Gerrymandering: Mathematicians are developing statistical forensics to identify districts that disenfranchise voters.  Related: What Does a Crooked Election Look Like? In the search for electoral fraud, researchers use forensic tool kits to detect statistical signs of ballot stuffing and voter rigging.

Light Duel, A Light Painted Stop Motion Skeletal Cowboy Faces a Badass Cowgirl in a Shootout: