This week's physics highlights include a look at how self-assembling granular materials are changing the face or architecture; quantum dots made from urine; and lots and lots of football physics -- plus plenty of Halloween-themed fun!
Me at Gizmodo:
Some "Ghosts" May Be Sound Waves Just Below Human Hearing. "There are many possible explanations for hauntings, not least that humans are highly suggestible creatures, especially when we want to believe. But some ghost sightings might actually be the result of sounds — sound waves that vibrate just below our range of hearing, dubbed the 'fear frequency.'"
Recycled Urine Makes Colorful Quantum 'Pee-Dots.' "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that includes a man’s (or woman’s) urine. Scientists have figured out how to transform your pee into tiny semiconducting nano crystals they’ve dubbed 'quantum pee-dots.'”
Mapping 16th Century Social Networks with Six Degrees of Francis Bacon. "Want to know whether Anne Boleyn knew Utopia author Thomas More? There was a time when that answer would have involved painstakingly combing through historical archives hunting for arcane clues. But now you can search a massive online digitized database and get the answer in a fraction of the time."
Cosmic Rays Could Help Unlock the Secrets of the Pyramids. "There’s a long and colorful history of people trying to unlock the secret of how the Egyptian pyramids were built—and possibly find hidden rooms and corridors, for good measure. And now, a new international project aims to peer through the stone walls of these ancient structures, using cosmic rays."
This Is Why Some Sand Dunes Sing. "Certain sand dunes make their own desert music, singing, booming, or even “burping” — a naturally occurring musical instrument. Scientists have discovered that these distinct sounds are each created by different types of waves moving through the dunes." [Image courtesy of Vriend et al./Physics of Fluids.]
Take the Particle Physics Personality Quiz To Find Your Best Research Fit. "So you want to become a particle physicist, but you’re just not sure which area of research is best suited to your temperament. Never fear, special snowflakes! Symmetry magazine now has a fun personality quiz to help you find out your physics destiny."
This Is What Gives the California King Snake Its Slither. "The California King Snake slithers effortlessly across the terrain, thanks to its well-lubricated slippery scales. And the unique structure of those scales may help scientists devise new kinds of water-resistant paints, coatings, or plastics, or design better snake-like robots."
Cold Plasma Could Be Used to Freeze Out Toenail Fungus. "Admit it, you’ve tried everything to get rid of your crusty yellow toenail fungus: prescription anti-fungal pills, medicated creams and nail polish, laser therapy — the usual remedies. But that darn fungus keeps coming back. Cold plasma could be your salvation."
Manhattan's Reluctant Spy Just Revealed His Atomic End Game. "This week’s offering, 'The Threshold,' is all about strategy, carefully moving the various chess pieces into place for the eventual endgame. And we also learned a lot more about the motives of our unlikely spy, the aptly-named Jim Meeks." Bonus: The series' historical consultant, Alex Wellerstein, on the real reporter who got the scoop on the Manhattan Project.
Watching This Vampire Bat on a Treadmill Never Gets Old. "We think of bats as swooping through the air to hunt their prey, but the vampire bat is known to creep along the ground to stalk its prey. Put it on a tiny treadmill, and the crafty critter can also break into a full gallop, using its wings to propel itself along the ground."
Other Cool Links:
It's Halloween, so let's celebrate a little, perhaps by Carving Up Some Science With a Physics Themed Jack-O'-Lantern. And since we love our mixed drinks: Should You Become a Corpse This Halloween, Drink a Corpse Reviver. (It's one of my fave cocktails!) Related: Spooky Brewing Halloween Cocktails Captured In Mesmerizing Cinemagraphs. Also: A Halloween Cocktail Recipe from "Shakespeare, Not Stirred": The Weird Sister's Blood and Hand Punch.
The Scientist Whose Lab Is a Haunted House.
Radio Ghosts Have Haunted the Airwaves for Nearly a Century.
How Self-Assembling Granular Materials Are Changing the Future of Architecture.
The Thirty-Meter Telescope and the Fight for Hawaii's Future. "For most people it is almost a religious experience to go up there for the first time."
The physical nature of computers might reveal deep truths about their uniquely powerful abstract abilities.
Clearly it's football season, because folks had lots of physics-y things to say about this popular sport. To wit: The Physics of Building a Better Football. Related: How Would Football Work if You Played It on Mars? Also: Football Physics: A look at the physics of GPS with an eye toward improving the spotting of the ball in football.
Wifi Networks Can Now Identify Who You Are Through Walls.
Mathematicians Prove the Triviality of English. “Thanks to our pronunciation rules, when you do algebra on the alphabet, everything reduces to 1.”
See Galileo’s Famous Gravity Experiment Performed in the World’s Largest Vacuum Chamber, and on the Moon.
Scientists have found a way to make the phase velocity of light infinitely fast.
Will Quantum Mechanics Swallow Relativity? The contest between gravity and quantum physics takes a new turn.
Optical Float Paintings (pictured at right) Suspended in Layers of Glass by Wilfried Grootens. Per Colossal: "Artist Wilfried Grootens paints extraordinary figures comprised of dots and tendrils sandwiched between dozens of laminate glass layers. These strangely precise optical float paintings take on the form of some fantastic microscopic creatures and are sometimes reminiscent of the photos depicting the milliseconds before a nuclear explosion. The design of each cube is so precise, the thin layers of paint appear to completely vanish when viewed from a side angle."
Science Made This Chamber Silent, Your Mind Is What Makes It Terrifying.
Intelligent Dressing Glows When Wounds Are Infected.
The Mathematical Surprises of Triangles, Squares and Pentagons.
The best way to understand math is learning how to fail productively.
Here's How Long it Would Take for Vampires to Annihilate Humanity.
The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems. As nature scales, complexity gives way to universal law.
How filthy is the International Space Station? An astrobiologist weighs in.
Tiny 'ThumbSats' Aim to Bring Space to All.
What Happens When You Send a Spider to Space?
Comet Lovejoy pretty much spews sugar and booze, study finds.
How Fast Are the Tie Fighters in That Star Wars Teaser?
This Is What Pi Sounds Like as a Waltz.
The unexpected math behind Van Gogh's "Starry Night":
The Scientific Method is a Myth. "Even simplistic versions vary from three steps to eleven." …
Physics Still Hasn't Solved Some Everyday Mysteries.
Hyperspace, ghosts, and colourful cubes – the work of Charles Howard Hinton and cultural history of higher dimensions.
Alien Hunters Spent the Last Century Looking for the Black Knight Satellite.
Rachel Rose: artist sets out on Gravity-inspired space odyssey.
Rocky Mountain Institute: San Francisco Prepares for the Big One with Microgrids.
What’s Inside Silly String: The Secret’s in the Solvent.
Controlling Bubbles in Boiling Water Could Make Power Plants More Efficient. …
Learn about the Math Inside the Shape of DNA.