This week's highlights: new evidence for hydrothermal havens in Saturn's moon, Enceladus; the physics of why your shoelaces come untied all by themselves; and the mathematics of the probability of Red Shirts dying in Star Trek, compared to other cast members.
This week I wrote two news stories for New Scientist.The first was on how the Physics of shoelaces shows why they come undone when you run. "A combination of stomping and whipping explain why your shoelaces seem to come undone all by themselves." See also my 2015 article for Gizmodo on the physics of knots.
I also wrote a short bit about how twisted semiconductors could help project moving holograms. "A new method for mass-assembling semiconductors into fusilli pasta shapes could one day lead to moving holograms projected right from your smartphone."
But the big science news this week was the announcement of New Evidence for Hydrothermal Havens in Saturn's moon, Enceladus. Per Caleb Scharf at Scientific American, "Spurting out molecular hydrogen and water, the icy moon Enceladus looks even tastier in the search for life." Related: New Signs of an Environment Favorable for Life on Saturn's moon. Also: Enceladus is one of the top prospects for finding alien life. We need a mission like ELF to go back and look. Bonus: Caltech's Mike Brown (a.k.a. @PlutoKiller) had this to say on Twitter: "All that talk of hot spots on Europa? We've been looking at these for a while. It's fun stuff."
The definition of curiosity-driven research: Jason Cole, a postdoc in physics at Imperial College, London, decided to investigate the chaotically grinding extractor fan in his bathroom.
Here's a Knot of Dark Matter Binding Two Galaxies Together: the first composite image of a dark matter filament.
The directional sensitivity of bat biosonar is improved by the wiggling of structures on the bat’s nose and ears.
Inside the Covert World of Bootleg X-Ray Records. For decades, Soviet Russia banned pop, jazz, and rock and roll. These music lovers devised a solution: Music 'on the bone.' "Discarded x-rays...were made of plastic soft enough to be cut by the recording machine."
The Victorian Teenage Girl Who Entertained Crowds by Overpowering Men: Lulu Hurst. "Audiences flocked to see Hurst exhibit these feats, including skeptics who analyzed her act and drew their own conclusions. These had less to do with mysterious electro-magnetic energies and more to do with subtleties of physics and psychology."
Does space heat up when you accelerate? Physicists propose test of controversial idea.
Mars’ Ionosphere: Cold, Lifeless, and Filled With Heavy Metals.
Mathematicians have discovered a new limit on how many "equiangular lines" can exist, at most, in every dimension.
The Art of Math: There's hidden beauty in complex mathematical formulas, and a new exhibition at the University of Melbourne is bringing it to life. "[R]esearch fellow Dr Marcus Volz ... produces stunning, computer-generated works of art that are visual displays of mathematical patterns and structures, and dynamic animations of mathematical processes." [Image: "Swirl," Marcus Volz]
Scientists Recreated the Elusive Rogue Wave in a Lab.
Quantum effects cloak impossible singularities with black holes.
Your rooftop is littered with micro-meteorites. And up close, they are surprisingly photogenic.
5.3 million years ago, a depleted Mediterranean was reconnected to the Atlantic, triggering a massive flood.
This applied mathematician studies the science of sneeze droplets and toilet splatter.
How Hard Does Thor Hit Hulk in That Ragnarok Trailer? Let’s Do the Physics! Go on, you know Wired's Rhett Allain will make it fun.
The Math of Khan: "A presentation at the National Museum of Mathematics... examined some of Star Trek‘s most pressing mathematical questions: How well does Spock understand probability? How many “a”s are there in Khaaaaaan? Are red shirts more likely to die than other crew members?"
Math Movie Music: "A good math movie can draw out those inner eddies of abstraction. Which is why the math music of movies is so great. Imagine the the task given to a film’s composers as they start to assemble a soundtrack for a math-heavy movie: 'Okay folks, in this scene the genius is going to solve some equations, and you have to write music to make people care. Go!' And yet they do it."
Could a Lightsaber Cut Through Wolverine's Claws?
A new experiment to measure the behavior of muons in magnetic fields could reveal unknown particles.
A new room-sized design of a proton accelerator for cancer treatment is fully linear and compact.
NASA's Newest Interstellar Concepts Rely on Huge Laser Arrays and Gravity Surfing.
How to Use a Sphere to Talk to Mars: To avoid garbled messages, mathematicians might translate them into geometric form.
If We Colonize a Neighboring Solar System, Thank Guillem Anglada-Escude.
The world’s two most powerful telescopes are glorious—and vulnerable. "You’ve got to bring a lot of chocolate."
Water telescope uses gamma rays to track new kind of pulsar.
Extreme closeups of spray paint caps used for a cosmic mural:
Waterlily beetles employ an unusual method of getting around: they skim across the water surface.
Fracking is ruining one of the last truly dark places in the US, and astronomers are on edge.
The Week the World Almost Ended. In 1983, the U.S. simulated a nuclear war with Russia—and narrowly avoided starting a real one. We might not be so lucky next time.
We May Be About to See a Black Hole for the First Time Ever with the Event Horizon Telescope.
NASA's New Horizons Surprises With Whole New View Of Distant Cosmos.
Tiny Silk Batteries Dissolve within Weeks: Biodegradable power source could run medical implants deep in the body.
The Simple Math behind Crunching the Sizes of Crowds.
The Tone Circle: John Coltrane Draws a Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music.
Math problems for English majors. "If Elizabeth Bennet’s house is ten miles away from Mr. Darcy’s house, how far will her mother go to arrange a suitable marriage?"
A Simple Visual Proof of a Powerful Idea. Ramsey’s theorem predicts a surprising (and useful) consistency in the organization of graphs.
This is why you should beat egg whites in a copper bowl.
Urban Sketchers Visit Fermilab: group brought their on-site drawing practice to the particle physics laboratory.
Why peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on earth--even faster than cheetahs.
As if astronauts couldn't get any cooler, they will now be using zip lines. "The zipline will allow astronauts and crew to quickly flee from the tower if something goes wrong."
To Jupiter, Sans Nuclear. With dwindling radioactive sources, NASA turns to solar panels to siphon power in the darkest parts of our solar system.
The Astrophysicist Behind Twitter's Sickest Burn. "Most scientists famous for talking about science are men who became celebritized well into their careers. Not Katie Mack." (Katie is great, but Jen-Luc Piquant objects on principle to the word "celebritized.")
Prismatic Portraits by Lui Ferreyra Form a Collision of Geometry and Color.
Blooming Kinetic Sculptures Built with Wire by Casey Curran. Per Colossal: "Seattle-based artist Casey Curran constructs elaborate kinetic sculptures primarily of brass wire that twist, bloom, flip, or wiggle depending on the subject. Some pieces rely on a motorized mechanism, but most of his artworks function with the help of a single hand crank that brings the piece to life." [Image: Casey Curran]
How Would The Universe Change If We Grew An Extra Dimension?
‘Urban Biomining’ Could Be Used to Print Electronics on Earth and Beyond.
"I Never Thought I'd be Marching for Science," writes Ayana Elizabeth Johnson in Scientific American. "Hurtling forward guided by nothing but opinions and feelings is dangerous. We need facts. Facts deduced scientifically, over time, through observation, experimentation, and replication. Our health, economies, security, and cultures depend on it."
The Science Is in: You Should Always Order the Biggest Pizza.
Poems of Space: Pioneering Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell Reads "Halley's Comet" by Stanley Kunitz.
NASA Is Digging In The Snow To Help The West Manage Its Water.
Changing Your Math 'Mindset' Can Boost Your Math Performance.
You think you know something about grades? Let Wired's Rhett Allain tell you something about grades.
The Physics Girl, a.k.a. Diana Cowern, a YouTube star, encourages scientists to stay curious.
Antoine Zanuttini’s Fragments of Euclid is a mind-bending game inspired by M.C. Escher’s labyrinthine interiors.
An 8-year-old girl's poetic homage to Newton: “Isaac Newton died when he was eighty-four, his ideas travel to develop more.”
Via Paul Halpern on Twitter, here is the only known recorded interview with Hugh Everett, brilliant developer of Many Worlds (Parallel Universes) Hypothesis.
Shy Henry: "Despite his fame as a scientist, Henry Cavendish was painfully uncomfortable in social situations."
It Sounds Like Science Fiction But ... It's A Cliché.
Why do we pursue Einstein's dream of a unified theory? The longing for mathematical beauty? Or is it more?
Ethics of Belief: Mathematician and Philosopher William Kingdon Clifford on the Discipline of Doubt and How We Can Trust a Truth.
Steven Soderbergh, Hollywood’s medicine man, explains how science became a muse.
Delightful 1964 performance on first and second laws of thermodynamics by a satirical duo called Flanders and Swann:
"Oh, you can't pass heat from a cooler to a hotter
Try it if you like but you'll only look a fool-a
'Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a rule-a
And that's a physical law"
Check out the most-watched short physics videos of the past year, including 11 with over 1 million views each.
Quantum Mechanics Explained in 5 Minutes With Ducks: