Among this week's physics highlights: the discovery of a new material called excitonium, we've found another star system with eight planets, and why you really don't want to suffer death by light saber.
First up, however, is an issue facing my fellow freelance science journalists: Freelancers Organize to Demand Payment From Beleaguered Nautilus Magazine. The luxe online and print magazine covering science and ideas, has struggled to pay its writers. Now those writers are striking back. The open letter is here and publisher John Steele's (unsatisfactory) response is here. I contributed to the Facts So Romantic blog in the magazine's early days, when they were flush with cash, and never had an issue with payment. I'm a fan of the magazine. But I am very disturbed by the stiffing of freelancers and the general mismanagement that implies. I will not be featuring Nautilus links in the weekly round up until this is resolved. Not that Nautilus cares much about a humble links roundup; it's the principle of the thing. I stand in solidarity with my freelance colleagues.
Why Death by Lightsaber Would Be Way Worse Than Star Wars Shows.
Neutrinos Suggest Solution to the Mystery of the Universe's Existence. After the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have canceled each other out. So why does anything exist? Answers are coming from an experiment in Japan.
Physicists discover how shell shape helps flipped tortoises right themselves. This is the first study to show various shell shapes need different energy levels for tortoises that have flipped over to self-right.
Researchers Discover Excitonium - a Weird New Form of Matter first theorized almost 50 years ago. "It is a rather exotic condensate that exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena like a superconductor or a superfluid. It consists of excitons, particles formed from an unlikely pairing of an escaped electron and the hole it leaves behind."
Elusive 'Magnetic Monopole' Phenomenon Found Hiding in Older Chemistry Experiments.
First Alien Star System With Eight Planets Found. The planet, known as Kepler 90i, is one of two discovered by a powerful neural network sifting through NASA data. "It joins seven other planets circling a star roughly 2,500 light-years away."
Small Chirps Could Provide Big Insights on Tiny Structures. "a group of scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and the National Academy of Sciences in the Ukraine demonstrate that bursts of chirped sound lasting less than a billionth of a second could help uncover the properties of things like single cells and nanoscale structures in microelectronics."
The Physics of Projectile Motion With a Clicky Pen. The spring inside a clicky pen is a perfect way to learn about projectile motion.
How To Build Better Rockets By Crumpling Beer Cans. "scientists find that poking such cylinders in the side could help predict when they might buckle from weights or pressure from above."
Math Says You're Driving Wrong and It's Slowing Us All Down. No, tailgating doesn’t get you where you need to go faster. "A study published on Thursday (Dec. 14) in the journal IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems uses mathematical simulations to show that tightly following a car in front of you will only worsen traffic jams. Instead it proposes that drivers adjust their position based on both the car in front and behind to keep traffic flow smooth. This small behavioral tweak could as much as halve commute time on certain roads."
Fractal Cities: Drawings of Urban Architecture by artist Benjamin Sack Seem to Go On and On Forever. Per Web Urbanist: "Drawn in a classical style in black and white, his works play with the topography of architecture that has run amok, growing and expanding upon itself without limits." [Image: Benjamin Sack]
Dark Matter Winners And Losers In The Aftermath Of LIGO. "We've used gravitational wave astronomy to detect five merging black holes and a pair of merging neutron stars, a remarkable result all on its own. Yet these detections provide us with a wealth of data about dark matter and its alternatives."
The characteristics of a surface can have a major impact on the form a flow takes.
Researchers Explore Carbon Footprints of Superheroes. A tongue-in-cheek exercise about comic book heroes aims to inspire people to consider the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they themselves cause.
Las Vegas Casinos Are Now Testing Covert Gun-Sensing Technology that "uses a discreet microwave radar system to scan people for guns, knives, and bombs—without forcing them to walk through metal detectors."
The Labs That Forge Distant Planets Here on Earth. High-pressure experiments explore what it might take to make exoplanets habitable.
Two Birds With One Proton Beam: CERN Now Makes Radioisotopes For Medical Research.
From black holes to the multiverse, The Dialogues by Clifford Johnson is a cosmic comic celebrating the endangered art of human conversation.
A Glass of Whiskey Could Help You Get Your Head Around Deep Time: “Deep time’s vastness can seem out of scale with human life. Yet thinking through materials and different kinds of knowledge and local expertise, we see how it protrudes into the everyday.”
New Technique Could Put Millions of Qubits on a Chip.
Have yourself a deadly little Christmas: it's the most poisonous time of the year.
The Terrible Truth About Dreidel. "The top functions like a die, with an equal chance of landing on each side—at least, in theory. The reality is far more sinister."
The Quantum Game: like Laser Maze, but built on real principles of quantum mechanics, It Teaches You How to Build a Quantum Computer. Learning about how quantum computers work doesn't have to be boring.
Scientists Explain How Wild Earth Would Be if it Had Rings Like Saturn.
Heisenberg's uncertain legacy: "naming matters in science. A catchy slogan can insinuate the most recondite concept into the popular lexicon — for better and worse."
Max Born, The man who solved a big puzzle about the tiniest particles in the universe.
Cosmic Car Crash Could Be A New Way to Form Stars, Study Finds.
Why do smaller rocky asteroids explode high in the atmosphere instead of hitting the ground? It turns out they crack under pressure.
How NASA’s Search for Aliens Helped Detect Breast Cancer. The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory can find the tiniest microorganisms—something that turned out handy for breast-cancer researchers.
Justin Curry's Favorite Theorem: The University at Albany mathematician talks about why he just can’t get enough of those Platonic solids.
The (Math) Problem With Pentagons. "When it comes to tiling the plane, pentagons occupy an area between the inevitable and the impossible."
Building a scale model of our solar system in the desert is an eye-opening exercise.
It's Time for Science and Academia to Address Sexual Misconduct. Almost every woman in science has either personally experienced or knows someone who has experienced sexual harassment, racism or assault.
"A great man is not afraid to admit publicly that he has made a mistake and has changed his mind." The story of Joseph Weber, the flawed pioneer who, in his error, paved the way for the greatest astrophysical discovery since Galileo.
Hear Einstein speak in a rare recording from the zenith of WWII's violent divisiveness, where he celebrates "the common language of science."
Things Being Thrown at a Wet Window Screen to Form Beautiful Shock Waves in Slow Motion.
New Iranian Video Game, Engare, Explores the Elegant Geometry of Islamic Art.
An AI With an Eerily Familiar Voice Offers a Musical Crash Course on the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
This Particle Breaks Time Symmetry: Increasing entropy is NOT the only process that's asymmetric in time.