Mysterious fast radio bursts could come from magnetars, birds of paradise have the ultimate black feathers, and there's more weird results regarding the mass of the proton. Plus much more in this week's physics highlights.
New Nature paper strengthens the case that repeating fast radio bursts could come from magnetars. A mysterious object that repeatedly bursts with ultra-powerful radio waves must live in an extreme environment — something like the one around a supermassive black hole. Related: Fast Radio Bursts Are a Sci-Fi Dream with An Astrophysical Source.
Latest measurement of a proton’s mass has got physicists puzzled. For the second time, an extremely precise measurement of the proton’s mass is different from its recognised value. (I wrote about this back in 2013.)
How to use spinning distant dead stars to find your way in deep space. Experiment shows how spacecraft could use stellar signals to navigate in deep space without human instruction.
'Serious gap' in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics. A mathematical discrepancy in the expansion rate of the Universe is now "pretty serious", and could point the way to a major discovery in physics, says a Nobel laureate.
“Superfluid dark matter is without doubt a pretty cool idea. The model can account for all the achievements of normal particle dark matter, plus the benefits of modified gravity on top.” I wrote about this for Quanta last year.
Step aside, CERN: There's a cheaper way to break open physics. How tabletop experiments could find evidence of new particles, offering a glimpse beyond the standard model.
Moly-99, a radioactive isotope used by millions to detect cancer, decays so rapidly that it becomes useless within days. Its supply chain is a global relay race: “It’s like running through the desert with an ice cream cone.”
Super-Black Is the New Black: "For really black plumage, you need to travel to Papua New Guinea and track down the birds of paradise." Feathers on birds of paradise contain light-trapping nanotechnology that makes some of the deepest blacks in the world.
An international team of scientists has observed the inner structure of photonic crystals, one of the most promising materials of the 21st century.
Scientists Make Coldest Liquid Water Ever, And It's Weirder Than They Imagined.
Astronomers detect almond-scented molecule that will help solve interstellar radiation mystery.
How the Cosmos Has Inspired a Photographer’s Vision. Thomas Ruff’s photographs question history, art making, and the medium itself. Per Hyperallergic: "His current exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery — Ruff’s first major retrospective in London — pays homage to his longtime passion for the cosmos, featuring series of works directly influenced by his obsession with the universe." [Image: Thomas Ruff]
Fluid Dynamics: How a Wall of Lava Lamps Helps Encrypt 10% of the Internet.
Droplets can bounce on a vibrating liquid surface and sometimes can even start walking. Related: Faraday showed that Chladni patterns -- the shapes made by sand or powder on a vibrating plate -- depend on fluid dynamics as well as solid mechanics.
Radical Dimensions: Relativity says we live in four dimensions. String theory says it's ten. What are "dimensions" and how do they affect reality?
When Wi-Fi Won't Work, Let Sound Carry Your Data.
A telescope inside a jumbo jet yields new insights on how stars are born from collapsing gas and dust.
Most images of black holes are illustrations. Here’s what our telescopes actually capture.
The James Lick Telescope is Built over the Grave of Its Namesake. When the richest man in California, Gold Rush real estate baron James Lick, died in 1876, his will funded the construction of a mountaintop observatory which would double as his tomb.
Scientists Claim They Discovered World’s Earliest Representation of a Supernova in 5000-year-old stone carvings.
According to Jennet Conant, many of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb “never forgave themselves for their naivete in handing it over to the military early on.”
This Asteroid Hunter (Lindley Johnson) Is Tasked With Saving Earth from Killer Impacts. Related: The Physicist Building the World’s Most Precise Clock: advanced timekeeping could help unify quantum and gravitational physics, predict earthquakes, and navigate deep space.
This Physicist (Frank Wilczek) Turned Time Crystals From a Theoretical Oddity to an Odd Reality. Related: If dinosaurs were physicists: thoughts about history and time. Frank Wilczek asks: Does physics stand outside the parade of years? Could features of the future affect the present?
The world's most lyrical footnote — physicist Richard Feynman on the life-expanding common ground between the scientific and the poetic worldviews.
The Star Wars 'Cantina Band' as played by a pencil in a math equation.
Albert Einstein-Inspired Clock Forces You To Solve Equations To Tell Time.
A Kinetic Block & Marble Track Perfectly Synchronized with Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”.
This Book Is a Planetarium: A Pop-Up Masterpiece Translating the Laws of Physics into Playful and Poetic Tangibility. From light to time, magical hands-on demonstrations making concretely comprehensible the abstract forces and phenomena we experience but cannot ordinarily touch.
Hate scraping ice? Researchers from University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and China discovered that ice grows differently depending on the surface, a discovery that could lead to windshields and other surfaces that repel ice.
Psychedelic Waves: Step Into a Swirling Vortex Inside an Infinity Room. Per Web Urbanist: "For their new installation at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, entitled ‘Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement,’ teamLab took inspiration from the ocean and all of the ways in which the currents and flows of water are altered by objects and environmental conditions."