Jen-Luc Piquant is in Boston today learning all about Big Physics and Big Questions at New Scientist magazine's Instant Expert event. But we still have links for you. Highlights for this week include etching graphene into everyday materials, the latest news on the incredible shrinking proton, and "smarticle" robot swarms.
Why Self-Taught AI Has Trouble With the Real World. The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade.
Engineers prove that laser-induced graphene can be etched into everyday materials like cardboard, cotton fabric, potatoes, and sliced bread.
Honey, Who Shrunk the Proton? New experiments of muons bound to protons suggest the size of the proton is smaller than previously thought. But before New Physics is invoked, experimental artifacts must be ruled out. See also my 2013 blog post for Scientific American.
New Results Challenge Basic Ideas of Supermassive Black Holes. This “implies that the black hole-galaxy scaling relations do not hold for these extreme objects,” wrote Mar Mezcua, first author of one of the studies form the Université of Montréal
"Smarticle" Robot Swarms Turn Random Behavior into Collective Intelligence. New algorithms show how very simple robots can be made to work together as a group.
Today in Aerodynamics Are Complicated: There's No One Way to Explain How Flying Works. You can use Bernoulli's principle to explain how planes fly—but that isn't the only way.
Scientists Will Transport Antimatter in a Truck. "The work aims to provide a better understanding of fundamental processes inside atomic nuclei and to help astrophysicists to learn about the interiors of neutron stars, which contain the densest form of matter in the Universe."
Could Scientists Use Silver Iodide to Make Snow for the Olympics? You can theoretically "seed" snow in the atmosphere, but it's really hard to tell if it actually works. Related: Razor-sharp snowflakes are wreaking havoc on Olympians’ skis. In super-cold temperatures, it's more like skiing on sand than snow. Also: Physicists Still Don’t Know "When it comes to winter sports, not all ice is created equal. Every discipline has its own standards for the ideal temperature and density of ice." Furthermore: Artificial snow is a key ingredient in today's Olympics competitions because it allows course designers control.
The Physics of Blazing Fast Bobsled Runs. Four-person bobsled teams go faster than two-person teams—but why? Related: Do blue skate suits really go faster than red ones? Team Norway's interesting claims... and the science behind it. Also: What Puts the Curl in Curling. Bonus: BB-8 Curling Is the Olympic Sport We All Need. "And you don’t even have to travel to Hoth to see it."
Polar Bear Hair Inspires Stealth Fabric. A cape made of synthetic polar bear fibers hides a bunny from night-vision cameras. [Image: Adv. Mater. 2018]
The secret life of Higgs bosons: Are these mass-giving particles hanging out with dark matter?
Physicists find a small chance the spacefaring Tesla will slam into Earth or Venus. "We estimate the probability of a collision with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be 6% and 2.5%, respectively."
A self-taught astronomer spotted something no scientist had ever seen. "[Victor] Buso’s images are the first to capture the brief “shock breakout” phase of a supernova, when a wave of energy rolls from a star’s core to its exterior just before the star explodes. Computer models had suggested the existence of this phase, but no one had witnessed it."
New laser scanning technology is being used to “weigh” trees, in a project which could help more accurately assess the role forests can play in tackling climate change.
Suddenly Springtime: The Nonlinearity of Seasons. "The official move from one season to another is marked by the solstices—the longest and shortest days of the year—and the equinoxes, days of roughly equal light and darkness...but the way that things change between these points is more complicated than you might think."
Physicists Mourn Joe Polchinski, Developer of Deep Ideas and Paradoxes. The theoretical physicist Joe Polchinski, who died Feb. 2, left a tremendous professional and personal legacy, says friend and collaborator Eva Silverstein.
The Maglev Train from Black Panther Is the Transit We Deserve.
Just What Is a "Quantum"? "It's a word that practically everyone's heard, but that relatively few people understand properly."
Gassy or metal? Newly found planets straddle the line for super-Earths.
They Saw Earth From Space. Here’s How It Changed Them. The majesty of our planet can be difficult to describe. But these astronauts will try.
How to detect clandestine nuclear weapons programs. A “policy physicist” explores practical ways to sniff out uranium processing from afar.
Math class techniques can fix the writing class culture that leaves too many students behind. "Good math instructors encourage you to change your approach, to alter original assumptions."
A Devastating Case Against Those “Find My Age” Algebra Problems.
The Math Behind Pennsylvania's Gerrymandered Map Getting Overturned.
Lawrence Krauss is a famous atheist and liberal crusader — and, in certain whisper networks, a well-known problem. With women coming forward alleging sexual harassment, will his “skeptic” fanbase believe the evidence?
Lost Artwork Found Under Famous Picasso Painting. The discovery offers new insight into the creative process of the innovative artist.
Envisioning Chemistry is a series of visually striking imagery that brings the fascinating world of microscopic chemical reactions to life.