There was a ton of fascinating physics news this week. Among the many highlights: first results from the LISA Pathfinder mission, the first experimental demonstration of a quantum enigma machine, and four new elements finally got their official names, completing the seventh row of the periodic table.
Me at Gizmodo:
We're Now One Step Closer to Detecting Gravitational Waves in Space. "A planned space-based gravitational wave observatory is one step closer to becoming a reality because a critical technological component just passed a series of tests with flying colors. The LISA Pathfinder collaboration announced the results of these experiments at a press briefing in Madrid this morning, along with a paper published in Physical Review Letters."
Leaping Electric Eels Resolve a Centuries-Old Mystery. "In his writings, naturalist and intrepid explorer Alexander von Humboldt recounted how natives in Venezuela used horses to lure and trap electric eels. Many scientists thought it was just a tall tale, but a new paper lends credence to Humboldt’s account of eels aggressively leaping up and stunning the horses with a series of high-voltage discharges."
Playing Super Mario Brothers Is Like Solving a Super Hard Math Problem. "If you’ve ever been frustrated at your inability to complete a level of Super Mario Brothers, here’s a little something to cheer you up. Computer scientists have demonstrated that solving a level in the popular video game is tantamount to solving some of the hardest problems in computational science. They’re known as “NP hard” problems, as opposed to the class known as “P” problems, which are relatively easy to solve."
You Can Create Your Own Fake Traffic Jams With This Handy Simulator. "Every driver has experienced the frustration of traffic jams that develop out of thin air on the freeway—no accident, no lane closure, no presidential motorcade. Just a sudden, maddening, inexplicable slowdown. Now you can explore this phenomenon firsthand with an online interactive simulation. It’s the creation of Martin Treiber of the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, who studies these so-called “phantom traffic jams.”
Watch This Pole Dancer's Gorgeous Interactive Routine with Geometric Light. "Dance meets geometry in this evocative short film, in which a pole dancer manipulates a projected screen behind her to create constantly shifting geometric patterns. Dubbed “Genese” (“Genesis”), it’s by the French performance art group U-Machine.... [T]o my eyes, it looks eerily like the dancer is twisting and warping the fabric of spacetime."
Speaking of Gizmodo, perhaps you heard the big Gawker Media news yesterday. Rest, assured, Gizmodo Isn't Going Anywhere. "The company continues normal operations while restructuring itself, and while the highers-up do the restructuring, we’ll focus on the normal operations part."
Evidence of a ‘Fifth Force’ Faces Scrutiny. A lab in Hungary has reported an anomaly that could lead to a physics revolution. But even as excitement builds, closer scrutiny has unearthed a troubling backstory. Related: Ask Ethan: Is There Really Evidence For A New, Fifth Force?
Revealed: Cambodia's vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle. Laser technology reveals cities concealed under the earth which would have made up the world’s largest empire in 12th century.
Black Hole Rain Is Like Normal Rain, Only Light-Years in Scale.
Why don't birds get lost? They may have mastered quantum mechanics.
Reflective Paintings of Water and Ripples by Yoshihito Kawase. Per Spoon and Tomago: "The quietude that seems almost deafening after a violent storm. Water, despite having washed so much away, seems to rest carelessly, harmlessly. These are some of the images that come across in the work of artist Yoshihito Kawase, who paints stunningly quiet water ripple paintings that reflect on the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami." [Image: Yoshihito Kawase] …
Physicists Foil Forgers with Unclonable Reflective Patterns.
First Experimental Demonstration of a Quantum Enigma Machine.
X-rays reveal 1,300-year-old writings inside later bookbindings. The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink.
This Squid Has Glowing Eyeshadow That Acts Like An Invisibility Cloak.
An Ivy League professor, Steven Strogatz, explains chaos theory, the prisoner's dilemma, and why math isn't really boring.
Why Are There Holes In A Wiffle Ball? PHYSICS!
Uncertain Future for Earth’s Biggest Telescope. The Arecibo Observatory, easily recognizable from feature films and a symbol of the search for extraterrestrial life, may not be around for much longer. A harsh funding climate is forcing the National Science Foundation to make some hard decisions about which facilities to keep around.
The World’s Oldest Computer (the Antikythera Mechanism) May Have Been Used to Predict the Future.
Two New Particles Have Sent Physicists Scrambling for Theories.
An Explorer of Quantum Borderlands: Suchitra Sebastian on the potential discovery of a new building block of matter, better ways to find superconductors, and her circuitous path to becoming a world-class physicist.
Astronaut Jeff Williams enters an inflatable room in space, lives to tell the tale. Bigelow's expandable module so far looks "pristine" after its expansion.
Low gravity and high radiation: Would humans remain human on Mars?
The Neutrino Cocktail: Neutrinos are a puzzling mixture of 3 flavors and 3 masses. Scientists want to measure it down to the last drop.
Comets, Meteors, and Other Space Phenomena Depicted Over 1,000 Years.
High School seniors collide Weezer and Calculus, create magic with "My Name is Leibniz" (based on "My Name Is Jonas").
A Quadratic of Solace (or, Maybe Math Class Has a Purpose, Question Mark?) [Image: Ben Orlin]
Math: An Illustrated Guide.
Are The Constants Of Nature Changing, And How Can We Tell?
The Scientific Secret To Perfectly Foamed Eggs.
Hamilton Is Revolutionizing the Art and Science of Broadway Sound Design.
The (Shortened) History of The Microscope.
Fermat's Last Theorem: The Curious Incident of the Boasting Frenchman.
Legally Blind Amateur Astronomer Can See the Night Sky Better Than You.
Inside the Daring Mission That Thwarted a Nazi Atomic Bomb. When the Nazis captured a heavy water facility in Norway, the chemist who helped design the plant took action.
Astronomers Recorded This Eerie Music From a 13-Billion-Year-Old Star.
Check Out This 3D Video Tour of the International Space Station.
New Magnetized Planters Allow Your Garden to Levitate in the Air.
A Clever Solar System Necklace Made Up of Semi Precious Planets Moving Towards a Jade Sun.
The Mistrust of Science. Atul Gawande gave the commencement address yesterday at Caltech. "Even more than what you think, how you think matters. The stakes for understanding this could not be higher than they are today, because we are not just battling for what it means to be scientists. We are battling for what it means to be citizens."
Astronaut Ronald McNair, Who Perished in Challenger Disaster, Remembered by His Brother in an Animated Short Film. “When he went out in space and he looked out at the world, he saw no lines of demarcation. It was a world of peace, he said.”