Tag Archives: Physics

“The engine that lights up the stars”

At last! A new music video from John Boswell of Symphony of Science, and it’s one of his catchier tunes:

More Symphony of Science videos here.

The clips of Michio Kaku are taken from his video for The Floating University, which offers free online lectures by leading scholars and thinkers on a wide range of subjects — from astrophysics to political philosophy, from finance to population studies, from linguistics to the psychology of sex. It’s a wonderful online resource and I highly recommend checking it out.

Here’s Kaku’s full lecture:

More Floating University videos on YouTube (via BigThink) here.

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Why don’t American physics teachers teach awesome physics?

Good question:

More excellent bite-size science videos over at Minute Physics.

(h/t io9)

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Please be true: Beating cancer, and the speed of light

A couple of things to get excited about:

1) Doctors are exploring a new method of fighting cancer — by training the immune system to destroy it. So far, the results have been dramatic. And if these experimental treatments prove sound, then the war on cancer will quite possibly have been won. (Update — There’s more: Researchers are studying a virus that can apparently kill 100% of breast cancer cells in as little as seven days. Details here.)

2) Physicists are looking into the possibility that some subatomic particles may exceed the speed of light — a limit that Einstein had declared to be inviolable. This is still very far from a sure thing. But if true, apart from overturning Einstein and revolutionizing physics itself, the implications are enormous:

John Learned, a neutrino astronomer at the University of Hawaii, said that if the results of the Opera researchers turned out to be true, it could be the first hint that neutrinos can take a shortcut through space, through extra dimensions. Joe Lykken of Fermilab said, “Special relativity only holds in flat space, so if there is a warped fifth dimension, it is possible that on other slices of it, the speed of light is different.”

And if that turns out to be the case, can we not somehow harness neutrinos the way we’ve already unlocked the power of the atom to suit our ends? Can our dreams of interstellar travel — of beating the light-speed barrier, warping space, or taking some extra-dimensional shortcut in order to finally reach the stars — really be so far beyond our grasp? Scientists often remind us that, for all the new worlds we’re detecting — perhaps even some harboring life — the vast distances of space and the light-speed limit ensure that we are, for all practical purposes, alone. Wouldn’t it be absolutely amazing to break free of those shackles and take an even bigger “giant leap,” the biggest and most important one humanity will have ever made?

I know, I know, I’m just daydreaming here. These developments in medicine and physics are still just tantalizing possibilities, not certainties. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (as all the articles reporting on these announcements hasten to say), and further testing may prove these claims to be less than what we’d hoped. But just for the moment, I for one am willing to let a shiver of excitement run down my spine — as I entertain the possibility that, even now, in this jaded and exhausted age when optimism is cramped and ambition is in short supply, humanity’s most wondrous discoveries and achievements are yet to come.
Update: MIT’s Technology Review writes about a possible explanation for the neutrinos here.

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Another triumph for science!

I love it. Via the New York Times:

It has taken four highly qualified engineers and a bunch of integral equations to figure it out, but we now know how cats drink. The answer is: very elegantly, and not at all the way you might suppose.

Here’s how:

The best part? To test their findings, the engineers used a robotic “tongue” that precisely imitated the cat’s lapping action. The machine’s provenance:

The project required no financing. The robot that mimicked the cat’s tongue was built for an experiment on the International Space Station, and the engineers simply borrowed it from a neighboring lab.

Yes! Thank you, ISS. This is exactly why we need to continue to fund space technology. Sure, I’d prefer — as Richard Dawkins does — that astrophysical research be funded more out of the “awe and wonder” motive than the “non-stick frying pan” side benefits. But I have to admit: learning how kitties drink is an awesome benefit indeed.

In all seriousness, this is in fact exactly why we need to support science research of all kinds — because you never know when a finding in one field might have some crucial application in another. Strategies or technologies in one discipline may help solve a puzzle for which they were never intended: today, how cats lap; tomorrow — who knows? — perhaps the cure for cancer.

Go to the Times and New Scientist for more.

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“The Poetry of Science”: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about everything

Got an hour and a half? Here are evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, talking about — well, quite literally, life, the universe, and everything. I highly recommend the whole thing, but if you’ve only got a half-hour, the Q&A period (starting at around 50:25) has some thought-provoking discussions about the role of philosophy in science; the imperviousness of certain rigidly religious minds to evidence; the decline of America’s prominence in science; the notion of people as extremophiles; Tyson’s views on mortality; and the best manuscript typo ever.

Settle in. Enjoy.

(via RichardDawkins.net)

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