Saturday, 13 December 2008

Mystery saboteur breaches UK power station

"No new coal" was the the calling card of the mystery saboteur the Guardian describes as a 'green Banksy', who broke into a power station to protest about coal-fired electricity generation.

The £12m defences of the most heavily guarded power station in Britain were breached by a single person who, under the eyes of CCTV cameras, climbed two three-metre (10ft) razor-wired, electrified security fences, walked into the station and crashed a giant 500MW turbine before leaving a calling card reading "no new coal". He walked out the same way and hopped back over the fence.

The Guardian controversially claimed the activist's actions "reduced UK climate change emissions by 2%", something virulently debated by readers and scientists.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Scientists Make First Paper-Based Transistor

A team in Portugal have produced the world's first field-effect transistor based on paper. The paper layer acts as an "interstrate", with the actual FET components being fabricated onto both sides: so the paper holds the transistor together and acts as an insulator. 

In tests the paper transistor performed better than amorphous silicon transistors and even approaches the performance of state-of-the-art oxide thin-film transistors.


Cosmology: Top 10 articles from 2008

Here, for your entertainment, are the New Scientist's top picks of good cosmology reads from 2008, including:

Why Einstein was wrong about relativity
The void: Imprint of another universe?
The hunt for the Un-universe
Does time travel start here?
Is the dark matter mystery about to be solved?
Dark energy may just be a cosmic illusion
Black holes may lurk in unexpected places
Inflation deflated


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Forces from the future stop the LHC?

More wild speculation regarding the LHC this week, as Harvard physicist, Kevin Black, is speculating that the failure of the Large Hadron Collider soon after it was switched on in September was caused by intervention from the future to stop the experiment happening.
He writes:

"I came across a bizarre paper recently suggesting that the LHC might be shut down. Not because of the funding cuts that have been threatening particle physics projects around the world, nor because of law suits accusing the LHC of threatening life on Earth.

No, the paper suggested that future effects caused by the production of particles, such as the Higgs, could ripple backwards in time and prevent the LHC from ever operating. If it hadn't been written by two very well respected and accomplished theoretical physicists, I would have stopped reading at the title alone: Test of Effect from Future in Large Hadron Collider; A Proposal."


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Radio Astronomy performances

Sincronie is a festival which takes place in Milan each year. In 2008 the festival focuses on astronomy. On Saturday 15 November 2008, a concert dedicated to the science of radio astronomy will take place .

It includes a performance by r a d i o q u a l i a, who will premiere the new work "SKR", and Italian musician, TeZ, who will perform a newly adapted version of his piece, "reSUNance", which premiered at Ars Electronica 2008.

The artists will also present a collaborative performance using sonified signals from astronomical sources.

Earth: at the heart of a giant cosmic void?

We assume that there is nothing particularly special about our cosmic neighbourhood, but abandoning that assumption might solve one of cosmology's most pressing problems. Here's a good article summarising a new generation of experiments which may challenge or prove to prevailing notions about the the modern-day Copernican principle.


Special edition of New York Times

One of the most inspiring art actions I've seen in a long time, we'll see if this special edition of the New York Times becomes prophetic. Among my favourite headlines are:

"Lawrence Lessig is head of the new Network Communications Bureau" ...

"Congress has voted to place ExxonMobil and other major oil companies under public stewardship, with the bulk of the companies’ profits put in a public trust administered by the United Nations"


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tevatron sees new particle?

Not only is Fermilab not going silently into the night, in the face of competition from the LHC, it may have actually produced a new particle, as yet unknown to physics. Experiments colliding up quarks and anti-up quarks in the Tevatron have produced anomalous muons, which Fermilab can't explain.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth

A stunning article from NASA was published today.

"During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn't believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page.

"It's called a flux transfer event or 'FTE,'" says space physicist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn't exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible."


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pair of Gravitationally Interacting Galaxies

Here, Hubble snaps something very special - the chance alignment of two galaxies ...

"Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera [...] at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Through the Labyrinth with Cildo Meireles

Visionary artist Cildo Meireles is currently showing at Tate Modern in London. Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1948, Meireles has since the late 1960s, created sculptures and installations that function as open propositions in which the audience is invited to become acutely aware of the experience of their bodies in space and time--not only as physical beings, but as psychological, social, and political ones as well.

Here he pays tribute to the 'War of the Worlds', fitting as this months it celebrates its 70th anniversary:
"The War of the Worlds is an example of an art object that worked perfectly, in the sense that it seamlessly dissolved the border between art and life, fiction and reality ..." Cildo Meireles


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Physicists Find New State Of Matter

Science Daily have published a fascinating article outlining how McGill University researchers have discovered a new state of matter, a quasi-three- dimensional electron crystal, in a material very much like those used in the fabrication of modern transistors:

"We decided to tweak the two-dimensionality by applying a very large magnetic field [...] something totally unexpected popped." The "pop" was the startling transformation of a two-dimensional electron system inside the semiconducting material into a quasi-three-dimensional system, something existing theory did not predict.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Small worlds

Here's a beautiful gallery of microscope photography, including diatoms (plankton with glass-like silica shells ... taken using darkfield and polarised light photography).


Monday, 20 October 2008

Do you think it was like this in 1929?

Great article from the Guardian about the hideous excess of art fairs:

"We don't yet know how Frieze 2008 and its parties and dinners and rococo excess will one day be viewed, but at the art coalface - pressed hard up against a nicely chilled glass of champagne - it felt like the beginning of the end."


Friday, 17 October 2008

Ghostly Glow Reveals Galaxy Clusters in Collision

A team of scientists have detected long wavelength radio emissions from a colliding, massive galaxy cluster. 

The discovery implies that existing radio telescopes have missed a large population of these colliding objects. 

The discovery implies that existing radio telescopes have missed a large population of these colliding objects.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Virgin Birth by Shark Confirmed

Scientists have confirmed the second-ever case of a “virgin birth” in a shark, indicating once again that female sharks can reproduce without mating and raising the possibility that many female sharks have this incredible capacity.
Shark scientist, Dr. Demian Chapman, and his collaborators, have proven through DNA testing that the offspring of a female blacktip shark named “Tidbit” contained no genetic material from a father.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dark Designs

Dark Designs will explore the notion of art, technology and conspiracies in a series of events taking place in venues across Yverdon-les-Bains in Switzerland.

Organised by Maison d’Ailleurs, the museum of Science Fiction, Utopia and Extraordinary Journeys, and the University of Art and Design in Geneva (HEAD), Dark Designs includes a symposium featuring acclaimed science fiction writer, Norman Spinrad, director of transmediale, Stephen Kovats, philosophers Pierre Lagrange and Daniel Pinkas, scientists Herbert Keppner and Jérôme Charmet, and many others. Dark Designs also includes an exhibition of digital art by students, located in Yverdon-les-Bains’ historic 13th century Savoyard castle, and an evening of extraordinary performances by artists Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand and Gaspard Buma, hosted by the picturesque theatre, L’Echandole, situated in the caves of the castle.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

The party is over for Iceland

Iceland is on brink of collapse as inflation and interest rates soar, while the krona is in freefall. Almost overnight, its population became the wealthiest on Earth. Tracy McVeigh of the Guardian finds that the credit crunch is making the cash disappear


Sunday, 28 September 2008

Phonon effects on magnetosensors

This article gives a good overview of the role of phonons in magnetosensor research.

"The notion is that if you have higher temperature applications, most materials' response to magnetic fields [the magnetoresistive response] falls off very rapidly because of excitations of the lattice--phonon vibrations," explained University of Chicago professor Thomas Rosenbaum. "But it turns out the mechanism we are adapting to [indium antimonide] is not limited by the phonons."


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Hadron Collider forced to halt

Plans to begin smashing particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may be delayed after a magnet failure forced engineers to halt work.

The failure, known as a quench, caused some of the LHC's super-cooled magnets to heat up by as much as 100 degrees. The fire brigade were called out after a tonne of liquid helium leaked into the tunnel at Cern, near Geneva. The LHC beam will remain turned off over the weekend while engineers investigate the severity of the fault.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Courts weigh up claims that LHC will destroy the world

Critics who say the world's largest atom-smasher could destroy the world have brought their claims to courtrooms in Europe and the United States - and although the claims are getting further consideration, neither court will hold up next week's official startup of the Large Hadron Collider.

The main event took place today in Honolulu, where a federal judge is mulling over the federal government's request to throw out a civil lawsuit filed by retired nuclear safety officer Walter Wagner and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho. Meanwhile, legal action is pending as well at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Last week, the court agreed to review doomsday claims from a group of professors and students, primarily from Germany and Austria. However, the court rejected a call for the immediate halt of operations at the LHC.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Large Hadron Collider nearly ready

Stunning gallery of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the 27 kilometer (17 mile) long particle accelerator straddling the border of Switzerland and France. It is nearly set to begin its first particle beam tests. 

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Are we living in a giant cosmic void?

The paper "Living in a Void: Testing the Copernican Principle with Distant Supernovae" by Timothy Clifton, Pedro G. Ferreira, Kate Land, argues that if we are living in a giant void - that is, if our cosmic neighbourhood is significantly less dense than other parts of the universe, then that could account for the fact that the universe's expansion appears to be accelerating.
As the New Scienist notes, "In fact, if the void were big enough - roughly the size of our observable universe - it might account for the supernovae observations that imply acceleration, and do away with the need for dark energy."


Thursday, 19 June 2008

Nanotube Radio

"We have constructed a fully functional, fully integrated radio receiver, orders-of-magnitude smaller than any previous radio, from a single carbon nanotube. The single nanotube serves, at once, as all major components of a radio: antenna, tuner, amplifier, and demodulator."

Moreover, the antenna and tuner are implemented in a radically different manner than traditional radios, receiving signals via high frequency mechanical vibrations of the nanotube rather than through traditional electrical means."