Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Curious Case of ...













In a revealing juxtaposition, Nature have published their own favourite stories from 2009, alongside those of their readers'.


Whilst Nature scribes attached significance to research funding, GM crops, biomedicine, melting glaciers and notable scientists, their readers were more enamoured by giant snakes, spooky computers, magnetic monopoles, dark-energy particles, and bendy laser beams.

Source: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/2009/reader_topten.html
&
Source: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/2009/feature_topten.html

Monday, 21 December 2009

Light glinting off Kraken Mare

Cassini has found a sunlit lake on Titan.

This image shows the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan. The glint off a mirror-like surface is known as a specular reflection.

The first flash of sunlight confirms the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins. Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But Titan's northern hemisphere, which has more lakes than the southern hemisphere, has been veiled in winter darkness.

The ray of light was detected by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS). Scientists were able to correlate the reflection to the southern shoreline of a lake called Kraken Mare. The sprawling Kraken Mare covers about 400,000 square kilometres an area larger than the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on Earth.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Dark matter detected in the underworld
















As expected, dark matter has hit the headlines, with the publication of new results from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS).

As reported last week, new data from the CDMS subterranean experiment, seems to reveal two events that have characteristics consistent with the particles that physicists believe make up dark matter.

The results are still controversial. Some believe the signals could be other particles with interactions that mimic the signals of dark matter candidates.
Symmetry Magazine provides a good round up of the debate:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Astronomers have discovered Herzog's Wild Blue Yonder

Physics World reports that the best evidence yet of a planet beyond our solar system that is about the same size and temperature as the Earth has been released by a team of international astronomers. Recalling Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder, preliminary measurements of the exoplanet's temperature, mass and radius suggest that it made almost entirely of liquid water ...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Listening to the time-music of space

"He watched the sky, listening to the time-music of the quasars"
J.G. Ballard

The long-lost twin of the radio station Radio Astronomy has been found.

Space Weather links to the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar, which transmits a 216.98 MHz signal into the heavens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Meteors, satellites and spacecraft passing overhead reflect those signals back down to Earth. The radar's primary antenna is located near Lake Kickapoo, Texas. A few hundred miles away in Roswell, New Mexico, radio engineer and long-time spaceweather.com associate Stan Nelson picks up the echos using a yagi antenna on his roof. When a meteor or satellite passes over the facility, there is an whistling echo.

Source:
http://spaceweatherradio.com

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dark Matter Discovered?

The Science Blogs are alive with rumours that traces of dark matter has been found deep underground.

The Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota is the leading deep underground science and engineering laboratory in the United States.

There the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment consists of two dozens of germanium and silicon ice-hockey pucks cooled down to 40 mK. When a particle hits the detector it produces both phonons and ionization, and certain tell-tale features of these two signals allow the experimenters to sort out electron events (expected to be produced by mundane background processes) from nuclear recoils (expected to be produced by scattering of dark matter particles, as the apparatus is well shielded from ordinary nucleons).

Today, rumours that there latest experiements reveal telltale signs of dark matter began to leak:

Source:
http://resonaances.blogspot.com/2009/12/dark-matter-discovered.html

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The neutrino and the whale

A physicist recording underwater sounds has made an unexpected discovery.

An underwater effort to detect subatomic particles has ended up detecting sperm whales instead.

Nature reports on a reports on a partnership between marine biologists and particle physicists in Catania, in Eastern Sicily.



Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Shape-shifting antennas


















Scientists have created antennas using an alloy that "can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted -- and will return to its original shape". The antenna consists of liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels.

ScienceDaily reports that research from North Carolina State University is revolutionizing the field of antenna design -- creating shape-shifting antennas that open the door to a host of new uses in fields. Antennas aren't just for listening to the radio anymore. They're used in everything from cell phones to GPS devices, from public safety to military deployment.

Source:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201100545.htm

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Saturn's auroras put on a dazzling show

Cassini has spotted the tallest known "northern lights" in the solar system, flickering in shape and brightness high above the ringed planet.

"The auroras have put on a dazzling show, shape-shifting rapidly and exposing curtains that we suspected were there, but hadn't seen on Saturn before," said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who is a member of the Cassini imaging team that processed the new video. "Seeing these things on another planet helps us understand them a little better when we see them on Earth."

Auroras occur on Earth, Jupiter, Saturn and a few other planets, and the new images will help scientists better understand how they are generated. Auroras appear mostly in the high latitudes near a planet's magnetic poles. When charged particles from the magnetosphere -- the magnetic bubble surrounding a planet -- plunge into the planet's upper atmosphere, they cause the atmosphere to glow. The curtain shapes show the paths that these charged particles take as they flow along the lines of the magnetic field between the magnetosphere and the uppermost part of the atmosphere.

Source:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091125231252.htm

Rainbow trapped for the first time

Catching rainbows: a magnifying lens & a plate of glass, has been used to trap a rainbow for the first time.

New Scientist reports that when Vera Smolyaninova of Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues shone a multi-wavelength laser beam at the open end of a gilded waveguide, a trapped rainbow formed inside. This could be seen as a series of coloured rings when the lens was viewed from above with a microscope: the visible light leaked through the thin gold film.

"I think it's beautiful that we can create such complex phenomena using a very, very simple configuration," says Smolyaninova. "It's amazing."

Source: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18205-rainbow-trapped-for-the-first-time.html

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Quantum Gravity Decouples Space & Time















Can unzipping the fabric of spacetime & harking back to 19th century notions of time yield a theory of quantum gravity?

Scientific American reports that there's a buzz about a quantum gravity theory that could send space and time back to their Newtonian roots.

Physicists have struggled to marry quantum mechanics with gravity for decades. In contrast, the other forces of nature have obediently fallen into line. For instance, the electromagnetic force can be described quantum-mechanically by the motion of photons. Try and work out the gravitational force between two objects in terms of a quantum graviton, however, and you quickly run into trouble—the answer to every calculation is infinity.

But now Petr Hořava, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks he understands the problem. It’s all, he says, a matter of time. More specifically, the problem is the way that time is tied up with space in Einstein’s theory of gravity: general relativity. Einstein famously overturned the Newtonian notion that time is absolute—steadily ticking away in the background. Instead he argued that time is another dimension, woven together with space to form a malleable fabric that is distorted by matter. The snag is that in quantum mechanics, time retains its Newtonian aloofness, providing the stage against which matter dances but never being affected by its presence. These two conceptions of time don’t gel.

The solution, Hořava says, is to snip threads that bind time to space at very high energies, such as those found in the early universe where quantum gravity rules. “I’m going back to Newton’s idea that time and space are not equivalent,” Hořava says. At low energies, general relativity emerges from this underlying framework, and the fabric of spacetime restitches, he explains.

Source:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=splitting-time-from-space

Monday, 23 November 2009

Rethinking Light and Sound

The director of the Census for Marine Life - Jesse Ausubel - rethinks how illumination and noise are rippling through ecosystems.
In his invited essay for Seed Magazine, he notes:

"When their generation looked up at the night sky a century ago, they saw swathes of stars. Today, however, our most familiar starry image may be satellites and astronauts looking down, observing the lights on Earth at night ...

I wonder if some of the changes experts attribute to carbon dioxide and global warming may owe more to nocturnal photons and their associates"

"... humans are adding about three decibels more sound to the ocean each decade, roughly doubling the power of the added noise. Because sound spreads widely in the oceans, human clamor touches every corner. ...As I wonder about life in a darker night, I wonder about marine life in a quieter ocean."

Source:
http://seed2.com/54295

Friday, 20 November 2009

Eschatologists, man your engines!

The LHC is about to become operational again, more than a year after it's shut down.

To celebrate, The Register round up some of the most entertaining conspiracy theories circulating around the vast matter-rending machine faster than the protons it's meant to be accelerating. Amongst the gems assembled are:

"Dr Sergio Bertolucci - one of the top scientists at CERN - [says] that the LHC may in fact create a gateway to other dimensions. Through this dimensional portal might come "something", according to Bertolucci - or through it things from our own native four-dimensional universe might pass into some mysterious other continuum." ...

Source:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/20/lhc_feedback_roundup/

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

LHC getting closer to restart
















Take a look at CERN during the lead-up to the restart of the LHC with a video posted in the CERN Bulletin.

The LHC operations teams are preparing the machine for circulating beams and things are going very smoothly. ALICE and LHCb are getting used to observing particle tracks coming from the LHC beams. During the weekend of 7-8 November, CMS also saw its first signals from beams dumped just upstream of the experiment cavern.

Source:
http://cdsweb.cern.ch/journal

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Before inflation, before the Big Bang ..

"Before inflation, before the Big Bang ... you get into branes and the cyclic universe", Sean M. Carroll interviewed by Edge magazine.

"Inflation does not provide a natural explanation for why the early universe looks like it does unless you can give me an answer for why inflation ever started in the first place. That is not a question we know the answer to right now. That is why we need to go back before inflation into before the Big Bang, into a different part of the universe to understand why inflation happened versus something else. There you get into branes and the cyclic universe. ... I really don't like any of the models that are on the market right now. We really need to think harder about what the universe should look like."

Sean M. Carroll is a theoretical physicist, is a senior research associate at Caltech. Cofounder and contributor to the Cosmic Variance blog, his research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. He is the author of a Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity; and From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. He is a frequent commentator on theoretical physics within the media.

Source: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/carroll09/carroll09_index.html

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Magnetricity & Magnetic Monopoles become reality

Paul Dirac's prediction of the existence of magnetricity and magnetic monopoles today became a reality with reports emerging of the first confirmed observation of magnetic electricity.

The Times note that:
"Scientists have generated a magnetic version of electricity, which they have called magnetricity. The discovery marks an important advance in theoretical physics. The existence of magnetic “charges” has been predicted for nearly 70 years but has never been observed in practice. The study was led by Professor Steve Bramwell, of the London Centre for Nanotechnology."

Bramwell said: "Magnetic monopoles were first predicted to exist in 1931, but despite many searches, they have never yet been observed as freely roaming elementary particles. These monopoles do at least exist within the spin ice sample, but not outside. It is not often in the field of physics you get the chance to ask 'How do you measure something?' and then go on to prove a theory unequivocally. This is a very important step to establish that magnetic charge can flow like electric charge. It is in the early stages, but who knows what the applications of magnetricity could be in 100 years time."

Source:
http://www.azom.com/news.asp?newsID=19302 & http://www.timesonline.co.uk

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dark matter detector? Or amber spyglass?

Science Daily reports that a team of researchers from the University of Zaragoza and IAS, in France has developed a device that can be used in efforts to detect the dark matter of the universe.  The device titled '"scintillating bolometer" uses a crystal so pure it can conduct the energy ostensibly generated when a particle of dark matter strikes the nucleus of one of its atoms.

It is currently being used at the Orsay University Centre in France, where the team is working to optimise the device's light gathering potential. Eduardo García Abancéns notes:

"One of the biggest challenges in physics today is to discover the true nature of dark matter, which cannot be directly observed – even though it seems to make up one-quarter of the matter of the Universe. So we have to attempt to detect it using prototypes such as the one we have developed"



Sunday, 27 September 2009

Does the Wave of Expansion Theory spell the end for dark energy?

The controversial 'wave of expansion' theory, gets rid of dark energy, but violates the Copernican Principle in the process. 

Multiple journals reported on this new theory this week, with Seed providing a useful synopsis of the debates:

The crux of the debate is that mathematicians Blake Temple and Joel Smoller have found a theoretical way to explain the observations that led researchers to propose the concept of dark energy. If their solution, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, fits the data, it could provide a way out of the unpalatable notion of a dark-energy-dominated universe.

However, the the largest objection voiced is that this model would require Earth to be at the center of the universe. In other words, it would violate the Copernican principle, which states that the Earth does not have a special, favored place and that the universe is essentially homogeneous.  Lawrence Krauss leads the critics, saying: “I think that these mathematicians might have chosen the beautiful over the true.” 

Source:
http://is.gd/4dIJw

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Gell-Mann on Endangered Superstring Theorists

"I was a sort of patron of string theory — as a conservationist I set up a nature reserve for endangered superstring theorists at Caltech, and from 1972 to 1984"

A wonderfully insightful and illuminating interview with physics Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann appeared today on the Science website. Just shy of his 80th birthday on September 15, the ever fascinating Gell-Mann spoke about his views on the current situation in particle physics and the interests he continues to pursue in other realms of science.

Source:
http://tr.im/yTlA

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Quantum manipulation of the flu virus

The New Scientist reports that, "Quantum weirdness could soon invade the living world, if a scheme to give a flu virus a strange double life comes off."

In short, in quantum theory, a single object can be doing two different things at once. This is called "superposition". The largest objects that have been superposed so far are molecules.  But Oriol Romero-Isart of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and his colleagues hope to prove the concept with the flu virus. By impinging on the virus, it forces it into a superposition of both its ground state and next vibrational energy state. Now the virus should be doing two different things at once.

Interesting. & likely to provide endless fodder for eschatologists and extinction fantasists everywhere.

Source: http://tr.im/yT0Q

Strangelet Danger Diminished. Apparently.

In one of theoretical physics' more baffling logical deductions, Science reports this week that strangelets do not appear to exist on the Moon.  This therefore apparently provides persuasive evidence that they might not in fact exist at all. What an extraordinary deduction. This is a great blow to those who also believe in green cheese which has also been conclusively proven to also not exist on the Moon.

Why on earth were scientists looking for exotic matter in such a domestic place in the first place? It seems a bit like mining for gold in the New Jersey landfill, inevitably not finding it, and then concluding that there is no gold left. Aren't neutron stars a more logical home for strangelets?

Anyway, here's the link to the Science article:

Sources: 

Friday, 11 September 2009

Phonon laser: the weirding module of our age?

In a nice example of science-fiction becoming science fact, the "weirding module" described by Frank Herbert in Dune appears to be becoming reality.  The first-ever phonon laser - which uses amplified sound - has been created.

The laser uses phonons - the smallest quantized unit of vibrational energy - and was been created by German and U.S. scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) and the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California, U.S.A.)

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Guild of Scientific Troubadours

The Guild of Scientific Troubadours is an alliance of songwriters united to write and record catchy pop songs about scientific discoveries. Nearly every day, a new discovery is revealed. Every week, new science art.  Their website not only collects together precious flotsam and jetsam jettisoned from assorted science blogs and RSS feeds, but also acts as a repository for the musical tributes, which obviously, vary dramatically in quality.

Source:
guildofscientifictroubadours.com

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Sound Black Hole

Israeli physicists have created a unique phenomena - an acoustic black hole. Instead of trapping light in the form of photons (particles of light), the Technion laboratory in Haifa have created an artificial black hole which traps particles of sound - phonons.

The sound black hole was generated in attempt to detect Hawking radiation, the as yet hypothetical radiation proposed by Stephen Hawking more than 30 years ago, which causes black holes to evaporate over time.

Andrew Zimmerman Jones notes that "quantum physics indicates that pairs of "virtual phonons" are constantly being created and destroyed. If one of these pairs forms near the event horizon of the sound black hole, one of the phonons may end up getting pulled into the black hole while the other escapes." This may be the best proof yet that Hawking radiation exists.

Source: http://physicsworld.com
&
http://physics.about.com

Monday, 15 June 2009

Human ear inspires universal radio chip

The IEEE Journal of Solid State Circuits report that MIT engineers have built a fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip, modeled on the human inner ear, that could enable wireless devices capable of receiving cell phone, Internet, radio and television signals. 

Devices such as cellphones or FM radios are generally tuned to only a narrow frequency band. The new device is inspired by the network of hairs in the inner ear, which can pick up a wide range of sound frequencies.

One can't help but be reminded of
Douglas Kahn's observation in his 2006 paper, Radio was discovered before it was invented (bringing amber to Riga):

"Since we humanoids have pressure-sensitive eardrums rather than electro-sensitive antennae, we must resort to technology. Perhaps it would be different if we had our 16,000-20,000 cochlear hairs growing on the surface of our heads like sideburns, instead of them being immersed in the two ocean shells in our heads, we would have our body's electrical apparatus at a more immediate disposal and be able to hear the electromagnetic class of waves."

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Tony Conrad's substratum of interests

Tony Conrad is the maestro of "extended duration as a conceptual armature", a musician, filmmaker and media-theorist of pioneering stature. He established the monochrome flicker as one of the central tropes in moving image, and created entirely distinctive forms of drone music both within, and outside of, The Dream Syndicate. In later works, such as Slapping Pythagoras his theoretical positions on Western cultural discourse became more evident.

This
stimulating and rich discussion between Conrad and fellow musician, David Grubbs, explores Conrad's views on physics:

"modern physics [has] been generated as a branch of music",

audiences:

"Something that intrigues me a lot – and which I still haven’t decided about – is the suggestion that music should not have audiences. Just to get the audience out of the picture entirely seems like an interesting challenge, because every time I tell myself that the audience is why I’m doing everything [....] Every time I find myself thinking that, I realize that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that if I try to head in the opposite direction, there’s something like a multifarious void out there."

and the future:

"For me, there’s another project, and that is to begin to try to create a structure of laws that can address the needs of 2010. From Futurism to Dogme, manifesto-like conditions can be productive [...] There’s a kind of cultural convergence that’s taking place that brings all these things together. I don’t think that’s unproductive. It reflects the conceptual initiative that was apparent last century with Happenings and all kind of things, basically going back to the Futurists. The Futurists actually predicted the future."

A must-read.

Source:
http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/always_at_the_end/

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Frost ecologies

A gallery of the fern-like structures that bloom on sea ice form when it's cold, still and dry.

The gallery was published on the occasion of an article on frost flowers, which explores the research of the
OASIS project, which pursues key big-picture science issues regarding air-surface chemical interactions in the Arctic, and their evolution in future climates
Perhaps Constance Penhallow was right all along. As her grandson, Hunter recalled:

"When his grandmother was a girl, she told him once, the sisters announced in school one day that the topic of study would be Living Creatures. 'I suggested ice. They threw me out of class.' "

Source:
http://www.newscientist.com

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Long Shot

Two rival scientific teams are locked in a high-stakes race to discover other earth-like worlds—and forever change our own.

Seed met the teams.  

Debra Fischer, a professor at San Francisco State University, is co-discoverer of more than 150 planets. She is using a modest, neglected telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile to search for Earth-like planets in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own. 

Michel Mayor  operates the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), at the European Southern Observatory’s facilities on the peak of La Silla, also in Chile.


Sunday, 10 May 2009

EU Approves further animal research

It'll be bitterly disputed about whether this is a scientific step forward or an ethical quantum leap back, but this week, research involving non-human primates was given the go-ahead in an initial vote by the European Parliament.

Whilst Seed opines that "it was beginning to seem that Europe was on the fast track to scientific irrelevance [...] the outlook brightened a bit Tuesday when the European Parliament announced the passage of animal research rules that permit research done on non-human primates", the contrary view is voiced by Animal Defenders International (ADI), who are shocked that the MEPs vote will "strip away protection from wild caught primates; remove prior authorisation requirements for over 4million experiments, and reduce significantly proposals to regulate animal experiments across Europe".

Two anti-vivisectionist views are provided here: http://is.gd/yo38 

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Trimpin: sound of invention

Take a look at the trailer for this documentary about German sound alchemist, Trimpin.

He designs, builds, programs, and composes outrageous ensembles of musical instruments from the periphery of reality. One of his more ambitious experiments is designing a 'perpetual motion' machine in a glass foundry.

Source: 
http://www.vimeo.com/3559372

Monday, 4 May 2009

What went wrong at the LHC

Everyone's favourite pop-star physicist, Brian Cox, tells TED, and us, what went wrong at the LHC supercollider.

He covers the repairs now underway and what the future holds for the largest science experiment ever attempted.

Source:
http://minurl.org/iAUum

Monday, 27 April 2009

Artists Takeover Over Illegal Billboards



Jordan Seiler's ambitious "New York Street Advertising Takeover" became a reality this month, when over 120 illegal billboards throughout the city were white washed by dozens of volunteers.

Source:
http://www.woostercollective.com

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Flavour of the giant milkshake in the sky revealed

In another effort to foil the public's attempts to take them seriously, astronomers testing a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have found that it might taste of raspberries. With apologies to UK readers, who probably saw this stories splashed across the media two days ago.

Source:
http://www.smh.com.au 

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Cosmos In A Coffee Cup

Instinctively, we always knew the key to the universe was coffee, and now physicists at Duke University have handily proved it for us. 

A professor and his graduate student have discovered a universal principle that unites the curious interplay of light and shadow on the surface of your morning coffee with the way gravity magnifies and distorts light from distant galaxies.

Science Daily reports that, "Light rays naturally reflect off a curve like the inside surface of a coffee cup in a curving, ivy leaf pattern that comes to a point in the center and is brightest along its edge. Mathematicians and physicists call that shape a "cusp curve," and they call the bright edge a "caustic," based on an alternative dictionary definition meaning 'burning bright'..."

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Rise of the Trickster

This weeks the tweets are all about tricksters.  It is interesting to see the trope re-emerging in uncertain times. Lewis Hyde's seminal book on this topic is well worth re-discovering:

"The trickster is anybody who's a bit of an outsider. They're the ones who make change. They're not thinking about making change; they're almost doing it in a selfish way. But because they're working outside the rules, they change the rules. Everything around them is always new, everything is an opportunity. It's important to honor mischief-making, in a constructive and creative way, because that's how we effect change. And it's so important that we figure out our inner mischief maker. That's the creative part of us. And everybody's capable of it." .

There's a lovely TED talk from a self-proclaimed trickster,
Emily Levine, well worth checking out.

Source:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/emily_levine_s_theory_of_everything.html

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Gravity satellite senses unknown energies

This press release doesn't quite capture the importance of the new gravity-sensing satellite which has launched this week. 

GOCE will feel the subtle variations in Earth's tug as it sweeps around the globe.

GOCE’s highly sensitive gradiometer instrument has been switched on and is producing data. The gradiometer is specifically designed to measure Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented accuracy.

One of several satellites which launch this year focused on gravity, GOCE will help scientists construct high-resolution maps of the geoid - an idealised globe with a surface of constant gravity. Geoid information has many applications but perhaps the biggest knowledge gains will come in the study of ocean behaviour. Understanding better how gravity pulls water - and therefore heat - around the globe will improve computer models that try to forecast climate change.

Source:
http://www.esa.int/

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Sweet dreams are made

Looking for an explanation for weird dreams? New research suggests you can blame the Earth's magnetic field, not a repressed childhood. The New Scientist reports that Darren Lipnicki, a psychologist formerly at the Center for Space Medicine in Berlin, found a correlation between the bizarreness of his dreams, recorded over eight years, and extremes in local geomagnetic activity. Between 1990 and 1997, he kept meticulous records of his nightly reveries, amassing a total 2387 written accounts during his teenage years. "I always wanted to do science with them," he says. For the study, he devised a five-point scoring system to rate the bizarreness of these dreams.

(With thanks to
Fiona Wright for the headline - her words, not ours).

Source:
www.newscientist.com

Monday, 30 March 2009

Woman takes over as head of ATLAS

Next month Fabiola Gianotti takes over as head of ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, the first woman to hold such a position. The ATLAS collaboration consists of almost 3,000 physicists from 169 institutions, 37 countries and five continents. ATLAS is the biggest detector ever built at a particle collider.  
Last year the CERN published this interview with her:

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Fourth Culture: Why Science Needs Art



In this
intriguing article, Jonah Lehrer (pictured - a neuroscientist author, and blogger at The Frontal Cortex) calls for a Fourth Culture, whereby engaging with art becomes part of the scientific method:

"It’s also crucial to take our scientific metaphors beyond the realm of the metaphorical, so we can better understand the consequences of our theories. Art galleries should be filled with disorienting evocations of string theory and the EPR paradox. Every theoretical physics department should support an artist-in-residence. [...]

The premise of this movement — perhaps a fourth culture — is that neither culture can exist by itself."

Source:
http://seedmagazine.com

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace, a 19th century British writer who is considered the world's first computer programmer, will be honored by bloggers all over the world on 24 March - Ada Lovelace Day. More than 1500 bloggers participating in the first annual Ada Lovelace Day have pledged to write about a woman or women they admire working in technology on March 24th.

Particle Decelerator has chosen to highlight the work of Marta Peirano. Not only is she one of Spain's most respected journalists and bloggers on technology and culture, but Marta is also a historian of technology, having recently
published a book on automatons. 
She is currently working on a biography of Ada Lovelace.

Visit:
http://lapetiteclaudine.com/

Monday, 23 March 2009

Semi-living entities

A small window on how journalism sees the coalface of the art-science debate, featuring an analysis of the the work of Tissue Culture & Art Project by the curator of the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at MoMA.

Source:
http://seedmagazine.com

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Fermilab "closes in on the Higgs boson"



Hands up who agrees that
Fermilab have the best press office in science right now?

After a three week blitz of results ranging from the discovery of
a single top quark, progress regarding the probable mass of the Higgs boson, and the discovery of a mystery particle, Fermilab today released a tantalising hint that the next set of results out of the Tevatron particle accelerator might just reveal a sighting of the elusive Higgs boson. 

Are they just taunting the LHC, or have they really got something?  In all liklihood much will be revealed this Summer at the International Symposium on Lepton Photon Interactions at High Energies (Lepton Photon 09) in Hamburg, Germany, from 17-22 August 2009.  Stay tuned.

Source:
http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/index.html

Inherent Vice - new Thomas Pynchon novel

We here at Particle Decelerator were most excited to hear about an unexpected new book my one of our favourite authors. A new Thomas Pynchon Novel, Inherent Vice, is being released in August 2009. Apparently a detective novel set in the 60s, the new book is 416 pages long and is described in the Penguin catalogue as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon".
The image here is the cover art by Hawaiian artist, Darshan Zenith

Fun & Games at the LHC


As the Tevatron close in on the Higgs boson, the LHC are making games.

SuperBob, MicroBoy and other characters show us CERN's antimatter factory, what happens in the theory department and how much of the real work gets done in the cafeteria, in this new game for children celebrating 20 years of the Web.

Dodge monsters, answer questions about accelerating particles & fly through space collecting the electrons, protons and neutrons.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Telharmonium Memories










Before the radio, there was the Telharmonium, designed to broadcast music across the telephone wires. Here's a great link to one of our favourite archaic oddities, from our friends at Odd Instrument.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Particle Oddball Surprises Physicists

Scientists at Fermilab announced that they have found evidence of an unexpected particle whose curious characteristics may reveal new ways that quarks can combine to form matter. The physicists have called the particle Y(4140), and  it appears to flout nature’s known rules for fitting quarks and antiquarks together.

"It must be trying to tell us something,” said CDF cospokesperson Jacobo Konigsberg. 
“So far, we’re not sure what that is, but rest assured we’ll keep on listening.”

Source:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090318140618.htm & http://arxiv.org/abs/0903.2229

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Rocket Scientists Shoot Down Mosquitoes With Lasers

A quarter-century ago, American rocket scientists proposed the "Star Wars" defense system to knock Soviet missiles from the skies with laser beams. Some of the same scientists are now aiming their lasers at another airborne threat: the mosquito.

In a lab in this Seattle suburb, researchers in long white coats recently stood watching a small glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit the buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light.
The insects survived this particular test, which used a non-lethal laser. But if these researchers have their way, the Cold War missile-defense strategy will be reborn as a WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123680870885500701.html

Hearts Of Galaxies Close In For Cosmic Train Wreck


A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope offers a rare view of an imminent collision between the cores of two merging galaxies, each powered by a black hole with millions of times the mass of the sun. The galactic cores are in a single, tangled galaxy [...] located in the constellation Ophiuchus.

Source:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2009-050

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lucrative religious prize won by quantum physicist

This is my favourite story of the day. The fact that a quantum physicist can win the most coveted prize in religion says a lot about the deliriously unstable state of contemporary thought. And the fact that including dr. d'espagnat, five of the past ten templeton winners have been physicists is also deeply suggestive of ... something.

"The world's top prize for religious thought has been won by a physicist - Bernard d’Espagnat - known for his work in quantum theory and perceptions of reality. The US$1.4 million Templeton Prize recognises d’Espagnat's theory that a new 'veiled reality' lurks behind matter and other observable phenomena."

Source:
blogs.discovermagazine