The Hobbit: could an arrow really kill a dragon?

thehobbit_2screenshot_mp_4-660x273 It's a big arrow, granted, fired from ballista rather than bow. But it's also a hell of a big dragon. [Wired]

Steven Gould's "Exo," a Jumper novel by way of Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel"

Steven Gould’s 1993 YA novel Jumper was a spectacular success (even if the film “adaptation” stank on ice), and each of the (all-too-infrequent) sequels have raised both the stakes and the bar for a must-read series. But with Exo, published today, Gould takes his game into orbit — literally.

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XKCD's What If: "Dear Abby for Mad Scientists" in book form

The book-length version of Randall “XKCD” Munroe’s brilliant What-If? column — which features scientifically rigorous, utterly absurd answers to ridiculous hypotheticals — has been on the bestseller lists since it was announced in March. Today, it hits shelves and: It. Is. A. <blink>Triumph</blink>.

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Particle Clicker: meth-addictive supercollider sim


The game, which I found absolutely and delightfully addictive, was created in a weekend by a group of undergrads at the CERN Webfest.

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Video: fun physics phenomena

(Veritasium)

Online Isaac Newton manuscripts workshop


India's Zetatrek citizen science initiative is online workshop starting on 19th July, where science and math hobbyists from all over the world are invited to study the original manuscripts of Sir Isaac Newton.

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Magnificent contraption: vacuum-cleaner/foam-ball particle accelerator

Niklas Roy's DIY particle accelerator contraption is based on vacuum-cleaner-powered pneumatic tube technology, installed in a beautiful glass pavilion located in the middle of a roundabout in Groningen, The Netherlands.

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Novel-writing is very energy-efficient

How much energy is expended in all the keypresses made in the course of typing a novel? Not much: "With a lot of rewrites, you might expend several kilojoules—but you'd need to rewrite every word 10 times to match the energy stored in a single AA battery." [XKCD What If?]

XKCD: the TED talk

Here's Randall Munroe's TED talk about his What If? series, in which he answers big, weird questions about baseballs travelling at the speed of light and such, which is also the subject of a hotly anticipated forthcoming book. The talk is a mix of war-stories and insight into what makes Munroe (who is a fascinating dude) tick.

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Exactly what $2, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 looks like


Remember Anton Purisma's lawsuit for 2 undecillion dollars? Randall "XKCD" Munroe has devoted this week's What If? to calculating exactly what $2,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 looks like. He points out that this is a sum larger than the present value of every manufactured good in the world, as well as all the potassium and calcium in the Earth -- more, even than the present value of a planet-sized lump of solid gold.

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Make a "perpetually"-flying paper airplane

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A walkalong glider is a type of model plane that's kept aloft, theoretically indefinitely, by someone walking along with it as it flies, generating rising air using a piece of cardboard, paddle, or even your body. Smithsonian Air & Space posted a template and instructions for making a simple paper walkalong glider. The plans come from a recent book by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe (better known as the Mentos and Diet Coke guys) titled "How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnetic Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects."

Wolfgang Pauli opera in Austin: For Fear the Glass May Shatter


Jon Lebkowsky sez, "My amazing friend, neurocomputing specialist, musician & composer David Demaris has created the most geek-tastic opera ever, For Fear the Glass May Shatter. It's been produced as part of Austin's Fusebox Festival, and is running through this weekend at the Vortex Theatre here."

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PBS NewsHour: Scientists search for understanding of dark matter (video)

PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien goes underground in pursuit of dark matter:

At the bottom of a nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario, scientists at one of the world's most sophisticated particle physics observatories are investigating one of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos: What is dark matter? Science correspondent Miles O'Brien helps to shed some light on the research at SNOLAB.

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Supersonic airflow in a rocket nozzle

The blog Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics posted some stills from this video recently. The images were fantastic, but I didn't totally understand what I was seeing. Thankfully, FYFD blogger (and aerospace engineering Ph.D. student) Nicole Sharp was kind enough to answer my questions.

What you're looking at is a rocket engine. The video shows what happens to airflow in the engine as it goes from subsonic to supersonic. In the video and the pictures, you can see a dark red line moving down the tunnel. That's the edge of the shockwave that marks the boundary between subsonic air and Mach 1. You should also pay attention to the little black vortices that whirl away from the edge of the engine wall. Those are pretty important.

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The physics of dwarves in barrels

In which professor and blogger Rhett Allain uses physics to prove that Thorin Oakenshield probably stole some gold from the wood elves. (At least, the movie version of Thorin Oakenshield.)