Physics is not interested in your delusions of grandeur

It's impossible to dive in front of a bullet and play the hero. Likewise, you can't really dodge a bullet either (unless you get a big lead on the fact that it's heading towards you). Kyle Hill explains why the stuff that looks fancy and flashy on TV doesn't work in the real world.

Coming soon: The Very Large Hadron Collider?

What comes after the Large Hadron Collider? Obviously, the answer is a Very Large Hadron Collider. At least, that's what some physicists are hoping for.

HAWKING: 2016 graphic novel bio from the FEYNMAN writer/illustrator team


Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick's Feynman was one of the best science-oriented graphic novels I've come across (see my 2011 review for more). So I was delighted to learn that the pair are now working on HAWKING, a graphic biography of The Hawk himself, to be published in 2016. Read on for the official, exclusive announcement from FirstSecond, along with a sneak peek:

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The best way to pee into a urinal — as explained by physics

Good news, everyone*! If you're tired of being splashed (or splashing others) with your own urine, the Brigham Young University Splash Lab has done the research and produced a series of helpful tips that will enable you to potty without the spotty. Research at the Splash Lab is heavily based on imaging and this video will show you how easy it is to reduce splash-back with simple changes like peeing against a vertical, rather than horizontal, surface.

And by "everyone", I mean "people who pee into urinals".

Luis Alvarez: Your new science hero?

Forget Tesla. Luis Alvarez should be the new object of your science history obsession says Ben Lillie at The Last Word on Nothing. Them's fightin' words. But Lillie backs it up. With his son Walter, Alvarez was the first to suggest that a giant asteroid impact had led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Before that, he won a Nobel for designing a better Bubble Chamber to study electrically charged particles, invented the aircraft blind landing system and night-vision binoculars, found hidden rooms in the pyramids at Giza, investigated the JFK assassination, and was also a creepily outspoken voice in favor of global nuclear armament. (So it's not all awesome stuff.) Read more.

How scientists created an element

The synthetic (or man-made) elements are the ones with silly-sounding names, found along the bottom of the periodic table — Einsteinium and Nobelium, Livermorium and Mendelevium, and more. Unlike the rest of the elements, you won't find them just hanging out in nature. They have to be created in a laboratory, and they only exist for a limited amount of time — some no more than milliseconds. Though new ones have been discovered/created as recently as 2010, the 1950s and 60s were sort of a heyday of synthetic elements, with different laboratories locked in a race to find the niftiest new things first.

During that time, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab made a film strip reenacting their own 1955 discovery of the element Mendelevium. The film lay forgotten in storage for 60 years until it was recently uncovered and restored by retired physicist Claude Lyneis. Originally just a silent sequence showing real Mendelevium discoverers Al Ghiorso, Bernard Harvey, Gregory Choppin, and Stanley Thompson demonstrating how they'd found the 101st element, the film has been updated with narration and sound effects and is a pretty cool explanation of where synthetic elements come from.

Video Link

Behind the particles: The Guardian goes inside CERN and the Large Hadron Collider

What's it like to live and work in the world's most famous physics mecca? Suzanne Moore went to Geneva, Switzerland to meet the scientists who study particle physics at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson — and also home to a multinational population that can reach 10,000 at different times of year. There's a kindergarten at CERN. And Halloween parties. And, of course, the much-noted tendency toward Comic Sans Powerpoints. In other words, CERN has a culture. This is its story.

Doctor Who spacetime described in physics paper


Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime is a new paper by Caltech/Memorial Gallifrey physicists Benjamin K. Tippett and David Tsang that attempts to describe the spacetime through which Doctor Who's Tardis travels; one that "goes forward and back in time, and left and right in space." It's a bit heavy going, so they've also published The Blue Box White Paper, a lay-friendly, 17 page summary for people with "no technical knowledge of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity." The discussion continues on Tippet's Tumblr.

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Researchers get slo-mo footage of the collapse of a quantum waveform

Research from UC Berkeley's Kater Murch and team has allowed fine observation of a quantum waveform collapse. Observing single quantum trajectories of a superconducting quantum bit, published in Nature, describes the experiment, which used indirect observations of microwaves that had passed through a box containing a circuit where a particle was in a state of superposition, allowing the researchers to view the collapse in slow-motion.

I finally came to have some (admittedly crude) understanding of what all this means in 1992, thanks to Greg Egan's novel Quarantine, which is one of the best -- and most exciting and comprehensible -- explanations of superposition and uncertainty I've ever encountered.

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Nobel Prizes 2013: An award for the Higgs Boson theorists, but not for the people who found it

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics was announced this morning and it is probably the least surprising Nobel of the year. People have been speculating for months that the award was going to be centered around the discovery of the Higgs Boson — the subatomic particle that helps explain why everything else in the Universe has mass. The Higgs Boson, itself, has been the physics pop culture celebrity for the last few years. It's even got its own blues.

So the big question going into today's announcement wasn't what discovery would the award be about. The question was who was going to end up being the named human recipients of said award. This was always going to be a tough call. The whole reason you've heard about the Higgs is because of a long-running effort to experimentally prove whether or not it existed. The very nature of experimental particle physics makes it a collaborative enterprise — proving a theory requires huge, expensive machines, international institutions, and lots of physicists. The Nobel Prize, meanwhile, can only be given to three recipients at a time. (Although an institute, like, say, CERN, could have been one of those, at least hypothetically.) The Nobel Committee gut this Gordian Knot by skipping over the experimental physicists altogether and giving the 2013 award to two theorists, alone — Peter Higgs and Francois Englert.

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Dropping things from the top of a tower — for science!

If you want to replicate the effects of weightlessness you could send various objects and animals into the sky aboard the Vomit Comet or you could just haul them to the top of a 475-foot-tall tower and let them drop. At Gizmodo India, Geoff Manaugh writes about the tower in Germany where scientists go see what happens when you drop a lead weight, or a billiard ball ... or a fish.

Live-stream two days of public lectures on physics and cosmology

The Nobel Conference is an annual event at Minnesota's Gustavus Adolphus College that brings in scientists from around the world to talk to the general public about a given theme. This year, the conference is focusing on physics and cosmology, from tiny particles to massive features of the Universe outside our own solar system. The conference runs all day tomorrow and Wednesday and you can watch the whole thing on a live stream. Lawrence Krauss will be speaking Wednesday at 1:00 central.

Richard Feynman explains rubber bands

Here's a clip from the BBC's Fun to Imagine series, in which Richard Feynman explains the amazing thing that happens when you stretch and release a rubber band. I'd always wondered why wide rubber bands got warm when you stretched them, and now I know! Feynman was a brilliant physicist and an even more brilliant physics-explainer, who busts out lines like "The world is a dynamic mess of jiggling things if you look at it right" (here's a transcript).

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Rasl: dark comic from Bone creator Jeff Smith


If you love comics, you'll know Bone, Jeff Smith's Walt Kelly-esque independent funnybook that ran for an epic 13 years. It won just about every award in the field (deservedly so), and was a nigh-perfect mix of whimsy and action.

Now, Smith is back with RASL, another self-published epic, albeit one that's much darker than Bone. Rasl, the main character, is a art-thief on the run from his past. Specifically, he's running away from his former career as a Tesla-obsessed Defense Department physicist who discovered something in Tesla's notebooks that led him to believe he had it in his power to create the ultimate weapon -- or the end to war altogether. But when he tested the technology, he learned that it let him hop between dimensions -- and also discovered that his fellow researchers were willing to hand the military everything it needed to slaughter millions. So Rasl blew up the lab and hopped to another dimension, and discovered a lucrative career in stealing transdimensional Picassos that he fences through a crooked Vegas casino owner.

Rasl is an often-brutal, high-speed adventure about loyalty, sex, romance, Tesla and mysticism. It's delicious nerdbait, tailor-made for people like me who grew up idolizing Tesla and fantasizing about dimension-hopping. It's a very different kind of story than Bone ever was, but in an absolutely wonderful way. The giant, hardcover bound edition that comes out today is a great way to acquaint yourself with it.

RASL

Enormous timescales made graspable by graphs

Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible.

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