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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Feynman lectures as HTML

Here's an HTML-ified version of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, volume one, courtesy of the good folks at CalTech. We discussed these lectures when I reviewed Feynman, a biography in graphic novel form; they're justly considered to be one of the great works of physics instruction.

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Excellent goals from an eight-year-old


This list of third-grade goals is presented by redditor Elbostonian as the work of his eight-year-old son. It's a rather ambitious document, but admirably so -- an excellent mix of stupid body tricks, theoretical astrophysics, identity development, culinary adventure, and mystery.

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How physics sunk the Titanic

The iceberg wasn't the only thing that took down the Titanic, explains Yale University materials scientist Anissa Ramirez. Instead, cold temperatures in the icy North Atlantic changed the behavior of the materials that made up the boat — changes that reduced the ocean liner's ability to withstand a head-on iceberg collision.

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Custodian of the famous Pitch Drop Experiment died without ever seeing the pitch drop

Back in early August, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Mainstone, the man who has taken care of the Pitch Drop Experiment at Australia's University of Queensland since 1961. The experiment has been running since 1927, when Professor Thomas Parnell set out to show his students that coal-tar pitch can behave as both a solid and a liquid. Despite being hard enough to break with a hammer, the pitch also drips ... sliding very, very slowly down the neck of a funnel into a beaker.

In Mainstone's years as custodian, the drops have dripped five times. He never got a chance to watch any of them, either in person, or on video. The first falling drop he ever saw came this earlier this summer, when a different pitch drop experiment in Ireland managed to catch the event on camera.

Mainstone's pitch is predicted to drop later this fall, but he won't be around to see it. Last week, I received an email from his daughter Julia, confirming that Mainstone had died of a stroke on August 23rd. He was 78. You didn't have to talk to Mainstone for very long to get a sense of the passion he had for the pitch drop project. I'm glad I got a chance to speak with him before he died and, in a couple of weeks, we'll be running a feature story here at BoingBoing based, in part, on those interviews.

In the meantime, the Pitch Drop Experiment has a new custodian, Andrew White, a physics professor and former student of Mainstone.

Hay Devil: vortex whips field into an amazing sight

Not CGI, but convection. Krista Mitchell at the BBC Weather Centre: "This rapidly rising air lifts dust, or straw, into the air. When conditions are right, the rising air will rotate."

"Older than dirt" not really that old in the grand scheme of things

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Actual dirt — that is to say, like the stuff in your backyard, not rocks that were once dirt — probably dates to about 2 million years ago. Dirt is young! (Relatively speaking.)

The mysterious physics of bicycles

We don't actually understand why bikes stay upright as they move, writes physicist Michael Brooks at The New Statesman. A 2011 paper, published in the journal Science, poked big holes in the old theories about gyroscopic effects, and nobody has come along with anything to fill them yet.

Physics slam (on ice!) tomorrow in Minneapolis

Tomorrow night you can catch physicists from around the country, competing to see who can explain their research in the best, funniest, most awe-inspiring way possible. The action starts at 8:00 pm in the University of Minnesota's Ridder Arena. Doors open at 7:00, and it's all free.

A giant electromagnet's cross-country road trip

A 50-foot wide, doughnut-shaped electromagnet recently completed a journey from New York to Illinois. It went most of the way by barge — down the Eastern seaboard and then up the Mississippi River before hitting the road for the last 26 miles, shutting down multiple lanes as it crept along over the course of three nights. Livescience has pictures from this incredible journey.

Aquaman's costume would look different underwater than above

Water filters light. The more water that's above you, the more light is filtered out before it can reach your eyes. The deeper you go, the more this effect alters which colors you can see and how those colors appear, writes Andrew David Thaler at Southern Fried Science. Even at a depth of just 5 meters, reds and oranges become difficult to distinguish from one another.

Physics comics for kids, with classroom guides


Spotted at Comic-Con: Spectra, a series of well-done, smart comics about physics from the nonprofit American Physical Society. The art is great, the content is great, and leads to good, illuminating experiments you can do with household objects. They're free downloads, along with supplementary classroom materials, and you order signed hardcopies, too.

Spectra: Comic Books

Physics of murder, superball style

Indispensable wisdom from the XKCDverse: "After falling from seven stories, the mass of bouncy balls would be moving at about 20 meters per second.... If you wanted to be sure of killing someone, you'd need 3,000,000 of them—enough to fill a large room—to guarantee that the target would either be crushed to death by the impact or buried too deep to dig themselves out." Cory 1