Quantum physics gets real weird real fast, and one idea gaining more currency of late is the concept of quantum retrocausality, where a decision made in our experience of the present may influence what we experience as the past.
These aren't a bunch of Time Cube type cranks, either. From a helpful overview by Lisa Zyga:
First, to clarify what retrocausality is and isn't: It does not mean that signals can be communicated from the future to the past—such signaling would be forbidden even in a retrocausal theory due to thermodynamic reasons. Instead, retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.
Huw Price has done some great introductory lectures like this on the concept:
• WTF is Quantum Retrocausality? (YouTube / Seeker) Read the rest
Vanessa Hill at BrainCraft got obsessed with tallying up how many times Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in scientific papers, but she wasn't prepared for the actual number of papers: over 15,000. Read the rest
A Snellen chart (below) may just look like random letters in different sizes, but they were carefully designed to measure visual acuity. This piece on testing the limits of human vision brings it all into focus. Read the rest
How birds get oxygen inside their eggs. File this great explainer under "questions previously unconsidered that have interesting answers." Read the rest
Geologist Jerry Magloughlin made a lava video that's a real labor of love. It describes the marvelous complexity of Hawaiian lava flows, combined with lots of cool footage and interesting facts. Plan on learning many new things. Read the rest
Matt Baker from UsefulCharts.com made a detailed poster and video of how the English alphabet evolved over the last 4,000 years, but his elegant and colorful topline is the simplest iteration of the process: Read the rest
Scientists have been experimenting with "fog harps" in arid climates as an easy way to collect potable water from fog.
Via the paper:
Fog harvesting is a useful technique for obtaining fresh water in arid climates. The wire meshes currently utilized for fog harvesting suffer from dual constraints: coarse meshes cannot efficiently capture microscopic fog droplets, whereas fine meshes suffer from clogging issues. Here, we design and fabricate fog harvesters comprising an array of vertical wires, which we call “fog harps”. Under controlled laboratory conditions, the fog-harvesting rates for fog harps with three different wire diameters were compared to conventional meshes of equivalent dimensions. As expected for the mesh structures, the mid-sized wires exhibited the largest fog collection rate, with a drop-off in performance for the fine or coarse meshes. In contrast, the fog-harvesting rate continually increased with decreasing wire diameter for the fog harps due to efficient droplet shedding that prevented clogging. This resulted in a 3-fold enhancement in the fog-harvesting rate for the harp design compared to an equivalent mesh.
• Harvesting water from fog with harps (YouTube / American Chemical Society) Read the rest
YouTuber JerryRigEverything had a chance to fire some bullets at a bullet-proof car. The physics are interesting to watch as the energy disperses into the materials in slow motion. Read the rest
If you like sweary Canadians with lots of knowledge about building materials and construction, Arduino versus Evil has the most interesting armchair analysis of what caused the Florida International University bridge collapse. Read the rest
Pecos Hank has seen his share of storms, as evidenced by his cool footage of ominous green-hued clouds. He explains the science behind why massive thunderstorms can "go green," as they say in stormchaser parlance. Read the rest
In close to a decade of work as a full-time journalist, I can't recall a single instance where I referenced my work for one outlet at another. There's a few reasons for this.
First, outside of an occasional mention of something I've written on Twitter, self promotion's always felt awkward and kind of gross to me. When I'm not online, I live a quiet, nomadic life. I don't like a ton of bother and my Imposter Syndrome assures me that I'm not worth it. Second, the moment my work's approved by an editor for publication, I cease to consider it mine. As a freelancer, I'm employed on a pay-for-work basis. I don't own the words I write for Macworld or USA Today. They do. I take pride in the work I do, but most of the companies I work for have talented social media specialists that do a better job at getting the word out about something that I penned than I ever could. So, I leave it to them.
That said, I wrote something that I thought was much more interesting than the work I typically get asked for by joints aside from Boing Boing. So, here I am, sharing it with you.
Earlier this month, I interviewed officials from the Department of State and an ethical hacker for AFAR Magazine to get the skinny on what the hell's actually on a passport's RFID chip, who can read it and whether it's being read is anything we need to be worried about. Read the rest
YouTuber NileRed was curious about how lactose-free milk is made, so he did a little research and came up with this helpful explainer. Read the rest
A theodolite is that gizmo on a tripod used by land surveyors. This explainer shows how they work, and discusses how they shifted from analog devices to the modern digital ones. Read the rest
Artist Stephi Lee open up about her childhood selective mutism, where she would only talk to her mom and her best friend. It's cool to see that it got resolved. Read the rest
Amy Shira Teitel of Vintage Space shares lots of cool facts about the golden age of space exploration. Here, she enumerates the engines (and motors) it took Apollo to get to the moon. Read the rest
Multiplying large numbers before calculators led to a number of ingenious inventions to make things easier, like these Genaille-Lucas rulers demonstrated by the fine folks at DONG.
Via manufacturer Creative Crafthouse:
In the days before calculators, methods of simplifying calculations were of much interest. In 1617 Napier also published a book describing a method to multiply, divide and extract square roots using a set of bars or rods. These became known as Napier's Bones. (avail on our website)
In the late 1800s, Henri Genaille, a French civil engineer, invented an improvement to Napier's Bones that eliminates the need to handle carries from one digit position to the next. The problem was posed by Edouard Lucas and thus the alternate name of Genaille-Lucas Rulers (or Rods).
There are also sets for division. You can get your own set online or print your own from these free files.
• Genaille-Lucas Rulers (YouTube / DONG) Read the rest
Fun fact: trilobites were able to see thanks to eyes made of calcite instead of soft tissue. YouTuber Thunderf00t shows off a cool fossil and explains the phenomenon. Read the rest