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December 18 2013

Ep. 325 – Cold Fusion

The Universe is filled with hot fusion, in the cores of stars. And scientists have even been able to replicate this stellar process in expensive experiments. But wouldn’t it be amazing if you could produce energy from fusion without all that equipment, and high temperatures and pressures? Pons and Fleischmann announced exactly that back in 1989, but things didn’t quite turn out as planned…

Tags: Physics Stars

October 28 2013

Ep. 318: Escape Velocity

Sometimes you’ve just got to get away from it all. From your planet, your Solar System and your galaxy. If you’re looking to escape, you’ll need to know just what velocity it’ll take to break the surly bonds of gravity and punch the sky.

Show Notes

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September 09 2013

Ep. 314: Acceleration

Put that pedal to the metal and accelerate! It’s not just velocity, but a change in velocity. Let’s take a look at acceleration, how you measure it, and how Einstein changed our understanding of this exciting activity.

August 07 2013

Ep. 312: The Inverse-Square Law and Other Strangeness

Why don’t we have insects the size of horses? Why do bubbles form spheres? Why does it take so much energy to broadcast to every star? Let’s take a look at some non-linear mathematical relationships and see how they impact your day-to-day life.

July 29 2013

June 26 2013

Podcast: what makes a scientist?

At Sci Foo Camp last weekend we enjoyed sitting down with several thoughtful scientists and thinkers-about-science to record a few podcast episodes. Here we speak with Tom Daniel, a professor of biology, computer science, and neurobiology at the University of Washington, and Ben Lillie, co-founder of The Story Collider and a Stanford-trained physicist. First topic: what brings people to science, and how we compare to our icons. Along the way, we mention Hans Bethe, Isaac Newton’s epitaph, and John McPhee’s trip across Interstate 80.

We’ll post the rest of the series over the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find more episodes of our podcast and subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud.

April 08 2013

Ep: 290 Failed Stars

If you get enough hydrogen together in one place, gravity pulls it together to the point that the temperature and pressures are enough for fusion to occur. This is a star. But what happens when you don’t have quite enough hydrogen? Then you get a failed star, like a gas giant planet or a brown dwarf.

April 02 2013

Ep. 289 Cherenkov Radiation

Sure, our atmosphere protects us from a horrible Universe that’s trying to kill us, but sometimes it prevents us from learning stuff too. Case in point, the atmosphere blocks highly energetic particles from reaching our detectors. But there’s a way astronomers can still detect their influence: Cherenkov Radiation; the cascade of radiation that blasts out as a high-energy particle makes its way through the atmosphere, like a radioactive rainshower.

Ep. 288 Phases of Matter

As we quickly learn with water, matter can be in distinct phases: solid, liquid, gas and plasma; it all depends on temperature. But why do different materials require different temperatures? And what’s actually happening to the atoms themselves as the material switches phases?

Ep. 287 E=mc^2

It’s mind bending to think about this, but the light in your house, and the house itself are really the same thing. Matter and energy are interchangeable. This was the amazing revelation made by Albert Einstein, with his famous formula: E=mc^2. This is the process that the Sun uses to turn hydrogen into radiation through fusion, and the terrible damage from a nuclear weapon.

Show Notes

February 26 2013

Confirmed: Cosmic Rays Come From Exploding Stars : 80beats



Scientists have known about these ridiculously energetic and high-velocity particles for nearly a hundred years. In daily life, cosmic rays may be familiar as the source of extra radiation airline passengers are exposed to. However scientists have been uncertain about where cosmic rays come from. The extreme conditions of temperature and speed that accompany supernovae and their remains made them a natural starting point for guesses. Now two separate Science papers finally provide evidence that cosmic rays do indeed come from supernovae remnants.


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December 08 2012

Play fullscreen
AT&T Archives: Similiarities of Wave Behavior (Bonus Edition) - YouTube

Veröffentlicht am 03.04.2012

For more from the AT&T Archives, visit

On an elementary conceptual level, this film reflects the multifaceted scientific hyperthinking that was typical of a Bell Labs approach. Host Dr. J.N. Shive's presence as a lecturer is excellent - it's understandable by a layperson even when he branches into equations, because he uses copious amounts of real-world examples to bolster the material.

Shive's role at Bell Labs was more than just a great lecturer: he worked on early transistor technology, inventing the phototransistor in 1950, and the machine he uses in the film is his invention, now called the Shive Wave Machine in college classrooms.

Dr. J.N. Shive of Bell Labs demonstrates and discusses the following aspects of wave behavior:

Reflection of waves from free and clamped ends
Standing waves and resonance
Energy loss by impedance mismatching
Reduction of energy loss by quarter-wave and tapered-section transformers
Original audience: college students

Produced at Bell Labs

Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

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    November 07 2012

    Four short links: 7 November 2012

    1. A Slower Speed of Light — game where you control the speed of light and discover the wonders of relativity. (via Andy Baio)
    2. Facebook Demetricator — removes all statistics and numbers from Facebook’s chrome (“37 people like this” becomes “people like this”). (via Beta Knowledge)
    3. Rx — Microsoft open sources their library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators.
    4. Typing Karaoke — this is awesome. Practice typing to song lyrics. With 8-bit aesthetic for maximum quirk.

    October 26 2012

    TERRA 720: Atom

    Atom is a short, animated film about the ‘life’ of Atom X. From the Big Bang to the emergence of life on Earth and beyond, this film tells a rather brief story of, well, everything.

    June 13 2012

    Making space: where art meets physics

    Margaret Wertheim is a writer, curator and director of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. In her classes for the Wide Open School she looks at concepts of space as understood by mathematicians and physicists – as well as teaching business card origami

    Space is a subject that has obsessed me all my life. As a child growing up in Brisbane I used to wonder what it meant to say that we existed in space. How could a body logically be in an empty void? These questions led me to dream that when I grew up I would study physics. I didn't really know what "physics" was, but I had read about relativity in a children's encyclopedia my mother had given us kids and I knew that Einstein had invented a theory about space and time. I wanted to know what it was.

    At university I majored in physics, and the beauty and power of relativity astounded me. Many physicists feel that the general theory of relativity is an aesthetic achievement on a par with great works of art. But how did Einstein come to see the world this way?

    This was the 1970s and the history of science had yet to reach Queensland as an academic discipline. Eventually I realised I wanted to understand science in a wider cultural context and I left academe to became a science writer. In my book The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, I set out to trace the evolution of western scientific thinking about space. How did we go from the cosmos of the Divine Comedy, with its endless layers of Heaven and Hell, to the infinite void of Newtonian physics, then the dynamic fabric of general relativity? What I came to realise was that our conceptualising about space is irrevocably bound up with our conceptualising about ourselves. What we think it means to be human is allied with our ideas about the cosmological space in which we conceive ourselves to live.

    In my classes for the Wide Open School we're going to look at concepts of space as understood by mathematicians and physicists. What is geometry? What is topology? What makes one structure different from another? Does our universe have an architecture, and how can we learn what it is? Morning classes will focus on theory, with afternoons devoted to practical exercises making spatial forms by cutting and folding paper – kindergarten for grown-ups.

    One exercise we're going to do is to make three-dimensional fractals by folding business cards. These things are like origami crystals and it's incredible to discover the internal patterns and rhythms embedded in these forms – they're geometric fugues.

    Business card origami was invented by the American engineer Dr Jeannine Mosely who is a genius at spatial envisioning. She and I are working together now on a project to build a giant model of a fractal she has discovered, at the University of Southern California. This new fractal is called the Mosely Snowflake Sponge, and we're making it from 49, 000 specially designed business cards. Thinking about how we wanted the final sculpture to look, we were inspired by Euclid's Elements and by Bridget Riley's Op art. I see this as a dialogue between mathematics, engineering and community art practice – hundreds of USC students are folding component cubes.

    At the Hayward we're going to make small cousins of this fractal, then in the final class I'm going to challenge the group to see what we can build collectively when we break away from the pure maths and go wild. It'll be an experiment in mathematical aesthetics.

    • Margaret Wertheim is a writer, curator and director of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. She is the author of books on the cultural history of physics, including The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, and her recently released Physics on the Fringe, which explores the subject of "outsider science".

    For Wide Open School Margaret Wertheim will lead three workshops on the history of Western scientific thinking about space from Descartes to string theory, asking how do mathematicians and physicists conceive of space?

    You too can build origami fractals at home:

    Download this pdf to learn how to make a Level One Mosely Snowflake Sponge out of 108 business cards

    Download this pdf to learn how to make a Level One Menger Sponge out of 120 business cards.

    • To learn more about building Business Card Sponges and the related fractal mathematics, see the Institute For Figuring website. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

    April 19 2012

    How the Cost of Computation Restricts the Processes of Life - Technology Review

    The energy required to process information places a fundamental limit on biological processes, say scientists who are teasing apart the link between computation and life.

    //oAnth - source URL -

    April 15 2012

    On the border between matter and anti-matter: Nanoscientists find long-sought Majorana particle

    Scientists in the Netherlands have succeeded for the first time in detecting a Majorana particle.



    // oAnth



    Quantum computer and dark matter


    Majorana fermions are very interesting -- not only because their discovery opens up a new and uncharted chapter of fundamental physics; they may also play a role in cosmology. A proposed theory assumes that the mysterious 'dark matter', which forms the greatest part of the universe, is composed of Majorana fermions. Furthermore, scientists view the particles as fundamental building blocks for the quantum computer. Such a computer is far more powerful than the best supercomputer, but only exists in theory so far. Contrary to an 'ordinary' quantum computer, a quantum computer based on Majorana fermions is exceptionally stable and barely sensitive to external influences.



    Breakthrough in Quantum Communication

    A team of scientists at the MPQ realizes a first elementary quantum network based on interfaces between single atoms and photons...


    March 28 2012

    How to get the most from your 60p first-class stamp – video

    London's Science Museum provides some ingenious tips on how to put that pricey first-class stamp to work

    With the announcement yesterday that the cost of a first-class stamp will soar to 60p at the end of the month – the biggest price rise for 37 years – Britons will need to think hard to squeeze the maximum value for money from every item they put in the post. To achieve the necessary efficiency savings, every letter, every package, every postcard, will have to do more work.

    Inspiration is at hand in this wonderful educational video from London's Science Museum.

    Whistling the theme tune from Postman Pat, a Royal Mail worker pushes a package through a letterbox on an industrial estate, triggering a seemingly endless train of energy transfers that starts with the sun and a magnifying glass lighting a fuse and finishes with a tank crushing a mechanical toy dog.

    Along the way, potential energy is converted to kinetic energy and back again in a sequence worthy of Wallace and Gromit. There are nine glorious minutes of foaming, sawing, burning and floating, with each manifestation of energy transfer leading to the next. Eggs are broken, a venus flytrap snaps shut, a rocket rises into the air and hot tea melts through what appears to be a chocolate teacup.

    And all for the price of a first-class stamp.

    Our thanks to the ingenious people at Engineered Arts Ltd for this wonderful video, and to Guardian multimedia editor Jon Dennis for spotting it on the museum's website. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

    March 02 2012

    Can The Human Brain See Quantum Images? - Technology Review

    Nobody knows whether humans can access exotic images based on quantum entanglement.

    See it on, via The virtual life

    // oAnth - source URL -
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