The Big Think

November 5, 2015

End of an Era

Filed under: Education,Maker,Science — jasony @ 10:30 am

After 14 years, the next season of Mythbusters will be the last. What a great run!

What We Owe the MythBusters: “The MythBusters’ delight in gonzo engineering also helped inspire the rise of the modern class of tinkerers known as ‘makers.’ When the show began, the idea that average people could build their own complex gadgets was a fringe notion at best. Today, more than 400,000 students worldwide gather to compete in FIRST Robotics competitions. Thousands of adults and kids attend Maker Faire festivals to show off their quirky inventions. ‘I feel really lucky that ‘MythBusters’ coincided with the whole D.I.Y. movement and contributed to it,’ Mr. Savage said. ‘I mean you’ve got 10-year-old girls building robots now!’

‘MythBusters’ didn’t do all this alone, of course. American culture is embracing its inner nerd on many fronts today. The cult of Steve Jobs and our fascination with tech start-ups have played a part. So have fictional TV shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has stepped into Carl Sagan’s shoes, and ‘The Martian,’ which its star, Matt Damon, calls ‘a love letter to science,’ is one of the biggest films of 2015.

Best of all, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the number of college freshmen enrolling in STEM majors has climbed nearly 50 percent since 2005. If a few more kids today want to grow up to be Elon Musk or settle on Mars or cure cancer, we have Jamie and Adam partly to thank.”

June 10, 2015

Next Big Future

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 6:08 pm

Next Big Future: Joe Eck finds superconducting transition at 141C which is above soldering temperature: “”

This is potentially huge.

June 3, 2015

The Constant Kilo

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:20 pm

I love standards. It’s weird, I know. But there’s something about knowing exactly what something is, to the highest degree of perfection attainable in the universe, that’s just kind of cool to me.

The second is the duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 of a second.

The ampere is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 m apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2×10−7 newton per metre of length.

The kelvin, unit of thermodynamic temperature, is the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water.

The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540×1012 Hz and that has a radiant intensity in that direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.

The mole is the amount of substance of a system that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12. When the mole is used, the elementary entities must be specified and may be atoms, molecules, ions, electrons, other particles, or specified groups of such particles.

BUT

There’s a problem with the Kilogram. What is the problem? This:

February 4, 2015

Tweet of the week: Tweet of the week: Tweet of the Week

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:37 am

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Burn!

December 24, 2014

World’s Smallest Violin

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:07 am

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics: “”

November 20, 2014

I Have Cool Friends

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:26 pm

Erin and I were watching Top Gear last night, which led to a YouTube special on the making of the Bugatti Veyron hypercar (a personal favorite of both of us). The special mentioned that the top speed was 250mph. They then said that the car could reach it in 17 seconds. SEVENTEEN.

What’s more, the unbelievably powerful braking system enabled the car to decelerate from top speed in TEN seconds. Holy g-forces, Batman.

So, I wondered how much space the car would cover if it went from zero to top speed and then immediately did a full force braking. Not having the math skills to answer this (musician, alas), I posed the question to Big Brained friend Matt (that’s “Dr. PHD in Physics/String Theory Matt to you, buster”) Robinson. He graciously answered my question, showing his work (at my request).

The math is great and easy to follow (and not as tough as I’d assumed). The answer to the question? Well, you’ll have to read it to see but, wow— that’s fast…

(linked below is a clickable PDF of his work because the blog won’t post his work with formatting):

Thanks, Matt!

Veyron Go Fast.pdf

November 7, 2014

Magenta Ain’t A Colour – StumbleUpon

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 10:43 pm

Magenta Ain’t A Colour – StumbleUpon: “

If the eye receives light of more than one wavelength, the colour generated in the brain is formed from the sum of the input responses on the retina. For example, if red light and green light enter the eye at the same time, the resulting colour produced in the brain is yellow, the colour halfway between red and green in the spectrum.

So what does the brain do when our eyes detect wavelengths from both ends of the light spectrum at once (i.e. red and violet light)? Generally speaking, it has two options for interpreting the input data:

a) Sum the input responses to produce a colour halfway between red and violet in the spectrum (which would in this case produce green – not a very representative colour of a red and violet mix)
b) Invent a new colour halfway between red and violet

Magenta is the evidence that the brain takes option b – it has apparently constructed a colour to bridge the gap between red and violet, because such a colour does not exist in the light spectrum. Magenta has no wavelength attributed to it, unlike all the other spectrum colours.

October 24, 2014

High Wire

Filed under: Maker,Science — jasony @ 11:21 pm

Well, that record didn’t last.

Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner’s World Record – NYTimes.com:

“‘To break an aviation record is incredibly significant,’ said Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, who viewed Mr. Eustace’s ascent. ‘There is an incredible amount of risk. To do it safely is a testament to the people involved.’

Mr. Eustace’s maximum altitude was initially reported as 135,908 feet. Based on information from two data loggers, the final number being submitted to the World Air Sports Federation is 135,890 feet.

The previous altitude record was set by the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from 128,100 feet on Oct. 14, 2012.

Mr. Eustace was carried aloft without the aid of the sophisticated capsule used by Mr. Baumgartner or millions of dollars in sponsorship money. Instead, Mr. Eustace planned his jump in secrecy, working for almost three years with a small group of technologists skilled in spacesuit design, life-support systems, and parachute and balloon technology.

He carried modest GoPro cameras aloft, connected to his ground-control center by an off-the-shelf radio.”

October 17, 2014

Word Spew

Filed under: Education,Science,Travel — jasony @ 1:40 pm

In testimony before Congress Thursday, Dr. Frieden was not much more straightforward. His answers often sound like filibusters: long, rolling paragraphs of benign assertion, advertising slogans—“We know how to stop Ebola,” “Our focus is protecting people”—occasionally extraneous data, and testimony to the excellence of our health-care professionals.
It is my impression that everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children. It feels like how the pediatrician talks to the child, not the parents. It’s as if they’ve been told: “Talk, talk, talk, but don’t say anything. Clarity is the enemy….

You gather they see us as poor, panic-stricken people who want a travel ban because we’re beside ourselves with fear and loathing. Instead of practical, realistic people who are way ahead of our government.”

The language of government now is word-spew.

Read the whole thing.

This is not about politics, and I wish that the people who keep saying it is would simmer down. It’s about public health, stopping a pandemic, and dealing with a threat in an intelligent way.

September 19, 2014

Haters Beware

Filed under: Computing,Science,Space,Technology — jasony @ 9:17 am

NVIDIA’s new GPU proves moon landing truthers wrong:

“‘It turns out there is a lot of information about the astronomical bodies floating out there in space,’ he explains. ‘Starting with the sun. The sun itself is 128,500 lux — that’s lumens per square meter – but it turns out the moon is a crappy reflector of light.’ Daly discovered that the moon is only 12-percent reflective, and absorbs most of the sunlight hitting it. On the other hand, 12-percent of 128,500 lux is quite a lot. ‘It’s the equivalent to ten 100-watt lightbulbs per square meter of light bouncing off the moon.’ More than enough make Aldrin visible under the lander’s shadow.

While this exercise showed that the moon was reflective enough to highlight Aldrin, something was still wrong. Daly noticed that the astronaut’s side wasn’t lit the same in NVIDIA’s simulation as it was in NASA’s photograph, but he wasn’t sure why. ‘A couple of people really into the moon landing told me, ‘by the way, you should take into account Neil Armstrong and the light coming off of him.’ At first I was like, yeah, whatever — the sun is doing all the work — something the size of a guy in a space suit isn’t going to contribute much light.’ He quickly learned his assumption was wrong: the material on the outside of the astronaut’s suits is 85-percent reflective. ‘Sure enough, we put him in there, adjusted the reflectivity of his suit, put him in the position where the camera would be… and it contributed another 10% or so of light to the side of Buzz Aldrin.'”

Pretty neat pics at the link

July 21, 2014

Tiny Worlds

Filed under: Science,Technology — jasony @ 10:00 am

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The First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom’s Orbital Structure:

“What you’re looking at is the first direct observation of an atom’s electron orbital — an atom’s actual wave function! To capture the image, researchers utilized a new quantum microscope — an incredible new device that literally allows scientists to gaze into the quantum realm.

An orbital structure is the space in an atom that’s occupied by an electron. But when describing these super-microscopic properties of matter, scientists have had to rely on wave functions — a mathematical way of describing the fuzzy quantum states of particles, namely how they behave in both space and time. Typically, quantum physicists use formulas like the Schrödinger equation to describe these states, often coming up with complex numbers and fancy graphs.

Up until this point, scientists have never been able to actually observe the wave function. Trying to catch a glimpse of an atom’s exact position or the momentum of its lone electron has been like trying to catch a swarm of flies with one hand; direct observations have this nasty way of disrupting quantum coherence. What’s been required to capture a full quantum state is a tool that can statistically average many measurements over time.”

Wow.

July 15, 2014

Fuligin Vader

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 8:03 pm

Vantablack – the blackest black: Scientists develop a material so dark that you can’t see it… – Science – News – The Independent:

“‘Many people think black is the absence of light. I totally disagree with that. Unless you are looking at a black hole, nobody has actually seen something which has no light,’ he said. ‘These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine.'”

(Via .)

July 8, 2014

No Place for Unobtanium

Filed under: Current Reading,Science — jasony @ 8:58 am

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Five Reasons Why Kids Need Hard Science Fiction:

“I understand that creative license is necessary in science fiction.  After all, I’m part of the generation that was officially okay with tachyon beams, lightsabers and Flynn getting sucked into the grid.  We can be okay with the science being fudged occasionally, but only after the story demonstrates some respect for our intelligence.  I don’t get that sense from modern popular sci-fi any more…

…So yes, we need hard science fiction and more to the point – kids need hard science fiction. It may not be readily obvious but these young minds are absorbing what we give them and if what we’re giving them is pure high-tech mumbo jumbo, then what they will imagine for themselves in the future will be the same. In the parlance of old geeks: Garbage In – Garbage Out. We must be giving these kids the fuel they need to imagine and create the future we’re leaving to them. That’s one reason that kids need hard science fiction. Here are five more:”

May 23, 2014

Suspended Animation Goes Primetime

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:55 pm

Suspended Animation Goes Primetime: Say Goodbye To Death As We Know It – Forbes:

“As of March 29, 2014, a team of surgeons trained in this saline-cooling procedure is on emergency call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this field trial of the technique, patients who arrive at the hospital after having suffered cardiac arrest after traumatic injury (i.e. gunshots) and do not respond to attempts to restart their heart will be cooled with saline  to about 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). Their cellular activity will stop. They will be ‘clinically dead.’ But—if doctors can repair the trauma in roughly two hours—they are still capable of being revived.

In itself, this is amazing. This is two hours of suspended animation—which  has been the stuff of sci-fi for almost a century. Today it’s scientific fact.

But where things get really interesting is what happens tomorrow. As the technology progresses, it is not too much of a stretch to say those two hours of suspended animation will give way to four hours and eight hours and sooner or later whole days and weeks and months—in other words, we’ll have mastered artificial hibernation.”

Hit Me

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Science — jasony @ 3:25 pm

The Science of Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch:

“By the time the one-inch punch has made contact with its target, Lee has combined the power of some of the biggest muscles in his body into a tiny area of force. But while the one-inch punch is built upon the explosive power of multiple muscles, Rose insists that Bruce Lee’s muscles are actually not the most important engine behind the blow.

‘Muscle fibers do not dictate coordination,’ Rose says, ‘and coordination and timing are essential factors behind movements like this one-inch punch.’

Because the punch happens over such a short amount of time, Lee has to synchronize each segment of the jab—his twisting hip, extending knees, and thrusting shoulder, elbow, and wrist—with incredible accuracy. Furthermore, each joint in Lee’s body has a single moment of peak acceleration, and to get maximum juice out of the move, Lee must layer his movements so that each period of peak acceleration follows the last one instantly.

So coordination is key. And that’s where the neuroscience comes in.”

May 20, 2014

The Greatest Digital Photo Ever?

Filed under: Science,Space/Astronomy,Technology — jasony @ 9:47 pm

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RealClearTechnology:

“The tiny white speck you see is Beta Pictoris b, a planet some 63 light-years away from Earth (that’s 3.70345488 × 1014 miles for those calculating at home). It is being hailed as the ‘best ever’ direct photo of a planet outside of our solar system (the giant mass next to it is a star). It was snapped during a 60-second exposure with the Gemini Planet Imager, a camera 10 years in the making that should bring distant planets to light for the first time.”

April 8, 2014

Secrets of the Strad

Filed under: Music,Science — jasony @ 3:14 pm

In blind test, soloists like new violins over old (Update):

“Ten world-class soloists put costly Stradivarius violins and new, cheaper ones to a blind scientific test. The results may seem off-key to musicians and collectors, but the new instruments won handily. When the lights were dimmed and the musicians donned dark glasses, the soloists’ top choice out of a dozen old and new violins tested was by far a new one. So was the second choice, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Of the six old violins tested, five were by made by the famous Stradivari family in the 17th and 18th centuries. The newer violins were about 100 times cheaper, said study co-author Joseph Curtin, a Michigan violin maker. But the Strads and other older Italian violins have long been considered superior, even almost magical. The idea was to unlock ‘the secrets of Stradivari,’ the study said.”

April 1, 2014

Radiolab: An Appreciation by Ira Glass

Filed under: Audio,Education,Science — jasony @ 6:24 pm

Transom » Radiolab: An Appreciation by Ira Glass: “Artists compete. Not head to head like athletes, but in their souls. Within the appreciation of our fellow artists is the tiny wince, ‘I wish I’d done that.’Ira Glass joins us again on Transom, this time for a loving and envious homage to our friends at Radiolab, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. A radio master salutes his comrades. The great thing about Ira’s analysis is that it’s so detailed. He breaks down exactly what’s so good about Radiolab and why. You could almost learn the tricks and do it yourself. Almost. Honestly, though, you’d lose. It’s better sometimes just to appreciate.”

I’m a RadioLab addict and am always sad when there aren’t any in my feed (a tendency reinforced when I first discovered it a few years ago and mainlined probably 100 hours of the broadcast). If you don’t know this incredible show, you really do owe it to yourself to give it a listen.

March 18, 2014

3 Dimensional Mid-Air Acoustic Manipulation

Filed under: Audio,Science — jasony @ 11:09 am

Vindication

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 10:28 am

This brought tears to my eyes. Vindication for 30 years of work and assertion. Can you imagine?

Brief explanation. “5 Sigma” is described thus:

Incidentally, for anyone not au fait with scientific. terminology as used in the video, “sigma” refers to standard deviations in statistics and is a way of measuring the chance of something just being statistical fluctuation. “5-sigma” means there is a 0.0000003 chance that the result is a random fluctuation in the data, and is the level of probability used as a standard to declare something a discovery.

So if it had only been a 0.000003 chance (5 zeros to the right of the decimal) that they were wrong they would say it was unconfirmed. Add that extra order of magnitude, that extra zero (0.0000003), and they say yes, we’re going to say this is confirmed. Astonishing accuracy and a laudable level of certainty that must be achieved.

It’s really neat to see their reactions.

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