26 posts · 42,789 views
Physics, pulp fantasy and horror fiction, and a bit of politics
I’ve been saying for a few years that optical science has entered a truly remarkable new era: instead of asking the question, “What are the physical limitations on what light can do?”, we are now asking, “How can we make … Continue reading →... Read more »
A few weeks ago, a new optical imaging system grabbed headlines throughout the world. This system, labeled a “picosecond camera”, can seemingly record images so fast that it can actually track the motion of light itself! Consider the following video … Continue reading →... Read more »
Andreas Velten, Moungi Bawendi, & Ramesh Raskar. (2011) Picosecond camera for time-of-flight imaging. Imaging Systems Applications, OSA Technical Digest. info:/
If you study enough history of science, you learn that the things that scientists are most famous for are often not their only work of interest — or even the most fascinating thing they’ve done! The significance of a scientist’s … Continue reading →... Read more »
Edmond Halley. (1714) The Art of Living under Water: Or, a Discourse concerning the Means of furnishing Air at the Bottom of the Sea, in any ordinary Depths. Philosophical Transactions, 492-499. info:/
Over the past two weeks, the biggest physics news has been the apparent observation of neutrinos (nearly undetectable subatomic particles) moving faster than the vacuum speed of light. At first glance, this would seem to violate Einstein’s special theory of … Continue reading →... Read more »
Though science and technology in the modern era have accomplished things that our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, it is still worth remembering that the ancients weren’t dummies. Through a combination of ingenuity, observation, determination, and probably a lot of luck, these people managed to develop a number of surprising technologies — many of which have been lost to history and have proven surprisingly hard to reproduce today. Among these lost inventions are Nepenthe, an........ Read more »
Reibold, M., Paufler, P., Levin, A., Kochmann, W., Pätzke, N., & Meyer, D. (2006) Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre. Nature, 444(7117), 286-286. DOI: 10.1038/444286a
“My name is Erasto B Mpemba, and I am going to tell you about my discovery, which was due to misusing a refrigerator.” With those words, Tanzanian student Erasto Mpemba entered scientific history, and also sparked a scientific mystery and … Continue reading →... Read more »
E.B. Mpemba, & D.G. Osborne. (1969) Cool?. Physics Education, 172-175. info:/
Most people certainly understand how important water is for our survival, but we often overlook how weird it can be. I can compile a short, though not exhaustive, list off the top of my head: Water is less dense in … Continue reading →... Read more »
Sharma M, Resta R, & Car R. (2007) Dipolar correlations and the dielectric permittivity of water. Physical review letters, 98(24), 247401. PMID: 17677991
The best stories in the history of physics are those in which someone comes from humble origins and, seemingly out of nowhere, makes a brilliant discovery that changes everything. Such stories, however, can give a very misleading impression of the … Continue reading →... Read more »
On occasion, a scientific idea comes along that is so simple and elegant that one wonders that it hadn’t been done before! Such is the case with the results of an article published online in Nature Photonics in December, which … Continue reading →... Read more »
While researching a recent post on the history of nuclear physics (here), I happened across a short but rather fascinating letter written in 1903. It seems to be the first article in print that makes the connection between the processes … Continue reading →... Read more »
It is fair to say that the decade surrounding the start of the 20th century was an amazingly perplexing time to be a physicist. Mounting experimental evidence strongly suggested that something was amiss with classical physics, especially in the understanding … Continue reading →... Read more »
Fillipo Re. (1903) Hypothése sur la nature des corps radioactifs. Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences, 1393-1395. info:other/
Some months ago, I wrote a post introducing the subfield of optics known as singular optics. Singular optics is concerned with the behavior of wavefields in the neighborhood of regions where the intensity of the wave is zero, and the … Continue reading →... Read more »
One of the most fruitful and intriguing avenues for developing novel scientific research is through cross-pollination with other fields of study. This is one of the reasons I’m proud of my excessively liberal arts-focused education, as well as one of the reasons I like reading blogs on diverse subjects outside of my field: interesting ideas [...]... Read more »
Höhmann, R., Kuhl, U., Stöckmann, H., Kaplan, L., & Heller, E. (2010) Freak Waves in the Linear Regime: A Microwave Study. Physical Review Letters, 104(9). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.093901
One of the wonderful things about having a career in science is that a deeper understanding of the science leads to a greater appreciation of its beauty. In physics, this usually requires a nontrivial amount of mathematics, but there are some phenomena that are self-evidently beautiful; unfortunately, many of these are also not very well [...]... Read more »
H.F. Talbot. (1836) Facts relating to optical science. No. IV. Philosophical Magazine, 401-407. info:/
In a recent issue of Physical Review Letters was an article with the intriguing (to me) title of “Experimental verification of reversed Cherenkov radiation in left-handed metamaterial,” by a collaboration from Zhejiang University in China and MIT. The paper is an experimental verification of an effect predicted for metamaterials way back in 1968 by the [...]... Read more »
Xi, S., Chen, H., Jiang, T., Ran, L., Huangfu, J., Wu, B., Kong, J., & Chen, M. (2009) Experimental Verification of Reversed Cherenkov Radiation in Left-Handed Metamaterial. Physical Review Letters, 103(19). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.194801
Halloween seemed like the perfect time to talk about an unconventional sort of optical imaging, referred to as “ghost” imaging. I should point out at the beginning, however, that I’m not talking about this sort of ghost imaging:
Don’t get too disappointed, however! Ghost imaging is in fact a fascinating and relatively new technique in which [...]... Read more »
This result came out a few months ago, and I’ve been looking for the time to write about it ever since: in a paper published in the June 5 issue of Science, scientists reported the discovery of the first natural quasicrystal!
Of course, in order to get excited about this result, one needs to know what [...]... Read more »
When the first papers on the idea of a “cloaking” device came out in 2006, lots of people were immediately worried that the CIA would soon be peering right over their shoulder from the shelter of invisibility cloaks. Many scientists, including myself, pointed out the flaw in that reasoning: a “perfect” cloak would direct all [...]... Read more »
In physics, there are a number of fundamental and seemingly simple questions which have remained a source of controversy for years, even decades. Last month, a paper was published by a Chinese research group describing an experiment which throws new light on one of these controversies, the so-called Abraham-Minkowski controversy. For nearly a century, theorists [...]... Read more »
Weilong She, Jianhui Yu, & Raohui Feng. (2008) Observation of a Push Force on the End Face of a Nanometer Silica Filament Exerted by Outgoing Light. Physical Review Letters, 101(24). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.243601
About a week ago, I came across an intriguing article on telegraph.co.uk, entitled, “Ocean currents can power the world, say scientists.” Such a title is an immediate eyebrow-raiser for me, knowing the propensity of the news media to (a) overhype scientific results to the point of absurdity, and (b) fall for lots of suspicious “free [...]... Read more »
Michael M. Bernitsas, Kamaldev Raghavan, Y. Ben-Simon, & E. M. H. Garcia. (2008) VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibration Aquatic Clean Energy): A New Concept in Generation of Clean and Renewable Energy From Fluid Flow. Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering, 130(4), 41101. DOI: 10.1115/1.2957913
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