26 posts · 26,749 views
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:/
One of the joys of physics, and science in general, is that even seemingly mundane objects occasionally yield physical surprises. A great example of this made the news about a month ago: the observation that, under the right circumstances, x-rays can be generated by the peeling of Scotch tape! The phenomenon is an extreme example [...]... Read more »
Carlos G. Camara, Juan V. Escobar, Jonathan R. Hird, & Seth J. Putterman. (2008) Correlation between nanosecond X-ray flashes and stick–slip friction in peeling tape. Nature, 455(7216), 1089-1092. DOI: 10.1038/nature07378
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 »
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
In recent years, scientific tools have been increasingly applied to the study of artwork, for numerous reasons: determination of authenticity, determination of provenance, analysis for restoration, or even for finding ‘hidden’ art buried behind or underneath existing masterworks. Some time ago, Jennifer at Cocktail Party Physics wrote a fascinating post on the use of X-ray [...]... Read more »
P. Targowski, B. Rouba, M. Góra, L. Tymińska-Widmer, J. Marczak, & A. Kowalczyk. (2008) Optical coherence tomography in art diagnostics and restoration. Applied Physics A, 92(1), 1-9. DOI/10.1007/s00339-008-4446-x
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 »
One of the broad challenges in a lot of optical applications involving visible light is simply that most materials aren’t particularly transparent. This is rather obvious, at a glance: materials can be strong absorbers of light, strong reflectors of light, or highly dispersive. Even materials which do not suffer from these problems can still strongly [...]... Read more »
I. M. Vellekoop, & A. P. Mosk. (2008) Universal Optimal Transmission of Light Through Disordered Materials. Physical Review Letters, 101(12). DOI/10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.120601
I thought I’d step out of my comfort zone and specific field of expertise for once and do a post on some interesting quantum optics. In a June issue of Physical Review Letters, an Israeli research group experimentally demonstrated the ability to store and retrieve optical images in an atomic vapor using so-called ‘electromagnetically ... Read more »
M Shuker, O Firstenberg, R Pugatch, A Ron, & N Davidson. (2008) Storing Images in Warm Atomic Vapor. Physical Review Letters, 100(22). DOI/10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.223601
About a week ago, I reported on another ‘teaser’ in the media about ‘optical cloaks’, hypothetical devices which would in principle make objects contained in their core completely invisible. Such devices have gotten a lot of attention, both scientifically and in the press, since the publication of two fascinating theoretical papers in 2006. [...]... Read more »
J Yao, Z Liu, Y Liu, Y Wang, C Sun, G Bartal, A Stacy, & X Zhang. (2008) Optical Negative Refraction in Bulk Metamaterials of Nanowires. Science, 321(5891), 930-930. DOI/10.1126/science.1157566
Jason Valentine, Shuang Zhang, Thomas Zentgraf, Erick Ulin-Avila, Dentcho Genov, Guy Bartal, & Xiang Zhang. (2008) Three-dimensional optical metamaterial with a negative refractive index. Nature. DOI/10.1038/nature07247
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
As I noted a couple of days ago, apparently there has been another significant experimental breakthrough in the development of dielectric cloaking devices. Researchers at UC Berkeley were responsible, though it is a little unclear what exactly the breakthrough is. The results will appear this week in Science and Nature. In the [...]... Read more »
U Leonhardt. (2006) Optical Conformal Mapping. Science, 312(5781), 1777-1780. DOI/10.1126/science.1126493
J Pendry. (2006) Controlling Electromagnetic Fields. Science, 312(5781), 1780-1782. DOI/10.1126/science.1125907
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 »
“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:/
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 »
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
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 ancient Greek antidepressant, Greek fire, an early Byzantine version of napalm, and Roman concrete.
Last week, a tweet by Dr. Rubidium drew my attention to research on another mysterious ancient technology — Damascus steel. Renowned and practically legendary for its strength, flexibility, and ability to retain a sharp edge, Damascus steel was forged into weapons and armor in the Middle East from roughly 300 B.C.E. to 1700 C.E. The precise technique of its forging was lost, but many of the weapons survive. In 2006, researchers at Technische Universität Dresden performed an analysis of a piece of Damascus steel and found that it contains traces of very state of the art modern nanotechnology! Could this be the secret of the steel’s strength?... 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
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 »
Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use ResearchBlogging.org to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.
If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.
Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.
To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.