Archive for the ‘beautiful’ Category
Wow, what an excellent year for researchers in light, with two Nobel Prizes firmly in the optics regime. In Physics, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura won “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”. Those LED lightbulbs you are starting to see at reasonable prices at Home Depot? The ones that work even more efficiently than Compact Fluorescents (and without the wait to turn on in cold weather, or the ballast’s buzz, or the cold tint)? You can thank Nakamura for those, among other things.
And in Chemistry, Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner all won “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”. In other words, we can now see things the size of molecules, we can see things smaller than half the wavelength of light. (Besides the developments being astonishing and immediately useful, as a journalist I have had a lot of fun watching the horse race between the labs at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and Stanford University.)
The editor of Applied Physics Letters explains a little more about both achievements: Editorial: Nobel Prizes honor ground-breaking innovations in applied science. The journal is also providing free copies of seminal and recent papers by the researchers: papers by the researchers in APL.
“Science is not a set of facts or received wisdom that’s been handed down.It’s a system for innovation and advancement—and humankind’s best invention yet for pursuing the truth and an understanding of how the world works.”
Read more of Scientific American editor Mariette DiChristina’s eloquent defense of science, and basic science funding, presented to the US Congress earlier this summer: Mariette DiChristina: "Science Is an Engine of Human Prosperity" – Scientific American.
Fluid dynamics are complicated and fascinating, but here the emphasis is on how they can also be very very pretty. Take a look at wingtip vortices in a recent post from my favorite obscenely-named tumblr blog Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics: Wingtip vortices.
Hot enough for ya? Check out Popular Science‘s article on how the Arctic ice cover has decreased over the past 30 years, and the questions it raises: The Great Arctic Melt Opens Up A Lot Of Questions.
A longer article hosted at the American Geophysical Union blog goes over the same material but covers topics of particular interest to geophysicists.
I knew it was just a matter of time before the edible holograms story re-appeared in the media! New Scientist reports that Chocolate gets a rainbowy holographic makeover.
I love science journalism. Sometimes I hate it, too. All too often, the public ends up reading a perfect storm of wrong information that occurs when science writers use imperfect analogies to get their point across (as article wordcounts shrink from multikiloword features to mere Tweets) and/or journalists untrained in science cover stories without sufficient background to understand the topic (or even ask appropriate questions). Remember when the Internet was a series of tubes invented by Al Gore? This year, it’s synthetic biology’s turn in the barrel of abuse.
Christina Agapakis, over at the Scientific American blog Oscillator, tries to undo some of the damage by explaining how “designing a gene with synthetic biology” is really not like writing a software program, despite an article published by the New York Times. It’s a good read: If you wish to make a gene from scratch.
Watch this animated video by Xiangjun Shi! It articulates a lot of the things I love about physics, the beauty of mathematical abstractions and the complexity of the universe and the search for truth. As soon as I saw it, I sent it off to my best friend from college (who was also a physics major) and my college advisor.
Now. Time to start telling “assume a spherical cow” jokes.