Yvonne Carts-Powell

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Nobels Make a Great Year for Light

In beautiful, Science, technology on November 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm

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.


Mariette DiChristina: “Science Is an Engine of Human Prosperity”

In beautiful, Science, writing on August 26, 2014 at 7:01 am

“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.

Students show Wallace and Gromit ‘Wrong Trousers’ are scientifically possible for a short period of time

In hilarious, Science on August 19, 2014 at 7:55 am

In a classic example of physicists at play, students published a paper on the feasibility of the Wrong Trousers from a Wallace & Gromit film of the same name. Turns out that the vacuum generation to hold Wallace to the ceiling? Not so difficult to create.

See the press release: Students show Wallace and Gromit 'Wrong Trousers' are scientifically possible for a short period of time.

Or read the PDF of the journal paper: “It’s the wrong trousers Gromit!” Part 1

Wingtip vortices are a result of the finite length…

In beautiful, Science, technology on August 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

Wingtip vortices are a result of the finite length... | Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

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.

The Great Arctic Melt Animation

In beautiful, Science on July 29, 2014 at 7:12 am

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.

Animation by the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio. See more animations.

About Noise

In hilarious, Science, technology on July 15, 2014 at 7:50 am

Statue wearing headphones

Photo by Noboru, from Morguefile.

I didn’t think noise was all that interesting, but Jonathon Keats at Discover Magazine piqued my interest with 20 Things You Didn't Know About… Noise.

If you wish to make a gene from scratch | Oscillator, Scientific American Blog Network

In beautiful, Science, technology, writing on July 8, 2014 at 7:24 am

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.

Twofer of Summer Food Science: ice cream and hot sauce

In Science on July 1, 2014 at 7:16 am

All Hail July, indisputable summer in the Northern Hemisphere! Around these parts, summer means baseball at Fenway Park, home-grown tomatoes, kayaking, slowing down in the late afternoons for a cool beverage on the patio, and occasionally ice cream for breakfast. What could be better?

A couple years ago, I heard a surprisingly appetizing talk, sponsored by the American Chemical Society, about the foods available at ballgames. (The upshot? I started eating Fenway Franks while rooting for the Red Sox.)

Even if you aren’t a Red Sox fan, you might enjoy the ACS’s Youtube channel, Reactions. And what summer would be complete without ice cream and Sriracha? Take a gander at:
Ice Cream Science
The Chemistry of Sriracha

printable nanolaser

In Science, technology, writing on June 10, 2014 at 7:57 am

The cool thing here is that the researchers at Australia’s Monash University have created a very tiny laser that uses surface plasmons and is made of carbon. That’s pretty neat by itself!

The press release linked below, however, goes a bit farther:
The carbon means that it could, possibly, be made by printing it on flexible substrates, which could, possibly, include clothes. The device might, possibly, be able to replace some or many of the components in a cellphone. Therefore, the press release title claims: Your T-shirt’s ringing: telecommunications in the spaser age.

Why Do I Study Physics? (2013) on Vimeo

In beautiful, Science on May 30, 2014 at 7:26 am

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.

Why Do I Study Physics? (2013) on Vimeo on Vimeo found via A Young Woman Falls In Love With Everything on Krulwich Wonders.

Now. Time to start telling “assume a spherical cow” jokes.

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