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Physics

Brain Candy Live!

brain candy stage
What if you put together MythBusters’ Adam Savage with Vsauce’s Michael Stevens and allowed them to play onstage in a darkened room? It would be like candy! Brain candy! Wait a just a minute….

Adam and Michael onstage
Everything about the show was a nerdgasm! From the lights, and the music, to the 3D printers in the lobby printing out what looked like Galactic stormtroopers.

3D printer of stormtrooper
This is exactly what we got to watch tonight downtown at the Majestic Theatre. Adam and Michael brought along some of their toys and tools and let their curious brains unleash some mind-blowing demonstrations as they discussed how to make the invisible visible.

molecule dance
Namely, how can we explore the air around us? Far from boring, their sense of wonder reminded me of a cross between that crazy uncle everyone barely tolerates and that really cool science teacher you remember from middle school. For example, instead of simply describing molecular vibrations as stretching (symmetrical or asymmetrical) and bending (in-plane or out-of-plane), Adam and Michael called on audience volunteers to scissor, wag, twist, and rock their way through the movements. An interpretive dance of chemistry!

ping pong cannon
The grand finale was awesome! Adam and Michael were blasting hundreds of ping pong balls right into the audience!

Adventures In Time And Space 10: Light In Slow Motion

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created an imaging system that allows them to capture light at fast enough speeds to show it traveling in slow motion down the length of a one-liter soda bottle and reflecting back again. The MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, led by Project Director Ramesh Raskar, collaborated with the lab of Moungi Bawendi of the MIT Department of Chemistry, since fast chemical reactions also occur within a similar timescale, that of femtoseconds (one quadrillionth of a second), where atoms within reactant molecules are rearranging themselves to form new product molecules. The team’s system collects visual data at a rate of half a trillion exposures per second.

The new system is called Femto Photography and it consists of illumination bursts from a titanium sapphire laser lasting femtoseconds (1 x 10-15 of a second), image captures from detectors lasting picoseconds (1 x 10-12 of a second), and mathematical reconstruction techniques to put it all together.

The exposure time of each image frame is 2 picoseconds, or two trillionths (2 x 10-12) of a second, and the resultant video shows the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Since it is nearly impossible to capture images at such a fast frame rate, the system uses a stroboscopic method where a laser pulse lasting less than 1 picosecond or one trillionth (1 x 10-12) of a second is used as flash. The returning light is then collected by a camera that records half a trillion frames per second.

However, due to the very short exposure times of 2 picoseconds, millions of repeated measurements need to be collected over several minutes and then rearranged using a reconstruction algorithm to create a video of the event lasting a nanosecond, or one billionth (1 x 10-9) of a second. In a nanosecond, light travels about 30 centimeters or 12 inches, about the length of a one-liter soda bottle. For comparison, the blink of a human eye is about 0.4 second or 400 milliseconds, 400 millionths (400 x 10-3) of a second. Thus, an eye blink is nine orders of magnitude slower than what the imaging system can capture on video.

Beyond educational and artistic purposes, the MIT team hopes to use the new imaging system for research into understanding ultrafast processes, into analyzing industrial faults and material properties, and as a type of medical “ultrasound with light.”

Eminemium (Parody of Choose Yourself)

Tim Blais montage

Tim Blais of A Capella Science Source: YouTube

Eminemium is a parody of Eminem’s Choose Yourself by Tim Blais on his A Capella Science video project. You can watch the video below.

Tim Blais captures the scene of the Manhattan Project on that fateful day, July 16, 1945:

They’ve armed the weapon
Countdown clock is set and
J. Robert Oppenheimer is sweatin’.
Eyes are red and he’s nervous
‘Cause on the surface this is Armageddon.
The shock bomb, but we’re set upon and threatened
And with no sound, the whole Alamogordo ground
Is glowing and cowed under one smoldering cloud.
He’s choked and wowed, everybody’s open-mouthed,
And over the ground the shock front blows, kapow!

Blais is a physics master’s student and musician who resolved the tension between his creative and academic side by allowing these two aspects of himself to work together. His musical creations result from unaltered sounds from his mouth, throat, and vocal cords.

He continues:

Snap back to the alchemy,
Hope before tragedy,
Showed with bold math that we broke the whole atom.
We choked; controlled action with poles of cold cadmium coat
To go capture neutrons and slow fracture
We broke, postponed that and we chose to go fashion
A most radioactive plutonium gadget then
Fat Man and Boy and Enola goes laughin’
As Nagasaki is blown and Hiroshima’s blasted…

The rest of the song is a historical distillation of the Cold War with the admonition “You gotta choose yourself how to use it / The knowledge you hold” because “So here we go, it’s our shot / Feel frail or not / This is the only world and humanity that we got.” Tim Blais manages to take a brilliant work by a brilliant artist and transform it into a clever piece about the social responsibilities of scientific discovery. Brilliant!

If you like him as much as I do, all of Blais’ tracks are available for download at Apple Music.


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Nobel Prize 2013

"Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."

“Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

The 2013 Nobel Prize awards for chemistry, physiology or medicine, and physics were recently announced as they are every year at around this time and posted here.

The Nobel Prize awards were established in 1895 according to the will of Swedish chemist, engineer, and inventor Alfred Nobel and endowed by his estate. Other than the three natural science awards, Alfred also wanted awards for literature and peace. All five Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901. In 1968, Sweden’s central bank established and endowed the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their 300th anniversary. This prize for economics in honor of Alfred Nobel was first awarded the following year.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences grants the prizes for chemistry and physics (and economics), while the Karolinska Institute grants the prize for physiology or medicine.

The Nobel Prize awards are presented in Stockholm, Sweden (except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway) every year on December 10, which is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

The Nobel Prize science medals were designed by Swedish engraver Erik Lindberg in 1902. The Latin inscription on the medals is

Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes

and can be translated as And all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair. The inscription is from Book 6, line 663 of Vergil’s Aeneid:

And poets, of whom the true-inspired song deserved Apollo’s name;
and all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair;
(translation by Theodore C. Williams)

For the chemistry and physics medals, Erik Lindberg chose to show Nature being unveiled by the Genius of Science. For the medal for physiology or medicine, Erik chose to show the Genius of Medicine gathering water to quench the thirst of a sick child.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Chemistry: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded to Université de Strasbourg scientist Martin Karplus, Stanford University School of Medicine scientist Michael Levitt, and University of Southern California at Los Angeles scientist Arieh Warshel for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physiology or Medicine: Genius of Medicine quenching the thirst of the Ill

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Yale University scientist James Rothman, University of California at Berkeley scientist Randy Schekman, and Stanford University scientist Thomas Südhof for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physics: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Université Libre de Bruxelles scientist François Englert and University of Edinburgh scientist Peter Higgs for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Nobel Prize 2012

"Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."

“Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

The 2012 Nobel Prize awards for chemistry, physiology or medicine, and physics were recently announced as they are every year at around this time and posted.

The Nobel Prize awards were established in 1895 according to the will of Swedish chemist, engineer, and inventor Alfred Nobel and endowed by his estate. Other than the three natural science awards, Alfred also wanted awards for literature and peace. All five Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901. In 1968, Sweden’s central bank established and endowed the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their 300th anniversary. This prize for economics in honor of Alfred Nobel was first awarded the following year.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences grants the prizes for chemistry and physics (and economics), while the Karolinska Institute grants the prize for physiology or medicine.

The Nobel Prize awards are presented in Stockholm, Sweden (except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway) every year on December 10, which is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

The Nobel Prize science medals were designed by Swedish engraver Erik Lindberg in 1902. The Latin inscription on the medals is

Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes

and can be translated as And all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair. The inscription is from Book 6, line 663 of Vergil’s Aeneid:

And poets, of whom the true-inspired song deserved Apollo’s name;
and all who found new arts, to make man’s life more blest or fair;
(translation by Theodore C. Williams)

For the chemistry and physics medals, Erik Lindberg chose to show Nature being unveiled by the Genius of Science. For the medal for physiology or medicine, Erik chose to show the Genius of Medicine gathering water to quench the thirst of a sick child.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Chemistry: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded to Duke University Medical Center scientist Robert Lefkowitz and Stanford University School of Medicine scientist Brian Kobilka for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physiology or Medicine: Genius of Medicine quenching the thirst of the Ill

The 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Gurdon Institute scientist Sir John Gurdon and Kyoto University scientist Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

"And all who found new arts, to make man's life more blest or fair"

Physics: Genius of Science unveiling Nature

The 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Collège de France scientist Serge Haroche and National Institute of Standards and Technology scientist David Wineland for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.