Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Explosive Beer Trick Explained

If you were ever half-drunk at a bar and started to wonder the physics of that explosive beer trick, now your curiosity can be set to rest.

But of course, no funding agency will pay for someone to study the neat tricks one can do with beer. So there is a more "useful" consequence to this.

Explaining this phenomenon may make you the life of your next party, but Rodriguez-Rodriguez and his colleagues studied beer in order to understand bigger-picture gaseous eruptions. One example is the Lake Nyos disaster in Cameroon. Volcanic activity under this lake dissolves carbon dioxide in the water. In 1986, the lake rapidly degassed a large amount of carbon dioxide all at once, suffocating 1,700 people and thousands more livestock. This rapid degassing event, possibly caused by a landslide, could share similar physics with an erupting beer bottle.

Like I've already said many time, a lot of things are inter-related.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Update on Feynman Lectures On Physics

I posted earlier on the availability of Feynman Lectures on Physics on the web. Mike Gottlieb just posted an update on Vol 2 and 3 of the text on Physics Forums.

Since the release of the free online edition of FLP Vol. I in September many people have written to ask whether we will publish the other two volumes of FLP online. Many have also asked whether we intend to publish PDF editions of FLP that can be read offline. In fact we originally planned to publish all three volumes online when our PDF editions became available, so we could use the release of the online edition to promote sales of the PDFs, which help support our activities. However, that plan didn't materialize for two reasons: (1) the people hired to do the LaTeX->HTML conversion only completed Vol. I, and (2) our publisher had some technical problems that delayed the publication of our PDF editions.

Today I am writing to inform you that I have been working on the conversion of FLP Vols. II and III into HTML, and I finished Volume III yesterday, so I have just published it. Please check it out at The Feynman Lectures Website or at the Feynman Lectures Mirror at Caltech. You may notice some new behavior in the floating menu's navigational controls, which now function as follows when the floating menu appears over a Volume's Table of Contents: the next/last buttons cycle through the tables of contents of the three volumes, and the "up" button takes you to the home page of the edition. (When the floating menu appears over a chapter, the navigational controls function as before: "next/last" cycle through the chapters of the volume and "up" takes you to the table of contents.)

I also wish to inform you that our PDF editions have (finally!) appeared for sale online; you can now find them listed by our other publications, with links to retailers, on The Feynman Lectures Website Buy page. Please note that while sales of the printed books benefit Caltech and Basic Books, only sales of electronic editions benefit 'The eFLP Group' (myself and Rudolf Pfeiffer), creators of the New Millennium Edition's LaTeX manuscript, who bring you the free online edition of FLP. So, if you want to help support our efforts, please buy the PDFs!

Finally, I want to give you a "heads up" to check out the Books & Arts section in the upcoming December 5th edition of Nature (International weekly journal of science), where there will be a very nice two-page spread about The Feynman Lectures on Physics written by Rob Phillips (Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology at Caltech).

I hope you enjoy FLP Vol. III. It is my personal favorite of the three volumes! [Regarding Volume II: 10 (out of 52) chapters remain to be converted to HTML. I'm working on it as time permits, and am not sure how long it will take to finish -- hopefully not too long.]

Best regards,
Mike Gottlieb
Editor, The Feynman Lectures on Physics New Millennium Edition

P.S. Caveat Reader: In converting a book as long and complex as FLP from one format to another, inadvertent errors are inevitably introduced. Moreover, you are most likely reading the online edition on a platform I don't have (since I only have three: an iPad, a PC and a Mac) so you may see things I don't. If you see anything that looks wrong in the online edition -- suspicious-looking text or equations, broken links, or other errata -- we would greatly appreciate it if you would push the "contact us" button on the floating menu, and inform us of the problem. (For this free online edition, we could not afford to hire proofreaders. So, you get to be the proofreaders ;->! Thanks.
There you go!


Friday, November 22, 2013

IceCube Is Operational

The huge neutrino detector located at the South Pole has produced its first result of possible detection of extraterrestrial neutrinos.

The $275m US-led IceCube telescope, located at the Amundsen–Scott research centre at the South Pole, comprises 86 cables, each up to 2.5 km long, suspended inside vertical holes in the ice. Attached to each cable are dozens of photomultiplier tubes. The photomultipliers record the Cerenkov radiation given off by the secondary particles created when incoming neutrinos collide with hydrogen or oxygen nuclei inside the ice.

The result was published in this week's issue of Science (Vol. 342, p. 920(2013)).


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fermilab Physics Slam 2013

For pure entertainment purposes, I suppose this works. But for educational purposes, I don't know how effective it is. Does one actually learn physics with something like this? What exactly did one learn? I guess if you're tired of really learning, this is a good diversion.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

More "Anti-Gravity Hill"

This is the year 2013, am I right? I'm right. Yes, of course I am. For a while there, I thought I was in 2008. I'll explain why in a few moments.

This is another example why something that has been debunked many years ago, keep coming back. It is as if these people who kept making these stupid commentaries never seem to actually learned why what they say is bogus. The reason being that there is always new, knowledgeable people who will continue to buy such garbage.

This article, out of Forbes website, highlight the incredulous claim made by TV program called "European Journal" about a spot somewhere in Poland where things seem to be rolling uphill on their own.

There are places where people have observed seemingly supernatural phenomena for centuries: wandering rocks in deserts, for example, or permanent lightning storms. Scientists are often at a loss for an explanation, and that’s also true for a place in Poland, where our reporter has also discovered a fascinating phenomenon.
That Forbes article also has a link to the video on the "European Journal" site.

Now, does this sound familiar? If you've been reading this blog since 2008 (and I sincerely thank you if you have!), then you would have remembered a similar blog entry that I made on a similar topic.

So, to what extent did the reporters from European Journal actually did an actual survey of the terrain of the place beyond just looking at it with human eyes? Are they not aware of how much our eyes can succumb to optical illusions? Is this news to them?


Monday, November 18, 2013

Quantum Cheshire Cat

.. and you thought the quantum Schrodinger Cat was already giving you nightmares!

Yakir Aharonov and colleagues have proposed a rather provocative experiment which has been dubbed the quantum Cheshire cat. The Physics World review of this paper has a rather interesting description of this proposal.

In the latest work, Aharonov has teamed up with Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol, Daniel Rohrlich of Ben Gurion University and Paul Skrzypczyk, then at Cambridge University. The group has devised an experiment, which it says can be implemented with current technology, in which individual horizontally polarized photons pass through a beamsplitter and then traverse a series of optical devices before being registered in one of three detectors. When leaving the beamsplitter, each photon is in some kind of superposition of two different paths that it can take to reach the other devices, the two paths representing the two arms of an interferometer.

The devices are chosen and arranged so that the first of the detectors only clicks when the photon is in a specific superposition state, and it is this state that is post-selected. The researchers then consider what happens to the photon – the Cheshire cat – and its polarization – the grin – in that post-selected state. They find that while any photon detector would reveal the photon to always travel along the left-hand arm, a polarization detector would occasionally measure angular momentum in the right-hand one. "We seem to see what Alice saw," the researchers write, "a grin without a cat!"

 The researchers point out that this analysis falls down because it relies on the two kinds of detector being used at different times, and that if they were to be used simultaneously, the detectors would always show the photon and its polarization together in the same arm. But Aharonov and colleagues argue that they can "regain the paradox" by carrying out what are known as "weak measurements", which do not provide definitive values of particle parameters but do have the virtue of not completely destroying a particle's quantum state, as usually happens during the measurement process.

You can read the entire review, or the actual paper, from the links given above. Note that there are experts who still have questions about what is being measured in this scheme.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Physics Applications and Physicists Producing Useful Products

Physics and Physicists do not produce anything of worthwhile application, you say?

Measuring the level of liquid inside a metal vessel or pipe is a huge process challenge for the petrochemical industry. Tracerco's LevelFinderPlus uses a gamma radiation source and segmented detector to accurately determine the liquid level in a vessel and the amount of other material that may have built up within the container. Andrew Hurst explains how the company's physicists addressed the challenge.

The accurate measurement of wind speeds is critical for effective siting of wind farms. The ZephIR lidar calculates wind speed and direction by projecting a laser into the air and detecting the Doppler-shifted backscatter from tiny particles and dust in the atmosphere. The process is explained here by their team of scientists.


5 Reasons Physics Is Still Interesting

I suppose this article was in response to the widely-published news article about Hawking's disappointment at the discovery of the Higgs. He argued that physics would have been a lot more interesting had we NOT found the Higgs.

Well laa dee daa!

This article tries to debunk that by pointing out five current interesting topic in physics. They may not be of much interest to Hawking, but they certainly are a lot of interest to a lot of people.

I don't know whether this is a backhanded compliment or not, but for someone who is a "bioinformatician", this is well-covered, especially the insight to include magnetism/superconductivity in the list, something that many people often overlook.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Still No Electric Dipole Moment For Electron

I would prefer to comment on something like this once it has been properly published, but this has been in the news media for the past couple of days. And since I've already highlighted an earlier result on this, I might as well mention it here.

A while back, a study to find the electric dipole moment of the electron didn't find any. This result is consistent with the Standard Model picture of the electron being a symmetric, point particle with no internal structure. Now along comes a study that tries to measure this property again with even greater accuracy, and they still found nothing.

The Standard Model of particle physics, which describes all the known particles in the universe, predicts a practically zero electric dipole moment for the electron. Yet theories that include additional, yet-to-be-detected particles predict a much larger dipole moment. Physicists have been searching for this dipole moment for 50 years. Now a group called the ACME collaboration, led by David DeMille of Yale University and John Doyle and Gerald Gabrielse of Harvard University, has performed a test 10 times more sensitive than previous experiments, and still found no signs of an electric dipole moment in the electron. The electron appears to be spherical to within 0.00000000000000000000000000001 centimeter, according to ACME’s results, which were posted on the preprint site arXiv. “It’s a surprise,” says Ed Hinds, also of Imperial College London, who worked with Hudson on the previous best limit, set in 2011. “Why on Earth is it still zero?”
Of course, this new result is another blow to some classes of Supersymmetry, as if that theory isn't in trouble already from what we have (or didn't have) out of the LHC.

The new result deals a significant blow to many new physics theories, most notably supersymmetry, a favored idea that suggests each known particle in the universe has a supersymmetric twin particle that has yet to be discovered. “Supersymmetry is so elegant and somehow feels so natural that many people were starting to believe it was right,” Hinds says. But if they exist, all these twin particles should arise as virtual phantoms in the cloud around electrons, giving it a measurable electric dipole moment. The lack of one so far backs supersymmetry into a pretty tight corner. “It’s getting close to the point where it’s make or break for supersymmetry,” Hudson says. Although some basic models of the theory have been ruled out by the latest measurement, more complex models predict a small electric dipole moment that could be hiding in the range physicists have yet to search. “You can endlessly make models of supersymmetry,” says Eugene Commins, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the last search for the dipole moment in atoms. “A good theorist can invent a model in half an hour, and it takes an experimentalist 20 years to kill it.”
I'll try to update this post with the proper citation when this gets published.


Meet Tyronne, the T-Rex

Hey everyone! Meet the newest member of my family. His name is Tyronne, and he is a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I adopted him during the recent Donors Night at the Chicago's Field Museum. I have all the adoption papers and everything. He's a lovable guy, despite his bouts of temper where he will try to eat everything in front of him. Still, unlike newborn babies, this one came with clear instruction of his care and feeding:

Diet: Plenty of meat. Please keep away from small pets.
Habitat: The bigger the better. T.rex can grow as large as 40.5 feet long and 13 feet tall.

Exercise: Twice da day. Needs room to run.

Hygiene: Please brush teeth once a week. It has 58 of them and some can be as large as 6 inches.

One of his papers recommend that I take a photo of him when I bring him to interesting places. Of course, being an accelerator physicist, I had to take him a particle accelerator. So here's Tyronne admiring shinny accelerator beamline. I had to keep him in his cage all the time, for obvious reasons.

I think he wished he could hop on one of the accelerated beams and propelled himself to faster than the speed of light to travel back in time and back to the Upper Cretaceous period. Oh well, he has yet to fully settle in with me, I suppose.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Real World Applications of Quantum Physics Is NOT That Unusual!

This news article is publicizing an upcoming seminar by Nobel Laureate Serge Haroche. The topic will be quantum physics and its application. However, the way the news is presented, it sounds as if applications of quantum physics is few and far in between, and many are yet to come.

In a talk open to the general public, Prof Haroche will speak about how research in quantum physics will open the way to new technologies that can exploit the strange logic of the quantum world to build more powerful and faster computers, create better satellite-based navigation or more sensitive systems for predicting earthquakes.
The real-world applications of quantum physics can be seen today in lasers, energy harvesters which convert heat into electricity, ultra-precise clocks for calculating trajectories of spacecraft and unbreakable cryptography.

That list of "real-world applications" that are in used today are too exotic! It makes it sound as if QM's applications are not as prevalent, when they are! All of our modern electronics are based on QM. Your iPad, iPhone, medical devices and diagnostics, etc... anything that makes use of microelectronics are essentially applications of QM.

Quantum mechanics: We're Everywhere!


Cloaking Makes Object MORE Visible?

Well, this doesn't have quite the intended result, does it?

A new report has suggested that the various cloaking schemes that have been published so far might actually scatter more EM radiation when integrated over the range of frequencies outside of the cloaking frequency, thus making the object more visible.

According to Andrea Alù and his colleague Francesco Monticone of the University of Texas at Austin, most cloaking techniques used today, including popular ones such as transformation cloaks and plasmonic cloaks, are fundamentally limited by causality and passivity to actually scatter more than the uncloaked object, if you integrate over the entire spectrum, instead of looking at just the wavelength being cloaked. "This means that if you excite the cloak with a pulse, you would actually see it more easily than the uncloaked object it is trying to hide," says Alù. The researchers go on to explain that, apart from the scientific significance of solving the scattering problem, it is equally important for a variety of situations – from warfare to commercial uses – where it is essential that a cloaked object at a given frequency does not become a beacon in a range of the other frequencies.

The authors presented a few suggestions on how to reduce the amount of scattered light. I'm not sure how effect, and more importantly, how realistic those suggestions are based on how these devices are intended to be used.

The paper is published in PRX, which should give you open access to the paper.


Friday, November 08, 2013

The Discovery of Mendelevium

If nothing else, this is historically fascinating just because the video actually exists. Here is the blurb from the YouTube page:

A reel of black & white film shot nearly 60 years ago has surfaced at Berkeley Lab, depicting the discovery of Mendelevium — or Element 101 — as reenacted by some of the legendary scientists who did the actual work at that time. Since the 1940s, Berkeley Lab scientists were locked in a race to synthesize new elements, and more often than not, they came out winners. Sixteen elements, most of them in the actinide series at the bottom of the periodic table, were discovered and synthesized by its researchers.

Retired Berkeley Lab physicist Claude Lyneis found the reel in a box of dusty and deteriorating films slated for disposal. Using digital editing skills he acquired to make videos of his son's lacrosse team, Lyneis has produced and narrated an excerpt of this nearly-lost footage. It is an entertaining and informative look at the pioneering physics performed at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's hillside campus. Get the full story here: http://today.lbl.gov/60-year-old-film...


The Ultimate Building Blocks of Matter?

In case you are not familiar with the Standard Model of elementary particles, here's a brief crash course.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Physics Of Urine Splashback

Oh, I kid you not, dear readers!

First of all, I'm sure you can guess that this isn't just something trivial with no applications elsewhere. But still, it is rather amusing that there is an active research on the problem of urine splashback.

If you don't know what it is, or maybe this is not a problem you normally have (especially if you have a different anatomy than a man), let me explain. It is the splashing that occurs when a thin stream of water hits a water surface. OK, sounds familiar? Good!

So what's the problem, you ask?

"In response to harsh and repeated criticisms from our mothers and several failed relationships with women, we present the splash dynamics of a simulated human male urine stream," reads their conference abstract.

One might think the physics of aiming urination had already been summarised by the formula: "get it all in the bowl". But micturation is still a messier business than it needs to be, according to the research.

Taking measurements live "in the field" did not appeal to the scientists, so the duo built a urination simulator. The "Water Angle Navigation Guide" is a five-gallon bucket with hoses connected to two types of synthetic urethra.

OK, that's just way to hysterical. And oh, there's a video in the link above to show you the dynamics.

So, is anyone here going to attend the APS meeting where this will be presented? I would appreciate someone reporting back.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

"Theoretical physics – like sex, but with no need to experiment"

I'm not a theorist, and I don't play one on the internet either. Still, I had a few chuckles reading this article. It certainly presents a case justify the pursuit of theoretical physics.

Certainly, theoretical physics is what makes the rest of our work in physics not simply "stamp collecting", to quote Rutherford. It is also interesting for me to observe that many young, new students who are interested in physics tend to gravitate towards theoretical physics AND particle physics, i.e. the 'sexy' aspect of physics that are getting a lot of media coverage. It is only later on in their pursuit to be a physics major that "reality" hits them and they discover not only the experimental aspect of physics, but also other topics and fields in physics. And we must also not forget the "employment" picture.

Of course, those are not within the scope of the article that I cited. I suppose that if you are already employed as a theoretician, then certainly the general public should be aware of what you do and why it should be supported (I support it). But if you're not, it is going to be a tough nut to crack, especially in this climate of budget cuts.


How Particle Physics Can Save Your Life

This Symmetry article highlights all the "side effects" of particle/high energy physics, and how we are benefiting from it.

You'll notice that I've mentioned similar items listed in the article in here and here. So these should be too much of a big news if you've followed this blog for a while. I just think that, in this article, they are lumping accelerator physics and particle physics to be the same thing, which in this day and age, they aren't anymore. Accelerator physics is a separate branch of physics than particle/high energy physics, even though their lives are certainly closely intertwined in some cases. But still, let's be clear that the majority of particle accelerators in the world have nothing to do with particle physics.

The one clear area where particle physics greatly impact our lives is in the detector business, as I've mentioned in my blog entry above. This is where the need of high energy physics experiments directly results in the advancement in detector physics. This then trickle down to other sector of our economy, including medical devices.

Still, this article is a good read if you are not aware of it already.


Friday, November 01, 2013

"The Higgs and all that. How the universe works and why we should care"

A rather elementary-level lecture that I would imagine many people can comprehend. And yes, I know that there has been a lot of videos and resources on this topic, but I keep getting the same question over and over again. So I'm going to post over and over again the same stuff that have been newly-produced on this topic.