Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox To Trademark Their Names

"Stephen Hawking" and "Brian Cox" will be trademark names very soon. So if you have plans to market t-shirts and other products with these people's names, watch out!

Maybe this will get rid of some of the tacky stuff that I've seen associated to them, especially Hawking. But then again, who knows, they may turn around and produce their own tacky merchandise.


A Tale Of Two Scientists

It is fascinating to read about the stuff behind the scene involving the negotiations between the United States and Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program. And in the middle of all this are two scientists/engineers out of MIT with nuclear science background.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-1970s, Ernest J. Moniz was an up-and-coming nuclear scientist in search of tenure, and Ali Akbar Salehi, a brilliant Iranian graduate student, was finishing a dissertation on fast-neutron reactors.

The two did not know each other, but they followed similar paths once they left the campus: Mr. Moniz went on to become one of the nation’s most respected nuclear physicists and is now President Obama’s energy secretary. Mr. Salehi, who was part of the last wave of Iranians to conduct nuclear studies at America’s elite universities, returned to an Iran in revolution and rose to oversee the country’s nuclear program.

You may read more about it in the article. And I definitely agree with this sentiment:

Mr. Moniz, 70, understands his role well: He is providing not only technical expertise but also political cover for Mr. Kerry. If a so-called framework agreement is reached in the next few days, it will be Mr. Moniz who will have to vouch to a suspicious Congress, to Israel and to Arab allies that Iran would be incapable of assembling the raw material for a single nuclear weapon in less than a year.

“It wouldn’t mean much coming from Kerry,” said a member of the administration deeply involved in the strategy who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The theory is that Ernie’s judgment on that matter is unassailable.”

At the heart of this is a scientific/technical issues. Now once presented, it is up to the politicians to decide, because beyond that, it is no longer a science/technical decision, but a political one. To have someone, a negotiator, who is not only knowledgeable in that area, but also who happens to be a world-renowned expert, is extremely beneficial.


Monday, March 23, 2015

This Tennis Act Disproves Physics?!

Since when?!

Why is it that when some "morons" see something that they can't comprehend, they always claim that it violates physics, or can't be explained by physics, as IF they understand physics well-enough to make such judgement? I mean, c'mon!

This is the case here where this writer claims that Novak Djokovic ability to stop the ball coming at him with his racket somehow defy physics and turning it all into "a lie". (

Look, I know this is written probably in jest, and probably without giving it a second thought, but such stupid comments of journalism should really be stopped and called out. There's nothing that can't be explained here by physics. If Djokovic had held the racket with a stiff arm, he would not have been able to stop the ball the way he did. In fact, it would have bounced off the racket. But look at how he stopped it. He moved his arm back to "absorb" the impact, basically allowing the strings to absorb the momentum of the ball. This is called "Impulse", where the force on the ball to change its momentum to zero is spread out over a longer period of time. Thus, the force needed to slow it down is small enough that it doesn't cause it to bounce off the strings.

In other words, what is observed can easily be explained by physics!

BTW, Martina Navratilova had done this same thing a few times while she was an active player. I've witness her doing this at least twice during matches. So it is not as if this is anything new. Not only that, although it is less spectacular and easier to do, badminton players do such a thing numerous times as well when they are trying to catch a shuttlecock.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CERN's ALPHA Experiment

See, I like this. I like to highlight things that most of the general public simply don't know much about, especially when another major facility throws a huge shadow over it.

This article mentions two important things about CERN: It is more than just the LHC, and it highlights another very important experiment, the ALPHA experiment.

ALPHA’s main aim is to study the internal structure of the antihydrogen atom, and see if there exist any discernible differences within it that set it apart from regular hydrogen. In 2010 ALPHA was the first experiment to trap 38 antihydrogen atoms (an antielectron orbiting an antiproton) for about one-fifth of a second and then the team perfected its apparatus and technique to trap a total of 309 antihydrogen atoms for 1000 s in 2011. Hangst hopes that with the new updated ALPHA 2 device (which includes lasers for spectroscopy), the researchers will soon see precisely what lies within an antihydrogen atom by studying its spectrum. They had a very short test run of a few weeks with ALPHA 2 late last year, and will begin their next set of experiment in earnest in the coming months.

They will be producing more amazing results in the future, because this is all uncharted territory. 


Friday, March 13, 2015

Crowdfunding Physics?

I read this article on Symmetry yesterday and started to think of the idea of going directly to the public for funding. It is an intriguing idea, especially since federal funding of the physical science in the US has been declining for the past decade or more. This is especially true for high energy physics, which is the focus of this article.

I look at how much research grants that I had gotten, and they seem to average between $150k to $250k per year, and each of these grants ran for a period of 3 years. The money typically paid for part of my salary, a postdoc, a graduate student, M&S (materials and supplies), and the relevant overheads. In some cases, it is for the purchase of capital equipment.

But this is not a "sexy" area of study that most of the public are enamored with. It is not a search for exotic, godlike particles, or searching for the elusive dark matter/dark energy, or anything remotely front-page news. This is a "workhorse" area of study, where our advances allow other areas to be able to achieve progress in their areas. We do a lot of the behind-the-scene dirty work that seldom get appreciated, but yet, are vital components to progress.

Crowdfunding for something that isn't sexy? Might be improbable.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Detectors at the LHC

Don Lincoln has a video on the 4 detectors at the LHC.

As you watch this, don't miss the fact that these are "... technological marvels..." in themselves, and that high energy physics had to invent and make their own detectors and detection processes to advance the field. Detector and instrumentation physics have always been an integral part of experimental high energy physics, and one often sees students in this field that are actually working on detector physics.

As a consequence, high energy physics drives innovations and new applications that eventually leaks into the rest of the world. This is a point that is often missed by those outside of the field.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

17 Women That Changed Physics

It is always good to remind ourselves of the women who had made a significant contribution to the body of knowledge in physics, many of them are still alive or still actively involved in the field.

Of course, there are many out there not on this list. I would include Deborah Jin, Margaret Murnane, and Mildred Dresselhaus. They could have rounded off the list from 17 to an even 20!


Monday, March 09, 2015

No Violation of Lorentz Invariance In Neutrino Oscillation

The more they test it, the more convincing it becomes.

Another test of the Lorentz invariance has been reported, and this time it is in the neutrino oscillation.

Neutrinos could be a sensitive probe of LV through their oscillation behavior. They are known to oscillate between three flavors (electron, muon, and tau), but Lorentz violations could cause additional oscillations that would modify how the signal depends on neutrino energy and path length (i.e., the distance a neutrino travels between creation and detection). Past searches have failed to find LV oscillations in reactor neutrinos. The Super-Kamiokande experiment—an underground neutrino observatory in Japan—has now reported a characterization of atmospheric neutrinos accessing much greater ranges in neutrino energy and path length than previous tests, giving it greater sensitivity to LV oscillations. The data showed no LV signature, allowing the researchers to place the first-ever limits on LV oscillations between muon and tau neutrinos. For other flavor oscillations, they improve on previous limits by factors of a thousand or more.



For those of you who have been unconscious for the past 5 or 6 years, here is another video explaining the LHC and the latest upgrade that will bring it to a higher energy regime.


Thursday, March 05, 2015

General Relativity Turns 100

The theory of Einstein's General Relativity turns 100 this year. Science is celebrating it with a special set of articles, and a game of quotes that you have to guess if they were attributed to Einstein or not (I scored above average).


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Physics of Crashes

This type of class is an excellent opportunity to teach students physics and traffic safety at the same time.

Teacher Sheryl Cordivari said teaching students about Newton’s laws, inertia and the science behind how seat belts and airbags save lives helps prepare them for problem solving in real life.
“I go over the equations in class … I think this helps show them that what I’m teaching them is not just to make their lives difficult and drive them crazy, but to show them this is real and has a real-life applications,” she said.
Although high speeds can be a factor in many accidents, even crashes at 40 mph are extremely dangerous.

“Driving at 40 miles per hour, does it feel dangerous?” he asked the students. “But would you jump off a five-story building?”
The speeds at impact are similar, he said.
There are a lot of things here that the students can relate to, and that is the best way to teach new things if you want them to sink in. In fact, I know of many adults who could stand to have such lessons as well.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Two Quantum Properties Teleported Simultaneously

People all over the net are going ga-ga over the report on the imaging of the wave-particle behavior of light at the same time. I, on the other hand, am more fascinated by the report that two different quantum properties have been teleported simultaneously for the very first time.

The values of two inherent properties of one photon – its spin and its orbital angular momentum – have been transferred via quantum teleportation onto another photon for the first time by physicists in China. Previous experiments have managed to teleport a single property, but scaling that up to two properties proved to be a difficult task, which has only now been achieved. The team's work is a crucial step forward in improving our understanding of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and the result could also play an important role in the development of quantum communications and quantum computers. 

 See if you can view the actual Nature paper here. I'm not sure how long the free access will last.