A Conjuror Makes a Great Companion

Why Magicians Are a Scientist’s Best Friend

[I]t is long overdue that my peers in the conjuring profession try to take a more active role in the elimination of nonsense science by joining forces with scientists, and that scientists be open to the proposition.

Please bear with me while I offer you a peek behind the curtain, a cursory glance at what we magicians are — and aren’t. First, we’re entertainers, actors, showbiz people who have as our primary objective the delight of our audiences. We’re deceivers, yes, taking on roles and characters to express our art, just as any actor does.

Follow That Law!

Justices Back Mayo Clinic Argument on Patents

In his opinion for the court in the case, Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, No. 10-1150, Justice Breyer started with first principles.

“Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E = mc2[sic]; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity,” he wrote.

In general, Justice Breyer wrote, an inventor must do more than “recite a law of nature and then add the instruction ‘apply the law.’ ”

“Einstein, we assume, could not have patented his famous law by claiming a process consisting of simply telling linear accelerator operators to refer to the law to determine how much energy an amount of mass has produced (or vice versa),” he wrote.

I wonder if some savvy lawyer would interpret the specific mention of linear accelerators to mean that cyclotrons are to be treated differently…

It Doesn't Take a Physicist to Correct a Physics Mistake

Comparing Temperatures

An article claimed — in its headline — that a ~5ºC (~10ºF) increase in temperature was an increase of 18.7 percent, by calculating using the relative temperature scale. Which is wrong, of course; e.g. 2ºC does not represent twice as much thermal energy as 1ºC. The site has since made a correction.

If you really want to do a percentage based comparison, you need to convert to an absolute temperature scale like Kelvin, which shows you that it’s actually a 1.8 percent increase in temperature (306.75 / 301.45). This is middle school science.

Sadly, I don’t think that this is generally taught in middle school. Or possibly even high school, except to a few students.

The Ol' Switcheroo

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The bit about how the speed of light being constant was established before Einstein was born refers to Maxwell’s equations, according to which electromagnetic radiation has to travel at the same speed in all frames. Physicists eventually realized the light and EM waves were the same thing. This is something that isn’t always stressed in the teaching of the development of relativity, and one might get the impression that the postulate of c being invariant was just a guess.

Good Morning, Moon

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From year to year, the moon never seems to change. Craters and other formations appear to be permanent now, but the moon didn’t always look like this. Thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we now have a better look at some of the moon’s history.

Is It Hot in Here, or is it Just the Army?

US military unveils non-lethal heat ray weapon

On-demand hot-flashes. The menopausotron unveiled!

The technology has attracted safety concerns possibly because the beam is often confused with the microwaves commonly used by consumers to rapidly heat food.

“There are a lot of misperceptions out there,” lamented Taffola, saying the Pentagon was keen to make clear what the weapon is, and what it is not.

The frequency of the blast makes all the difference for actual injury as opposed to extreme discomfort, stressed Stephanie Miller, who measured the system’s radio frequency bioeffects at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The system ray is 95 gigahertz, a frequency “absorbed very superficially,” said Miller.

The beam only goes 1/64th of an inch (0.4 millimeter), which “gives a lot more safety.”

In other words, the heating is all at the surface, not in the interior, so it cooks your skin, not your internal organs. It’s not a direct quote, but one might get the impression that the message is “it’s not microwave, it’s radio-frequency” and playing on the notion that radios are harmless. But AM and FM radio bands are at around 1 MHz and 100 MHz, respectively. However, ~ 1 GHz from microwave ovens is microwave, so 95 GHz is well into the microwave band of the spectrum.