Archive for August, 2012

A Cure for the Monday Blues

A little doggy slapstick, complete with a really funny elastic collision, followed by more conservation of momentum exercises.

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Either a Prank or a Comment on My Long-Term Memory

So I got back from my vacation last week to find this: my office had been labeled to within an inch of its life with blue sticky notes.

And not without some geeky physics humor

All this means is a little “me” time in my hollowed-out volcano lair, as I plot my revenge…

Nature, Dissin' the Maser

Microwave laser fulfills 60 years of promise

Because of this [low power] impediment, most in the field gave up on masers and moved on to lasers, which use the same principles of physics, but work with optical light instead of microwaves. Lasers are now used in applications ranging from eye surgery to CD players.

The poor maser lived on in obscurity. It found only a few niche uses, such as boosting radio signals from distant spacecraft — including NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Those masers work only when cooled to less than ten degrees above absolute zero, and even then they are not nearly as powerful as lasers.

To paraphrase Ray “Bones” Barboni, this is the exact frikkin’ thing I needed. A little pique after a blogcation to get the blood going again. And to quote Jules Winnfield, “Well, allow me to retort.”

First of all, “microwave laser” is just … wrong. The maser came first, so popularity aside, you don’t just ignore the history. That’s like touting a cover song while ignoring the songwriter who first recorded it. Blasphemy.

Second, and more importantly, the “first practical maser”? The mind boggles. Well, my mind does, anyway. Hydrogen masers have been the best atomic clocks at time scales out to a day or so for quite a while, and even with the advent of laser-cooled atomic clocks in the past decade, they only surpass masers after about a day of integration. (This is why the even more advanced optical clocks you read about every few months cannot be called better, in some sense — they don’t yet run long enough to make a significant contribution to timekeeping). You can make the argument that the world’s timekeeping, backbone for GPS and other timing-dependent technologies is living in obscurity, but I can’t see how that isn’t practical.

The Tim Allen School of Culinary Arts

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Olympic Dioramas

Tilt-Shift Photography From The London 2012 Summer Olympics

Several photographers at the London 2012 Summer Olympics captured events in tilt-shift, a photography trick that makes the subjects look like miniatures.

AKA the 'Yoko Ono' Effect

Polarized Beetle 1
Polarized Beetle 2

The beetle reflects circularly polarized light. A filter in front of the camera lens blocks that polarization, but the light reflecting from the mirror flips polarization and passes through the filter.

Don't Bother Me With the Details

Such as the definition of theory in a scientific context.


ACT, the state’s testing company, interviews professors to figure out the things most important to student readiness for college, which sounds like a smart thing to do. Unfortunately, those professors have bad news: If you want students to do well in biology classes, they have to know about evolution.

I’m not sure how the Kentucky politicians equated not teaching evolution with better critical thinking skills, but I’m not surprised they don’t see the problem.

I'd Hate Love to Burst Your Bubble

Iridient: Bursting Soap Bubbles

Captured with High Speed Flash Units, the images show soap bubbles in the moment of bursting.

Alby Bach

On vacation, and not doing all that much on the web. Be back in a bit.

Boson Betting

After Particle Search, Some Wallets May Lose Mass

[The Higgs discovery] prompted a worldwide settling of scores as physicists — inveterate gamblers — examine the data to decide whether it is time to pay up on longstanding bets about the existence of the boson, which has been the object of a 40-year manhunt.

I’m not sure inveterate gambler is correct. This is more like betting on the Super Bowl or the NCAA basketball tournament, on which casual bets are made (or so I hear). I’ve heard stories of how Vegas is more hesitant than other cities to host physics conferences because physicists don’t gamble as much — we know a bit about probability and tend to understand the gambler’s fallacy, and spend time scribbling on napkins talking shop than going to the casino, more so than the typical conference attendee.

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