The summer I turned 5, my mom came home from a walk along the bike path, by the Hocking River, and told me to come with her with a big jar. She had found some monarch caterpillars in the milkweed by the river, and we brought one home. I dutifully fed it milkweed, and couldn’t tear my eyes off it when it built its crysallis.
We have a Polaroid photo of me, with my explosion of little girl hair, with this monarch butterfly resting on my forehead. Its name was Monarchie (mon-ARK-ee). We of course let it go; I always wondered if it made it down to Mexico. So this video is really special to me.
University of Chicago physicists have succeeding in creating a vortex knot—a feat akin to tying a smoke ring into a knot. Linked and knotted vortex loops have existed in theory for more than a century, but creating them in the laboratory had previously eluded scientists.
Why sand dunes sound so cool. If you’ve ever stood in the valley of a sand dune while the wind picks up, you may have heard a haunting buzz whipping through the desert air. Scientists have been perplexed by the quality of these sounds, but a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters presents a possible answer. The size of the individual grains of sand in a dune could be responsible for shaping these songs. The researchers behind the findings studied sand from Morocco, comparing samples from various dunes, some of which sang a consistent G-sharp (105 Hz) and others which oscillated between F-sharp and D (90 Hz to 150 Hz). The form of the sand grains was found to be the operative variable in why they sounded different. [ScienceNow]
I can’t stop thinking about this. As a lifelong student of Homer and a longtime lover of science, languages and culture, this blew my mind like it hasn’t been blown in what feels like years. Absolutely incredible!
What is the color of honey, and “faces pale with fear”? If you’re Homer—one of the most influential poets in human history—that color is green. And the sea is “wine-dark,” just like oxen…though sheep are violet. Which all sounds…well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue!
Supposedly Gladstone’s chapter on colors in Homer is available here; I will have to take a look at it, because wow.
Blue waves produced by bioluminescent phytoplankton: Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives, Florida Everglades, and Lakshadweep Islands off India.
Phosphorics: Developed by Lusitanian chemical engineer Rhetogenes after observing bioluminescent phytoplankton on the beach northwest of Olisipo. Installed in the Londinium Pallas to accommodate concerns about the exhibition’s electrical grid. Phosphorics rely on alternative energy sources (often solar) to provide light, operating independently of generator systems. Though not widely touted to the public, given the high cost of production, they were repeatedly lauded to certain investors, even in conversations unrelated to Rigantona’s Circe device.
Not so secret confession: I love artistic renderings of prehistoric science. Dioramas of Ordovician ocean floors? Kryptonite! So when it comes out that there’s a 300 million-year-old preserved forest in Inner Mongolia, I get super excited. Science!
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997, Chinese-born American physicist, whose nicknames included the “First Lady of Physics”, “Chinese Marie Curie,” and “Madame Wu”) came up with a truly beautiful experiment to test whether the weak force conserves parity (whether beta decay would be the same if reflected in the mirror). In my print on the left I show Mme. Wu in her lab and a schematic diagram in the box of her beautiful experiment in the box. On the right I show her reflection, as in the mirror, and in the box I show the mirror reflection of the experimental set-up and the shocking result, that the reaction is not the mirror opposite. The print is in an edition of 10 printed on ivory Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, 12.3 inches by 12.5 inches (31.2 cm by 31.8 cm).
In 1956, theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang suggested that perhaps the weak force might not be the same ‘through the looking-glass’. The idea that the “Law of Conservation of Parity” might be broken was hard to believe. The laws of physics are the same in the mirror for anything else. Face a friend, as in the mirror. If you drop a pencil from your right hand, and your friend mirrors you and drops a pencil with his or her left, the pencils will fall at the same rate. This is because Parity is conserved by the force of gravity - as it is with the electromagnetic force and even the strong (nuclear) force within atomic nuclei. Lee and Yang pointed out that no one had checked to make sure that the weak force, which controls beta decay in radioactive materials, also conserves parity. Lee convinced the brilliant experimentalist to test this.
Madame Wu did a subtle and technically difficult experiment will her collaborators which is shown schematically in the print. She took Cobalt-60 (shown as the cobalt blue sphere in the box), which is radioactive. Its neutrons spontaneously give off electrons and become protons. The electrons are the tiny blue dots. On the left, we see that the Cobalt-60 in an electromagnet (a wire wrapped metal horseshoe with a source of power). Because of the spiral-wrap of the wire, we know that the North pole of the magnet will be on the bottom (you can figure this out by mimicking the curl of the wire with the fingers of your right hand and look at the direction your thumb points). It turns out that the emitted electrons are given off preferentially towards the North pole.
Next, she reversed the set-up as in the mirror. On the right you see the horseshoe and wire spiral reflected. If you use your right hand to check the direction of the magnet field, you’ll see that it is the opposite way; the North pole is now on the top. It turns out that the electrons are preferentially emitted upwards toward the North pole. Thus, beta decay IS NOT the same in the mirror! Madame Wu showed that a “Law” of physics did not hold! This result was staggering and shocked the physics world. Lee and Yang won the Nobel prize for their theoretical work. Many physicists thought Mme. Wu should have been included in this win.