Sunday, 25 September 2022

muography (10. 168)

BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh, contributing correspondent for the Financial Times, introduces use to the physics of the elementary particle called the muon (ฮผ), how like the more elusive and slippery neutrino penetrates temple and turnpike alike (and even volcanos or exploring ruins) and gives civil engineers a new inspection tool to assess the internal state of infrastructure, a sort of structural x-ray, to help triage, prioritise repair and upgrades and identify imminent failures. 

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

7x7 (10. 098)

nerva i: scrapped space programme with nuclear rockets aimed at a crewed Mars mission  

der anschlag: Anglophone retitling of foreign films—see previously  

xenobots: reframing how we think of epigenetics and gene maps–see also

superposition: a handwashing guide posted in a physics laboratory lavatory–see previously

extended orthography: facilitating digital communication in First Nations’ syllabics—see also  

yฤntรกi delenda est: more Chinglish roundups  

artemis i: the inaugural mission to return the Moon—previously

tube alloys (10. 097)

Commencing before the Manhattan Project (which ultimately subsumed their efforts) and with the intentionally misleading codename, the joint United Kingdom and Canadian programme to develop nuclear weapons was approved in secret by Winston Churchill on this day in 1941—the first national leader to do so—the scientific consensus acknowledging the potential explosiveness of nuclear fission and the “atom bomb” was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination thanks to the 1913 novel by H G Wells, The World Set Free. Researchers working on Tube Alloys made the crucial discovery that just a few kilogrammes (rather than a quantity of several tonnes) of uranium isotope was sufficient to sustain the chain-reaction and propelled the race for armaments. The preceding working group, the MAUD committee, formed to study the feasibility of making a nuclear weapon and nuclear-generated power, was named after a strange last line in a telegram from Niels Bohr to Otto Robert Frisch (credited with discovery of fission along with Lise Meitner) then working at the University of Birmingham just after the Nazi invasion of Denmark, “Tell Cockcroft and Maud Ray Kent.” The recipient believed it might have been a coded message regarding the imminent development of atomic weapons—an anagram for “radyum taken.” Although it turned out that the physicist was wanting to get in touch with his housekeeper, Maud Ray from Kent, the enigmatic name stuck. Subsequent transatlantic cooperation and pooling of resources forged the Special Relationship (often tested and contentious) between the UK and the US.

Monday, 11 July 2022

avogadro’s number

First outlined in his treatise on the molecular content of gases published on this day in 1811, Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, Count of Quaregna and Cerreto, posited that the volume of a gas—at a given temperature and pressure—is proportional to the number of atoms or molecules in that volume whatever the kind of gas. The law or value named in his honour was first presented in a public forum by fellow scientist Stanislao Cannizzaro at the Karlsruhe Congress on Atomic Weights, four years after Avogadro’s death—with later developments and refinements from Josef Loschimdt and Jean Baptiste Jean Perrin. Defined initially as the number of molecules in sixteen grams of oxygen (the molar mass, SI unit the Mole from the German Molekรผl as a measure of substance, a count of particles), corresponding to the inverse of its relative atomic mass, and derives the constant N = 6,022 140 76 × 1023. This led to insights in fluid dynamics, ideal gases and the concept of absolute zero in terms of temperature and atomic excitement.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

8x8

can i pet your dog: a short-lived 1971 talk show, The Pet Set, hosted by Betty White  

particle zoo 2.0: revved up Large Hadron Collider discovers three new exotic quark-pairings—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

plastic mero: artwork installed on a beach in Funchal crafted on salvaged ocean waste speaks to the plight of the Atlantic goliath grouper and fellow fish 

onomatopoeia: a collection of nonsense words invented by bird-watchers to convey calls and songs 

gol gumbaz: a resplendent seventeenth century mausoleum in Bijapur is called the Taj Mahal of Southern India  

denton, denton you’ve got no pretension: a photoessay of the Texas city in the 1970s  

gravitational waltz: tracing the orbits of stars near super-massive black hole Sgr A* (previously)  

golden girls 3033: BoJack Horseman director Mike Hollingsworth creates an animated pilot using splices of original dialogue

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

cosmic call

The latter of two sets of interstellar radio missives were beamed out to the Cosmos on this day in 2003 from the RT-70 (Radio Telescope with an aerial antenna with a seventy metre diameter and former Soviet Centre for Deep Space Communications) located in Yevpatoria, Crimea. This iteration and the first message sent in 1999 follow the same bitmap structure and include the Dutil-Dumas primer about mathematics, universal constants, chemical elements and physics plus the Arecibo Messages, the Braastad Message (to illustrate concepts of family and procreation, similar to the plaque on Pioneer) and contributions from the staff and public. Transmitted at four hundred bits per second, the message was beamed out over the span of eleven hours and targeted five diverse stars with known exoplanets, with the first arrival date of April 2036 at Gliese 49 ฮฒ, a superearth orbiting a red dwarf star.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

8x8

crisis on terra prime: US president Biden invokes emergency powers to boost solar energy production

midsommar: ten ways to celebrate the June Solstice—via Strange Company  

madagascator projection: another look at mapping and bias—see previously  

unai no tomo: an early twentieth century catalogue of Japanese toys  

imago and eclosion: good pictures of a newly emerged swallowtail  

controlled burn: astronauts have lit thousands of little fires in microgravity to understand its strange behaviour  

you spin right round, baby, right round: the only way to play Weezer’s new singles is to become one’s own turn table—via Waxy  

perovskites: research into making cheap but brittle photovoltaic technology sturdier to rival modern solar cells

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

7x7

conservation of momentum: a Newton’s Cradle performs Psy’s K-Pop classic  

the tweter: a sweater for two  

the elephant: an Ames inspired trainer—see previously  

trust-fall: a collection of Italian ex-votos (previously) depicting divine intervention during a stumble 

the bond bug: a three-wheeled two-seater produced by Reliant Motor Company—via Pasa Bon!  

amphorae: Ukrainian soldiers digging trenches outside of Odesa discover ancient Greek artefacts   

bill medley: the ending sequence of Dirty Dancing set to the theme of The Muppet Show—via Boing Boing

Sunday, 15 May 2022

orbital mechanics

Enunciated for the first time the following year after some concerted fact-checking and re-taking measurements since the outcome seemed to elegant to be true, Johannes Kepler discovered the last of his three laws of planetary motion on this day in 1618, capturing the relationship between the distance of a astronomical body from its host star and the time it takes to complete a trip around it: that is, the value of the cube of the semi-major axis divided by the square of a planet’s orbital period is a constant—for our solar system. The publication was also delayed due to rather laborious attempts to reconcile his formula with the theory of the music of the spheres (see here and also above), thus making this third discovery known as the harmonic law.

Friday, 13 May 2022

unvollstรคndigkeitssatz

Futility Closet relates an anecdote from the live of mathematician Kurt Gรถdel in residence at Princeton University Institute for Advanced Studies and his friendship with fellow resident scholars physicists Albert Einstein (previously) John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern, whom felt obliged to make sure their younger charge’s tendency for over-thinking remained an asset and not his undoing and monitored Gรถdel’s preparation for the US citizenship exam in 1947, Einstein himself naturalised seven years earlier. The prodigal and influential logistician widely settled the impossibility of formulating a self-consistent and complete set of rules governing all of mathematics at the tender age of twenty-five, Gรถdel assayed the project of his examination with signature tenacity and revealed to his wardens that in his research, he had uncovered a fatal-flaw in the American constitution that could led to dictatorship, the corruption and consequence of totalitarian democracy. Einstein and company implored him not to share this discovery and the test was actually a much simpler affair, though basic civics and recent history might have suggested otherwise. The proctor for the citizenship test inquired of Gรถdel his state of origin and its form of government—to which Gรถdel replied Austria and a republic, but owed that “the constitution was such that it soon become a dictatorship.” Despite the examiner’s insistence that the same could not happen in the USA and Gรถdel’s refutation with the offer of proof, the panel stuck to the business at hand and conducted the test. No mention was made in their collective memoirs what that finding might have been and we suppose won’t know it until it’s happened.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

7x7

1:12: a 1983 architectural magazine’s call for dollhouses  

way-finder: a friendly reminder about the most important app ever made 

i can’t hear you—i’m wearing a towel: dated New Yorker cartoons whose punchline has become a depiction of the everyday—via Waxy  

fisheye lens: a floating exhibit platform showcases Norwegian aquaculture practises 

philately: a brilliant abecedarium (see previously) of vintage postage stamps from around the world  

tensor strength: researchers engineer new material that can absorb and release enormous amounts of energy—like super-charged rubber band, via Slashdot  

the vault of contemporary art: a collection of architectural sketches and schematics from a Things Magazine omnibus post on the subject

Friday, 7 January 2022

10^

Courtesy of the always engrossing Kottke, we are directed to an updated version of the Ames’ classic Powers of Ten from the BBC science desk, Open University and presenter and particle physicist Brian Cox that updates the scale to bring in up to par with our current observational powers—about a thousand fold more of the Cosmos than were capable of some forty-five years ago when the original short film was made.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

rogue waves

Distinct from tsunamis, killer waves—defined as reaching twice the height of waves in a wave record—occur in open-water as a convergence of constructive interference and other conditions but were considered at best anecdotal, tall-tales and the stuff of maritime myth until quite recently when one was detected on New Year’s Day in 1995 and measured by instruments housed on the Draupner gas pipeline support platform in the North Sea. Subsequent research has shown the phenomenon to be a common one, occurring in multiple media, including finance and has been retroactively used to account for shipping accidents, including the 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and the iconic titular wave portrayed in The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

small astronomy satellite a

Launched on this day in 1970, Uhuru (also known by the above designation) embarked on fourteen-month mission to perform a comprehensive scan of the entire sky in a first of its kind demonstration of x-ray astronomy. Scanning space for cosmic x-ray sources, Uhuru, among other achievements, identified the first strong candidate for the then theoretical black hole and triangulated an entire catalogue of extragalactic sources. The satellite was named after the Swahili word for freedom in recognition of the hospitality of Kenya, where the launch took place, from a former Italian operated off-shore oil platform converted into a spaceport near Mombasa and on the equator.

Friday, 10 December 2021

nobelfesten

Cancelled for a second year due to the pandemic, normally the Nobel Banquet (previously here and here) is held annually on this day (the anniversary of the death in 1896 of its benefactor, inspired to become a philanthropist after reading a premature obituary of himself that described him as a war profiteer, indeed having amassed his fortune from dynamite), the fรชte hosted in the Blue Hall of the rathaus of Stockholm for 1971 would have included amongst its guests Willy Brandt, chancellor of West Germany, Pavlo Neruda, Chilean poet and diplomat, Simon Kuznets, responsible for turning economics into an empirical, cyclical science, and Gรกbor Dรฉnes, inventory of among other things holography.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

j/ฯˆ meson

The subatomic particle also known as a psion—comprised itself of a charm quark and a charm antiquark bound in a state referred to as “charmonium” (see previously) was discovered independently by two laboratories in Stanford and Brookhaven who made their joint announcement on this day in 1974. Sharing the Nobel Prize in physics two years later for their “November Revolution” for setting of a new era in the study of high-energy physics, the research leaders were able to validate the heretofore theoretical quark model, considered a mathematical fiction—particles with fractional charges and flavours (“spin”)—as a way of classifying and ordering the newly discovered menagerie of constituent, subatomic units.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

shower-thoughts or super criticality

Though precedents in chemical chain-reactions that could lead to explosions were well understood and the mechanism of nuclear fission had yet to be fully articulated, scientist Leรณ Szilรกrd (previously) first hypothesised the possibility of an atomic chain-reaction whilst waiting on a stop light on Southhampton Row at the crossing of Russell Square in Bloomsbury. This flash of insight on the part of the exiled Hungarian physicist, realising that an atom could be split with the recently discovered neutron, cascading with the release of more neutrons plus massive amounts of energy would be self-perpetuating, self-amplifying, would lead to nuclear applications in warfare and power production.

Friday, 3 September 2021

6x6

mmorpg: a thought experiment that ponders whether dark energy might be the by-product of alien quantum computers  

abbatars: after four decades, ABBA is getting back together, first performing as holograms  

role models: China bans men not deemed masculine enough from television 

fonarnye bani: a renovated spa in St. Petersburg  

push pins: an exhibition of the iconic poster art almanac 

wise 1543: unique old, cold orphaned brown dwarves may be ubiquitous in the galaxy

Sunday, 29 August 2021

eka-iridium

First synthesised on this day in 1982 at the Darmstadt Institute for Heavy Ion Research (GIS, Gesellschaft fรผr Schwerionforschung) the synthetic meitnerium (Mt) was given the above provisional designation following Grigory Mendeleev’s nomenclature for undiscovered atomic elements—the convention becoming a placeholder shortly before its discovery with the controversy over the honours and naming-system being overhauled.
The research-team wanted to recognise the previously overlooked contributions of physicist Lise Meitner for her pioneering work in nuclear fission and her co-discovery of the element protactinium with Otto Hahn. Curium being named for both Pierre and Marie Curie, meitnerium is the only element named for a non-mythological woman. Because of its half-life of mere seconds even in the most stable isotope, few of its chemical properties are known though study continues, and its periodic neighbours, hassium and darmstadtium, are both named for the above laboratory.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

formicarium

Via Slashdot, we learn that a group of researchers studying ant tunnel architecture with the aid of 3D x-ray imaging and computation models are gleaning some of the eusocial insects’ secrets to digging and creating enduring, stable structures using only the physics of the medium, selecting the grains of soil for the exact right qualities of inertia, friction and cohesion to form a self-reinforcing shaft underground. This ability, scientists believe, is a highly evolved behavioural algorithm—an instinct—that could be duplicated for microscopic mining machines (see also) that could extract ores and other useful materials in a far less intrusive way.