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A brief history of everything

July 23, 2015

A map of physics

January 19, 2015

Central Scientific's 1939 Map of Physics

A map published by Bernard Porter in 1939 depicting physics as a landmass through which several rivers corresponding to the main branches (light, sound, heat, etc.) run and converge into one.

via Kottke

…a horse splashes

October 30, 2014

Gravity, a mere nuisance to Christian, was a terror to Pope, Pagan, and Despair. To the mouse and any smaller animal it presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.

From On Being the Right Size, by JBS Haldane.

Interstellar’s Black Holes

October 27, 2014

interstellar

Modelling black holes for Interstellar lead to most accurate simulations yet:

“Chris really wanted us to sell the idea that the black hole is spherical,” Franklin says. “I said, ‘You know, it’s going to look like a disk.’ The only thing you can see is the way it warps starlight.” Then Franklin started reading about accretion disks, agglomerations of matter that orbit some black holes. Franklin figured that he could use this ring of orbiting detritus to define the sphere.

Von Tunzelmann tried a tricky demo. She generated a flat, multicolored ring—a stand-in for the accretion disk—and positioned it around their spinning black hole. Something very, very weird happened. “We found that warping space around the black hole also warps the accretion disk,” Franklin says. “So rather than looking like Saturn’s rings around a black sphere, the light creates this extraordinary halo.”

That’s what led Thorne to his “why, of course” moment when he first saw the final effect. The Double Negative team thought it must be a bug in the renderer. But Thorne realized that they had correctly modeled a phenomenon inherent in the math he’d supplied.

It just doesn’t add up…

April 19, 2009

An article from New Scientist listing 13 things that science can’t explain. They mainly relate to space – Dark Matter, Dark Energy, the Universe’s thermal equilibrium, life on Mars – though I think the one I find most interesting is the Placebo effect:

Don’t try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it’s not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

The Belfast homeopathy trials are interesting too, or at the very least the potential consequences are:

If the results turn out to be real…we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.

Higgs Boson

April 9, 2009

“In the Event That You Have Accidentally Swallowed the Higgs Boson”

6. If the Higgs boson begins creating mass in your esophagus or stomach before you reach a hospital, you will need to perform an immediate bosonectomy on yourself. Luckily, surgical knowledge is not necessary. Just choose from the array of probable outcomes that will manifest themselves upon your decision to perform surgery, and make the one most favourable to yourself into reality. Be sensible—do not wait for the outcome in which you successfully remove the boson and win the lottery and grow wings.

(via kottke)