What happens if you start 32 metronomes at different times on a stable surface? Not much. They'll tick-tock out of sync until the cows come home. But what happens when you start the same 32 metronomes on an unfixed surface? You get to witness a nifty (and mesmerizing) example of coupled oscillations. Watch and learn.
Talk about microcinema - watch this incredibly teeny-tiny movie (the world's smallest) that researchers at IBM created by manipulating single atoms of carbon monoxide molecules in a scanning tunneling microscope. Then watch how it was made. It's an incredible accomplishment considering the atoms used to create the animation had to be magnified 100 million times!
Get out there, if you can, and watch skaters take on the insane Red Bull Crashed Ice course here in downtown St. Paul. It's a great place to watch all sorts of physics in action. And bundle up. Winter's back, suddenly, and the laws of thermodynamics apply to you, too.
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Ten abandoned mining pits in Minnesota's Iron Range could have new life as pumped-storage hydroelectricity plants, according to a University of Minnesota,* Great River Energy, and Minnesota Power study.
[Hey, now: did you click on the hyperlink above? I don't put hyperlinks in posts for my own amusement, you know. They're for your viewing pleasure and learning enjoyment! Seriously though, click on them for great explanations, photos, diagrams, graphs, and more. You won't be disappointed.]
Courtesy Steve Fareham
Pumped-storage hydroelectric technology sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but it's really just a neat combination of water and wind energy technology. What makes pumped-storage hydroelectric projects sexy is that they make it possible to store excess energy generated by wind turbines on windy days. This stored energy can then be used during the inevitable calm days -- addressing one of the biggest issues for today's wind energy industry!
How does it work?
It's basic physics, my friends: building potential energy and releasing kinetic energy. Specifically, excess energy generated by wind turbines "is used to pump water from a low-lying reservoir to a higher elevation pool" within the mine pit. This builds the potential energy of the water. Then, when that energy is demanded, "water from the upper pool is released generating hydroelectricity and refilling the lower pool." This releases kinetic energy, which can be turned into electricity.
How effective is it?
Researchers estimated that a pumped-storage hydroelectric facility built in Virginia, MN could output the same electricity as a "modest-sized" generator burning natural gas. However, at a cost of $120 million, the pumped-hydro facility would be more expensive than a comparable natural gas generator.
There are 40 U.S. locations currently employing pumped-storage hydroelectricity technology, but there are no definite plans for any such projects in Minnesota -- yet.
Read the Star Tribune's coverage of this story here.
*Including scientists from UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute, St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, and Humphrey School of Public Affairs; and funded largely by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.
Courtesy Berkeley LabScientists at CERN are tentatively "claiming" that they've clocked sub-atomic particles known as neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, something physics has long held impossible.
The speed of light (approximately 186,282 miles per second) is a constant in Einstein's famous general theory of relativity and considered one of the foundations of modern physics. The experiment's physicists seem almost embarrassed bringing the matter to the public's attention but they're baffled by their test results and hope some other scientists will pick up the ball and prove them right or wrong. The abstract of their study is posted online here.
Neutrinos are those oddball, nearly massless sub-atomic particles that, because of their lack of an electric charge, can seemingly pass straight through just about anything without interacting with other particles of matter. In an experiment called Oscillation Project with Emusion tRacking Apparatus (OPERA) beams of neutrinos were shot from a particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland under the Apennines mountains to a detector in the Gran Sasso cavern in Italy. Measurements showed that the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds sooner than they should have if they were obeying the speed of light limit. One bizarre explanation is that the neutrinos somehow managed to take a shortcut across a hidden fifth dimension to beat out other particles to the finish line. If that proves true it would keep intact the speed limit of light. This is weird, weird science. It will be fascinating to see where this goes.
"Kelly Ward, senior software engineer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, was tasked with bringing Rapunzel's locks to life in Disney's new movie, Tangled. The hair had to look realistic, but not too real -- otherwise Rapunzel would be towing 80 pounds behind her."
"Pumpkins of the Atlantic Giant variety can weigh more than 1800 pounds. For a mechanical engineer with an interest in plus-sized fruit, like Georgia Tech’s David Hu, this raises an interesting physics question: how can the pumpkin get so big without breaking?"
Courtesy Joel BonaseraCheck out this awesome gravity simulator (you'll need Flash and a decent processor). You can introduce objects of different mass and watch how their gravitational pull moves them through space. My personal favorite is the "proto disk" button. Protoplanetary disk theory is one explanation for planetary development, and you can investigate it on your own on the site. Once I have a complex system started, I like to throw a huge mass through and see how it wrecks the balance of forces. Just don't tell my psychologist.
Methane deposits occasionally erupt to the surface. A research paper published in the American Journal of Physics explains how large methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor might account for many, if not all, of the mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft.
Oceanographic surveyors of the sea floor in the area of the Bermuda Triangle have discovered significant quantities of methane hydrates and older eruption sites.
Courtesy Yutaka Tsutano
I have been waiting for the new iPod Touch. I want a display screen so sharp, it looks like a photograph. The "retina display" creates an image out of pixels that are only 78 nanometers. How small is that? Well, more than 300 of these pixels are packed in each inch. Supposedly this is the limit for human perception, or as some fanboys might say, "It doesn't get any better than this!"
University of Michigan researchers can do better, though, Their paper in Nature Communications titled, Plasmonic nanoresonators for high-resolution colour filtering and spectral imaging explains how pixels of only 10 microns can be produced.
Such pixel densities could make the technology useful in projection displays, as well as wearable, bendable or extremely compact displays, according to the researchers.
The resonators are kind of like a light filter. Two nano thin layers of metal selectively allow light to pass through small sets of slits. The slit spacing determines which wavelength of light makes it through the slits.
Red light emanates from slits set around 360 nanometers apart; green from those about 270 nanometers apart, and blue from those approximately 225 nanometers apart. The differently spaced gratings essentially catch different wavelengths of light and resonantly transmit through the stacks. LinuxForDevices.com
These displays are simpler, use fewer parts, are more efficient, and should be cheaper to make. I am not going to wait, though.