Recent articles

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Experimental engine breaks conservation of momentum...

EmDrive is an experimental engine that may introduce a new era of space travel.

Test results indicate that this electric propulsion device is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.

EmDrive appears to have found a loophole in classical physics. It is, in some sense, creating an unbalanced equation of momentum.
No definitive theoretical explanation for the observed phenomena has yet been published.

Media story:
NASA paper (PDF):

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Using light echos to see around corners

The ability to see objects hidden behind walls could be invaluable in dangerous or inaccessible locations, such as inside machinery with moving parts, or in highly contaminated areas. Now scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge have found a way to do just that.

They fire a pulse of laser light at a wall on the far side of the hidden scene, and record the time at which the scattered light reaches a camera. Photons bounce off the wall onto the hidden object and back to the wall, scattering each time, before a small fraction eventually reaches the camera, each at a slightly different time. It's this time resolution that provides the key to revealing the hidden geometry. The position of the 50-femtosecond (that’s 50 quadrillionths of a second) laser pulse is also changed 60 times, to gain multiple perspectives on the hidden scene.
"We are all familiar with sound echoes, but we can also exploit echoes of light," says Ramesh Raskar, head of the Camera Culture Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, which carried out the study.
Source: Nature

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Single image of the night sky

The interactive and zoomable image is available at

Photographer Nick Risinger traveled 60,000 miles around the globe to piece together a single image of the night sky that contains a staggering 20 million stars. The 5,000 megapixel image of the milky way galaxy is stitched together from over 37,000 digital images taken using a custom mount with standard camera and lenses.

Cameras—Finger Lakes ML-8300
Lenses—Zeiss Sonnar 85mm f2.8
Filters—Astronomik LRGB, Astrodon Ha
Mount—Takahashi EM-11 Temma 2 w/ custom armature
Generator—Yamaha EF1000iS for USA trips
Laptop—Intel Core i7-820QM running Linux Fedora, 8GB RAM w/ 4TB external storage

MaximDL—mount control, image capture, and creation of calibration frames (dark, bias, flat)
IRAF—many scripted tasks such as up-scaling, registration, saturated pixel replacements with scaled exposures, stacking, and median background modeling
SExtractor—building each frames list of objects
SCAMP—cross referencing to create position and distortion headers
Swarp—reprojection and stitching of frames
PixInsight—generate final LRGBHa color composite, midtones transfer function, noise reduction
GIMP—final assembly, curve & saturation tweaks

Read more

Saturday, November 19, 2011

LHC neutrinos still faster than light

Distribution of the δt values obtained from the
events taken with the bunched neutrino beam.
The mean 
value, indicated by the red line
and the blue band, is (62.1 ± 3.7) ns
Scientists on the OPERA experiment announced last month that they had measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. One major possible cause of measurement error in the results has just been successfully eliminated by a reconfiguration of the experiment to narrow the muon beam into a thinner and more widely pulsed (short-bunch) time-structure, allowing the neutrino time of flight to be measured at closer to the single interaction level. This cleaner signal has improved measurement accuracy to a very respectable 6.2 sigma: An increase of 0.2 sigma. 
"The positive outcome of the test makes us more confident in the result, although a final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world" says Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics
To me this doesn't disprove special relativity or the standard model any more than general relativity disproves Newtonian mechanics. I view our current understanding of physics like a map of the Earth: It's a very handy and convenient way of portraying our world, but just because the map is flat does not imply anything about the shape of the planet. If the pre-Socratic philosophers had any scientific inkling they would have concluded that the shape of the Earth was -- at least in their time -- undetermined by experiment; but sadly such important issues of the time were not judged by empirical measurement and therefore resisted disproof for unnecessary centuries. Were these philosophers ignorant morons for believing the Earth was flat? By today's standards, such bold assertions would even be consistent with statements of opinion served up as scientific fact, sometimes replete with theoretical predictions of known phenomena; lacking only in the devilish details: accurate and repeatable measurement.

Such Hoyle-esque follies of faith befall the best of us; and while irrational and unscientific, I take consolation that this facet of our nature at least does seem to yield consistently repeatable results through the ages.

Read the reprinted paper at arXiv

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Apollo landing sites captured by orbiting camera

Remarkably detailed images of the Apollo landing sites captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have been released today.

Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lockheed Martin unveils an airship for the future

"Inflatable aircraft have been around since the Montgolfier brothers developed the first untethered hot-air balloon in 1782, but 200 years later, they are making a high-tech resurgence for both civilian and military use. U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin's version is called the P-791 airship, which it hopes is about to take off." -- Rob Muir, Reuters
Source: Reuters

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sea level lies

CU Mean sea-level rise with
+10% adjustment

Fresh lies have been added to the global warming argument, but this time not by self-interested politicians but by reputable scientists. An obscure side note was added to the University of Colorado (CU) Sea Level Research Group web site recently explaining that 0.3 mm/year is added to the sea-level data due to the land masses of the Earth rising through an effect known as glacial isostatic adjustment or GIA. This counterintuitive adjustment is equivalent to a traffic cop adding 10 mph to your speeding ticket because you were driving into a head-wind.

Although the adjustment appears small, it adds 10% to overall sea-level rise data, giving alarmists on either side of the argument fuel for even more hyperbole. Publically presented scientific data should not only be accurate, but should fall in line with what the data represents to the general public. Sea level rise to everyday people means the risk of coastal flooding not some theoretical notion that has no bearing on the real world. I hope therefore that CU removes the adjustment from the figures such that their definition of "sea level rise" is relative to the coastline and not the core of the planet so as to avoid any possible claim of deception on their part.

Al Gore's new $8M coastal mansion
in Montecito, California

The good news is that the current data (even with the +10% adjustment) means that it will take 1000 years for the sea level to rise three meters. Al Gore can now rest easy that his new $8M mansion on the Californian coast will not be inundated any time soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Translucent aircraft - Airbus' vision of the future

Airbus, in advance of the Paris Airshow “Le Bourget”, today invited future passengers to discover its concept aircraft for 2050 including an intelligent cabin wall membrane which controls air temperature and can become transparent to give passengers open panoramic views.

Read the press release
Visit the concept cabin web site

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Magnetic field amplification in a carefully stirred liquid

Poloidal magnetic flux inside
the NMD experiment
Stirling Colgate and his team at the the New Mexico Dynamo (NMD) experiment shows an eight-fold magnetic field amplification using coherent, low-turbulence fluid motions.
This result supports the ansatz that large scale astrophysical magnetic fields can be created by semi-coherent large scale motions in which turbulence plays only a smaller diffusive role that enables magnetic flux linkage.
The NMD experiment is a collaboration between the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Read about this article in the news
Read the paper (PDF)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Detroit entrepreneur invents 7% stronger steel

The current issue of Materials Science and Technology, Babu and his Ohio State partners describe how rapidly heating and cooling steel sheets changes the microstructure inside the alloy to make it stronger and less brittle.
Detroit entrepreneur Suresh Babu surprised Ohio State University engineers when he invented a heat-treatment that makes steel seven percent stronger than any steel on record – in less than 10 seconds.
Steel is what we would call a 'mature technology.' We'd like to think we know most everything about it," he said. "If someone invented a way to strengthen the strongest steels even a few percent, that would be a big deal. But 7 percent? That's huge

Ohio State University news release
Read the paper (paid download)
Commercial web site

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Plasma generates surprising patterns

Designer plasma. A plasma generated by a radio-frequency electric field and subject to a strong magnetic field can form filaments parallel to the fields. With a magnetic field of 1.2 tesla, the filaments merge into complex patterns seen here in a plane perpendicular to the filaments at three different pressures. The work demonstrates an unexpected regime of filamentation as well as a new technique for imaging plasma dynamics.

Read the news release (Physical review focus)
Read the paper (Paid download)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Liquid battery could be charged at the "pump"

A radically new approach to the design of batteries, developed by researchers at MIT, could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. The technology could even make “refueling” such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car.

Read the MIT press release here
Read the paper here (PDF)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Highest ever energy bursts detected from the usually sedate Crab nebula.

The Large Area Telescope on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope recently measured two gamma-ray flares coming from the Crab Nebula (M1, NGC 1952); which at 10^15 eV, scientists believe to be the highest energy ever associated with a discrete astronomical source.

The brevity of the flares implies that the gamma rays are emitted via synchrotron radiation from PeV electrons in a region smaller than 1.4 10^-2 pc.

The Crab Nebula has been used as a reference source to calibrate telescopes in several wavebands, in particular at high energies because of its bright and historically steady emission.

Read more (PDF)...

NASA's Spitzer reveals a carbon-based planet

Astronomers have discovered that a huge, searing-hot planet orbiting another star is loaded with an unusual amount of carbon. The planet, a gas giant named WASP-12b, is the first carbon-rich world ever observed. The discovery was made using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, along with previously published ground-based observations.
This plot indicates the presence of molecules in the planet WASP-12b
"A carbon-dominated terrestrial world could have lots of pure carbon rocks, like diamond or graphite, as well as carbon compounds like tar," said Joseph Harrington of the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, who is the principal investigator of the research."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thirty years before the publication of Origin of Species, Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) publishes a theory of natural selection that not only predates Darwin's, but is now considered to be more accurate.

In a little-known 1831 book, Naval Timber and Arboriculture, Matthew concludes that catastrophic events such as mass extinctions are the prime factor in the process of evolution; an idea that Darwin rejects in his works in favor of "gradual changes in the characteristics of surviving organisms."

New York University Geologist Michael Rampino, in an essay recently published in the journal Historical Biology writes that the now commonly held view of evolution is that it is driven by major ecological changes that occur both episodically and rapidly, casting doubt on Darwin’s theory.

Rampino notes that Darwin and his colleague Alfred Russel Wallace acknowledged that Matthew was the first to put forth the theory of natural selection; but despite this Matthew has gone uncredited and unsung for what is possibly the greatest scientific leap in human history.

Read more