Applied Physics

The V-3 “supergun” was meant to win the war for Germany.

In 1943, for the first time since World War II began, Hitler was on the back foot. Allied bombs were devastating German cities and the Fuhrer was rattled.

His proposed V-3 cannon would be the biggest gun the world had seen.

In the late 1800's, a small, well-formed cylinder composed of platinum and a little iridium (the same alloy used in fine platinum jewelry today) was defined by the international scientific community to have a mass of exactly one kilogram.

This was not a special rock dug up from the Earth, nor a once-in-a-lifetime meteorite fallen from the heavens, but a man-made object that was bestowed this great and important property to be used by generations of scientists and non-scientists. (Happy 125th Birthday, Kilogram!)

Nothing is more frustrating that watching that hourglass in the center of your screen while you wait for your computer to load a program or access the data you need.  

Well, maybe status bars are worse. Those used to be a culture war in the political science community.

A team from the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds may have found a way to speed things up: sound.  The paper in Applied Physics Letters finds that certain types of sound waves can move data quickly, using minimal power.

Using flexible organic circuits and specialized pressure sensors, researchers have created an artificial "skin" that can sense the force of static objects. Furthermore, they were able to transfer these sensory signals to the brain cells of mice in vitro using optogenetics.

For the many people around the world living with prosthetics, such a system could one day allow them to feel sensation in their artificial limbs.

To create the artificial skin, Benjamin Tee et al. developed a specialized circuit out of flexible, organic materials. It translates static pressure into digital signals that depend on how much mechanical force is applied. A particular challenge was creating sensors that can "feel" the same range of pressure that humans can.

If you live in Indiana, or at least near Indianapolis, you should go to the Celebrate Science Indiana science festival in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Saturday 3 October 2015 from 9:30am-5:30pm—it’s free.

The worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown never should have happened, according to a new study.

In Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society, researchers Costas Synolakis of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Utku Kâno'lu of the Middle East Technical University in Turkey distilled thousands of pages of government and industry reports and hundreds of news stories, focusing on the run-up to the disaster. They found that "arrogance and ignorance," design flaws, regulatory failures and improper hazard analyses doomed the costal nuclear power plant even before the tsunami hit.

Good communication is crucial to any relationship, especially when partners are separated by distance. This also holds true for microbes in the deep sea that need to work together to consume large amounts of methane released from vents on the ocean floor. Recent work at Caltech has shown that these microbial partners can still accomplish this task, even when not in direct contact with one another, by using electrons to share energy over long distances.

This is the first time that direct interspecies electron transport--the movement of electrons from a cell, through the external environment, to another cell type--has been documented in microorganisms in nature.

In my previous article about Birdsnap, the app was unable to identify my hawk because I did not get a full profile of the bird. Now that it's autumn and Canada geese have begun migrating, I’ve had some opportunities to photograph birds and get close enough to be able to photograph them properly in profile.

Here’s a goose I took a picture of on South Grove Golf Course in Indianapolis on Wednesday:

Last week the European Space Agency announced the launch of its Lisa Pathfinder mission later this year to test if laser interferometry can be used in space to detect gravitational waves. It's fairly easy to build a laser interferometer so I decided to build one for my Lego optics lab.

A table-top interferometer will not be able to detect gravity waves because there is too much noise in the surrounding environment and you need a really big laser interferometer to distinguish between gravitational waves and such mundane things as earthquakes, traffic passing by, or someone dropping a coffee mug in the kitchen. The LIGO, or Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is an interferometer whose arms are four kilometers (well-nigh 2.5 miles) long.

The recovery of waste heat in all kinds of processes will lead to making established processes more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly.

The Spin Seebeck effect (SSE) is a rudimentarily understood effect which allows for the conversion of a heat flux into electrical energy, even in electrically non-conducting materials. A team of physicists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the University of Konstanz, TU Kaiserslautern, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have now succeeded in identifying the origin of the Spin Seebeck effect.