Applied Physics

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.

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices, providing an improved alternative to existing wireless communication systems, researchers said. They presented their findings Aug. 26 at the 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Milan, Italy.

I’ll demonstrate how I built my mobile phone/iPod mount out of Lego for my Lego optics lab polariscope project.

Parts needed:

Mobile phone mount (from my DIY Super Selfie Stick project)
2 Lego plates 1 X 8
4 Lego beams 1 X 2
4 Lego Beams 1 X 8

Here’s how I built my Lego mobile phone/iPod mount:

Physicists have found a radical new way confine electromagnetic energy without it leaking away, akin to throwing a pebble into a pond with no splash. It appears to contradict a fundamental tenet of electrodynamics, that accelerated charges create electromagnetic radiation, said lead researcher Dr. Andrey Miroshnichenko from The Australian National University (ANU).

"This problem has puzzled many people. It took us a year to get this concept clear in our heads," said Miroshnichenko, from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. "Ever since the beginning of quantum mechanics people have been looking for a configuration which could explain the stability of atoms and why orbiting electrons do not radiate." 

An independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) is a place to safely store spent nuclear fuel while it is waiting for a geological repository to permanently dispose of the material.  The amount of nuclear fuel required to supply a typical American citizen with a lifetime of energy would fill a single soda can with waste.  This means that for a large power plant, it won't generate very much spent fuel at all for the amount of energy it produces.  Still, this spent fu