Applied Physics

In Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" and in 1940s engineering, there was a demon in the air at 750 miles per hour, a line some said could not be crossed. It was called the Sound Barrier for that reason.

If that demon could cause a plane to break apart in air, imagine what it would do to a car on the ground. 

We'll find out in 2015. The BLOODHOUND SSC will make a test run at almost 800 MPH in 2015, which will beat the current official land speed record of 763 MPH, and will attempt 1,000 MPH in 2016. To keep her between the ditches, engineers will have to model how the car will cope with the supersonic rolling ground, rotating wheels and resulting shock waves in close proximity to the test surface at Hakskeen Pan, South Africa.  

The Science Play and Research Kit (SPARK) competition winners were announced today. The SPARK competition was a challenge to “reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st Century,” according to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Society for Science&the Public press release. Many people in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) careers today often recall being inspired by the chemistry sets of old that stimulated their curiosity, wonder, and interest in science. Sadly, many chemicals included in these old sets are now illegal and the newer sets, well, just don’t have the same kinds of thrilling experiments.
Underwater Acoustics - Searching For The MH370 Flight Recorder

Australian and Chinese vessels have both picked up acoustic "pings" that could be from the black box of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, search officials have announced.
Guardian Sunday 6 April 2014 15.44 BST
Could A Fire Have Caused The Loss Of MH370?


Ever since Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared there has been much speculation in the media and across the web about what may have happened.  Unfortunately, the somewhat spasmodic release of official information, together with too many reports citing anonymous sources, has blurred the true picture.
In a previous article I demonstrated an unbreakable code for secure communication through the United States Postal Service using One Time Pads created with Scrabble tiles (or Boggle cubes). It seems some clever folks at the University of Bristol have developed a method of quantum cryptography for cell phones.

Press release from University of Bristol 3 April 2014:

An ultra-high security scheme that could one day get quantum cryptography using Quantum Key Distribution into mobile devices has been developed and demonstrated by researchers from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Quantum Photonics (CQP) in collaboration with Nokia.

Occasionally I’ll come across a web page that shows you how to make an infrared (IR) filter for your iPhone (in my case the iPod Touch) out of an old floppy disk. I had an old floppy disk so I decided to see if it would actually work. The process is actually fairly simple: take apart a floppy disk, cut out enough of the disk (the Mylar and iron oxide recording medium) to cover camera lens, tape the piece of floppy disk over the lens, point your camera, and shoot your picture.

I actually did have an old floppy disk that I could use for this experiment:

Silicon has been very good to us. It has given us Angry Birds and virtual protests we can participate in from the comfort of our home, but it may be time to enter the Age of the Biological Computer.

Writing in the journal Materials Today,researchers reveal details of logic units built using living slime molds, which might act as the building blocks for computing devices and sensors.


In honor of the upcoming National Robotics Week (April 5-13, 2014), I’ve created “CockroachBot” based on my Snap Circuits programmable robot I designed for last year’s robotics week. CockroachBot will try to run away when it detects a particular level of light falling on its light dependent resistor. I designed CockroachBot to be easy to build completely out of Snap Circuits parts and easy to program to inspire folks from seven to centenarian to get interested in robotics.

Revelations of the extent of American government surveillance into the private lives of both the American public and foreign leaders worldwide has shone a spotlight on the lack of security in digital communications.

Even today's encrypted data is vulnerable but physics may come to the rescue, according to a Nature article by Artur Ekert and Renato Renner ("The ultimate physical limits of privacy", doi:10.1038/nature13132).


Our bones are a matrix of minerals and other substances, including living cells, though most people don't think of them that way and assume bones are 'natural' —  but nature can be coaxed to do all kinds of things.

MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These "living materials" combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales, with the benefits of nonliving materials, but they add functions we don't usually associate with biology.

Self-assembling materials