Applied Physics

11 years ago, DARPA predicted that there was a physics-induced train wreck coming straight at the computer chip industry; the limits of what electricity and existing materials can do. Even then, quantum computers were touted as the answer, with black box magic occurring between the existing and the vision.


You can easily build a Cartesian diver toy using an empty one liter soda bottle (with the label torn off), a ketchup packet, and tap water. You may want to have a few ketchup packets on hand and put them in a cup of water to see if they sink or float. Keep the one that floats and use the rest for your French fries.

Materials that are firmly bonded together with epoxy and other tough adhesives are ubiquitous in modern life — from crowns on teeth to modern composites used in construction. Yet it has proved remarkably difficult to study how these bonds fracture and fail, and how to make them more resistant to such failures.

Now researchers at MIT have found a way to study these bonding failures directly, revealing the crucial role of moisture in setting the stage for failure. 


There's a new wave of sound on the horizon carrying with it a broad scope of tantalizing potential applications, including advanced ultrasonic imaging and therapy, acoustic cloaking, and levitation and particle manipulation. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a technique for generating acoustic bottles in open air that can bend the paths of sound waves along prescribed convex trajectories.


If you have watched the NASA channel recently, you might have witnessed a series of experiments regarding flames. 

On the surface, pardon the pun, it may have seemed like a minor thing, but how flames behave outside our atmosphere has led to discovery of a new type of cool burning flames.  A better understanding of the cool flames' chemistry could help improve internal combustion engines in cars, for example by developing homogenous-charge compression ignition.


In a previous article I demonstrated how to use a One Time Pad cipher using a pen, paper, and Scrabble tiles (or Boggle cubes). If used correctly, One Time Pads cannot be broken by the NSA or any intelligence service on Earth because the One Time Pad keys use a randomly generated set of letters or numbers to encrypt your message.

Why did the supersonic trans-Atlantic Concorde aircraft end up being a huge flop? It is commonly believed that European subsidies don't make for efficient airlines and the cost made it impossible to keep the aircraft maintained - but a new paper by a mechanical engineer says it was...evolution. 

Adrian Bejan, professor at Duke University, says that a physics paper he penned more than two decades ago helps explain the change in passenger airplanes from the small, propeller-driven DC-3s of yore to today's behemoth Boeing 787s. 


Birdsnap is an iPhone and web based app that uses many of the techniques of facial recognition software to identify 500 of the most common North American birds. The web based version of Birdsnap is actually very easy to use: upload your picture, click on the bird’s eye, click on the bird’s tail, enter your location along with the date the picture was taken, and click submit. I’ll demonstrate how to use Birdsnap even though it was unable to identify the bird I submitted.

Last Wednesday I played golf at South Grove Golf course and my cousin snapped the following picture near the 9th hole tee:

When you see an article about geckos and their ability to sit upside down, Spider-Man references are sure to follow. And if the topic is that sticky ability in spiders, you will get Spider-Man references and a picture.

Yet even geckos have limits - that's just plain nanophysics.

The fact is, sooner or later the grip is lost, no matter how little force is acting on it. But knowing the limits can have considerable benefits, for instance in the production of graphene - because graphene consists only of one layer of atom, and which must be easily detached from the substrate.


We know that ancient Japanese gold leaf artists were truly masters of their craft - their works are ornate and delicate.

What remains a mystery is how artifacts were gilded with gold leaf that was hand-beaten to the nanometer scale. Gold leaf refers to a very thin sheet made from a combination of gold and other metals. It has almost no weight and can only be handled by specially designed tools. Even though the ancient Egyptians were probably the first to gild artwork with it, the Japanese have long been credited as being able to produce the thinnest gold leaf in the world.