Applied Physics

A humble soil additive used by millions of amateur and professional gardeners alike is set to slash the cost of the most effective form of insulation for buildings.

Brunel University London academic Dr. Harjit Singh has proved in the laboratory that vacuum insulation panels can be made with a core of perlite - the volcanic ore “popcorn” used in horticulture to improve drainage and water retention.

This dramatically reduces the cost of the panels which are normally made by surrounding a core of fumed silica with metallised PET envelope. Initial cost savings are estimated to be at least 30 per cent.

New research has confirmed plutonium's magnetism, which scientists have long theorized but have never been able to experimentally observe. 

Plutonium was first produced in 1940 and its unstable nucleus allows it to undergo fission, making it useful for nuclear fuels as well as for nuclear weapons. Much less known, however, is that the electronic cloud surrounding the plutonium nucleus is equally unstable and makes plutonium the most electronically complex element in the periodic table, with intriguingly intricate properties for a simple elemental metal.

Metals, which conduct electricity, and insulators, which don’t, are polar opposites.

At least that’s what we’ve believed until now.

But we have discovered that a well-known insulator can simultaneously act like a conductor in certain measurements. We don’t yet know the reason for this mysterious behaviour but it is likely due to new and exciting quantum effects.

I’ll demonstrate how I built a very simple panoramic mount out of Lego for your various Lego optics lab lens and filter holders.

Follow me on Twitter: @SteveSchuler20.

Parts needed

1 Lego turntable 4 X 4
2 Lego Beams 1 X 4

Here’s how I built my Lego simple panoramic mount.

Donuts, electric current and quantum physics - if you are a theoretical physicist interested in topological insulators, materials whose ability to conduct electric current originates in their topology, it makes perfect sense.

The easiest way to understand what "topological" means in this context is to imagine how a donut can be turned into a coffee cup by pulling, stretching and moulding - but without cutting it.

Topologically speaking, therefore, doughnuts and coffee cups are identical, and by applying the same principle to the quantum mechanical wave function of electrons in a solid one obtains the phenomenon of the topological insulator. This is advanced quantum physics, highly complex and far removed from everyday experience. 

I’ll demonstrate how I built a simple mirror or filter mount out of Lego. This mount can then be attached to a pan and/or tilt mechanism.

Follow me on Twitter: @SteveSchuler20.

Also see my previous article to see how I built a large lens holder for my Lego optics lab.

Parts needed

1 Plate 2 X 8
2 Technic Beams 1 X 2
2 Arm section with pin and two fingers

Here’s how I built my Lego mirror/filter holder:

By Michael Greshko, Inside Science - In the classic 1989 film Back to the Future 2, intrepid time traveler Marty McFly jumps ahead a few decades, to October 21, 2015.

Luxury car manufacturer Lexus appears to be ready for him. This week, they announced that they've built a "real, rideable" hoverboard. 

They've even released video of it, oozing fog and mysteriously floating over what looks like a concrete sidewalk. Check out the 38-second teaser for yourself:
For my Lego Optics Lab I have so far built a beam splitter, and a small lens holder. The beam splitter article got a link on io9 (my name is misspelled) and on Scientific American.

In my previous article, I started building a Lego optics lab with a dichroic prism I salvaged from an old computer projector that I took apart (I used the prism to build a beam splitter). I also salvaged several lenses, mirrors, and filters. To continue the Lego Optics Lab project I’ll demonstrate how I built a lens holder for the several small lenses from the projector. My lens holder uses mostly standard Lego parts except for the shock absorber brick.

A lot of problems, associated with the mixing of the liquid in the microchannels, could be solved via proper organization of the inhomogeneous slip on the walls of these channels, according to a joint group of Russian and German scientists lead by Olga Vinogradova, professor at the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University.