By definition, one can't see a black hole itself, only its effect on the light of intervening stars. And without some serious equipment, even that's a tall order. Luckily for all us amateur astronomers, Thomas Müller and Daniel Weiskopf of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, have created a simulation that uses actual star data to calculate exactly what seeing the Schwarzschild black hole would look like.
Roadside bombings are, unfortunately, a part of daily life for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and almost every day the military captures surveillance footage of improvised explosive devices being set and detonated. Rather than letting the footage languish, a joint team of counter-IED experts is quickly flipping the footage into video game-like simulations that make training drills as versatile and flexible as the troops themselves.
Four years ago, a team of researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland switched on Blue Brain, a computer designed to mimic a functioning slice of a rat's brain. At first, the virtual neurons fired only when prodded by a simulated electrical current. But recently, that has changed.
Apparently, the simulated neurons have begun spontaneously coordinating, and organizing themselves into a more complex pattern that resembles a wave. According to the scientists, this is the beginning of the self-organizing neurological patterns that eventually, in more complex mammal brains, become personality.
The world certainly isn't simple, and trying to express real-world dynamics in the form of an equation has long been a challenge. Realistic computer-simulated sound has been particularly tough to get right, and some of the hardest dynamics to recreate have been the movements and sound of water.
Scientists at Cornell have now announced a system that can look at a 3-D motion rendering of water--waves, drops, anything--and algorithmically create the dribbles, gurgles and plops it would be sounding, were it in fact real.
It breaks faster than a Mariano Rivera cutter. It's harder to hit than Rick Vaughan's fastball in the movie Major League. The gyroball is so elusive, in fact, that some speculate that it might not even exist. The gyro, which originated in Japan, is causing consternation in American baseball broadcast booths these days. But since science is fairly used to dealing with things that may or may not exist (extra dimensions, anyone?), we figured we'd give it a look.
This video shows Daisuke Matsuzaka, the new Boston Red Sox hurler, supposedly striking out a batter using the gyro. Before we get into how it works, let's look at two other popular pitches. For a normal fastball, the pitcher puts backspin on the ball, so air flows faster above the ball than it does below. The ball doesn't drop as quickly as it would if it were following a normal, gravitationally influenced path, so the batter's brain gets the impression that it's rising. And... he whiffs.
A curveball has the opposite effect: Topspin causes it to fall faster. And again, if all goes well, he whiffs.
The gyroball is said to move with a bulletlike rotation that prevents it from dropping like a curve or staying high like a fastball. In effect, it's a fastball that listens to gravity, following a trajectory unaffected by turbulence in the air.
Japanese scientist Ryutaro Himeno is widely credited with creating the pitch using computer simulations [see the published paper and video clips of the computer models here] with the help of baseball instructor Kazushi Tezuka. They published their work in a book, currently available only in Japan, called The Secret of the Miracle Pitch.
As for whether Dice-K, as he's known in the U.S., is actually throwing a gyroball in this video, that's hard to tell. Following Occam's Razor, the easiest way to find out would be to just ask him, right? That's not so easy, though. Numerous interviewers have tried to do just that, but he’s played coy, allowing the miracle pitch to remain a mystery. —Gregory Mone
Californians living in fear of the "Big One"—and Californians living in denial about it—should check out these new computer simulations of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Seismologists from the U.S. Geological Survey unveiled these very cool, highly detailed computer simulations that show the seismic waves propagating outward from the epicenter, which lies offshore from San Francisco, and all across the Bay Area. Download the movies here and be sure to watch one of the closeup simulations, say, of downtown San Francisco. According to the USGS Web site, the colors and shading indicate the maximum shaking intensity at each location and the current shaking at the time, noted in seconds on each movie frame. Scary. —Eric Adams
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.