Did you feel that? Gravity just got a little weaker. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has just posted the latest internationally recommended adjustments to the values for the fundamental constants of nature. The results: Gravity is a bit weaker, the electromagnetic force a smidgeon stronger, and the whole of physics a little less uncertain.
Of all the things in the physical world we think we know a lot about, water is definitely among them. Nonetheless, by precisely shaking a shallow container of water, researchers have now observed two new types of waves that have never been observed before in water--and one that has never been observed in any other media either.
Today in the Things We Thought We Understood But Really Don’t file, a Northwestern University researcher has upended what was previously thought to be a pretty good understanding of how static electricity works. Static electricity goes beyond the usual theory that it's a simple imbalance of charges caused by the exchange of ions, the researchers’ paper says. Rather, it is the result of an actual transfer of material.
A team of Mexican and Cuban researchers have made a somewhat mind-bending discovery. They’ve shown that objects crashing through a granular medium don’t necessarily lose energy and come to a stop, as you might expect, but can attain a terminal velocity and continue sinking indefinitely into the material. It’s a property that has never been observed or, to the researchers’ knowledge, even predicted before.
Hydrophobic materials have all kinds of practical applications, from creating surfaces that never have to be cleaned to making supertankers and container ships glide more efficiently through the water. But practical applications aside, this amazing video from Caltech -- showing the crazy, beautiful ways water droplets interact with a carbon nanotube array --might be mistaken for art rather than science.
In a breakthrough so hot it's cool, Spanish researchers have figured out how to make water freeze at room temperature. By artificially manipulating the mechanisms by which water condenses in the atmosphere, the researchers found a means to trigger ice formation at far higher temperatures than water's usual freezing point, a development that could lead to better artificial snowmaking, more efficient ice skating rinks, and better freezer technology.
Leaping tall buildings, punching through solid concrete walls and using public phone booths as ersatz changing rooms without anyone noticing are still beyond human capacity, but a development at Cornell University might allow us to walk on walls like Spider Man, or even dance on the ceiling like Lionel Richie.
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.