quantum physics

Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

24 September 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..” ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen. Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and to save time, transposed them into a MIDI thing with an Irish harp soundfont or something like that. The only “live” guitar on here is the little accent tweedles at the end of each verse, laden with all kinds of distortion and delay. Idea-wise, I’m not sure this conveys how weird it is to have something large enough to witness (in some way) that’s in a Schrodinger’s Cat-style superposition. I mean, I’m not sure […]

A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum.

10 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily might not be as into the poetry of that phrase as I am. They’re more into what it means make a diamond that halfway isn’t there: The research team is led by Nick Vamivakas at the University of Rochester who thinks their work will make extremely sensitive instruments for sensing tiny forces and torques possible, as well as a way to physically create larger-scale quantum systems known as macroscopic Schrödinger Cat states. … In a previous paper, the researchers had shown that nanodiamonds could be levitated in air using a trapping laser. The new paper now shows this can be done in vacuum, which they say is “a critical advance over previous nanodiamond optical tweezer experiments performed in liquids or at atmospheric pressure.” Nanodiamonds trapped at atmospheric pressure are continuously agitated by collisions with the air molecules around them. Trapping the diamonds in vacuum removes the effect of all these air molecules. “This […]

SONG: “Particles of Attraction” (penitential AJ Allulli cover)

11 January 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Particles of Attraction” (penitential cover) [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: This is a cover making up for a late song in December. (And I’m still one in the hole – sorry.) This song was written by AJ Allulli, who fortuitously entered it into the Cover Swap project initiated on reddit’s We Are The Music Makers sub-board. ABSTRACT: Yes, so this is both a penitential cover and a cover swap cover. Hopefully, someone will do something interesting to this old Guild song, which I always thought needed something more. AJ Allulli’s original had a great beat and some lovely robotic vocoder stuff, so I decided to go 180 degrees opposite and do a cover that’s 100% acoustic. Well, it’s an electric bass, but I mic’ed the amp. I still can’t really play the erhu, but it doubles well enough for a Camper Van Beethoven-style fiddle. And the vocals did […]

Anesthesia works by stealing electrons from your brain.

14 August 2014 // 0 Comments

Scientific American has more on the weird quantum effects that make consciousness go bye-bye: General anaesthetics may extinguish consciousness through mysterious quantum biological effects that cause subtle changes in the electronic state of proteins, rather than through ‘conventional’ pharmacological mechanisms such as directly interfering with receptors or ion channels, new research proposes. The work, carried out by a team led by Luca Turin of the Alexander Fleming Research Centre in Athens, Greece, could go some way towards explaining a generic mechanism of action for general anaesthetics. … The team showed that if around 30 fruit flies are cooled to a few degrees above freezing to render them motionless, it is possible to obtain a steady electron spin resonance signal (ESR) from the population. When the flies are exposed to anaesthetic, a jump in the ESR signal is observed, compared with the resistant flies, indicating an increase in the number of unpaired electrons. … [Says Turin:] […]

MIT astrophysicists set to detect just *how* weird the universe really is.

26 February 2014 // 0 Comments

DailyGalaxy.com shares the weird – an experiment that’s been proposed to tell for once and for all if classical physics can explain the universe, or if everything there is really depends on “spooky action at a distance” and the peculiar rules of quantum physics: “It sounds creepy, but people realized that’s a logical possibility that hasn’t been closed yet,” says MIT’s David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and senior lecturer in the Department of Physics. “Before we make the leap to say the equations of quantum theory tell us the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre, have we closed every conceivable logical loophole, even if they may not seem plausible in the world we know today?” Now Kaiser, along with MIT postdoc Andrew Friedman and Jason Gallicchio of the University of Chicago, have proposed an experiment to close this third loophole by determining a particle detector’s settings using some of the […]

Google Street View goes inside the Large Hadron Collider.

1 October 2013 // 0 Comments

Says it all right there. You want to see inside the world’s largest particle accelerator? Street View will take you into the underground tunnels: We’re delighted that CERN opened its doors to Google Maps Street View allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to take a peek into its laboratories, control centers and its myriad underground tunnels housing cutting-edge experiments. Street View also lets scientists working on the experiments, who may be on the other side of the world, explore the equipment they’re using. Needless to say, this is hardcore porn for electronics fetishists. Giant circuits! Heavy ion detectors! Huge arrays of… THINGS!

Science Art: Beetle (ASIC) by Sven Loechner

22 September 2013 // 0 Comments

The Beetle (ASIC) is a chip designed for the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator designed to recreate the Big Bang. It’s part of the quark-detection equipment in an experiment called “Large Hadron Collider beauty.”

NASA engages the warp drive.

29 August 2013 // 0 Comments

Space.com brings us hurtling into the future with the science of quantum thrusters… a real-life warp drive: A warp-drive-enabled spacecraft would look like a football with two large rings fully encircling it. The rings would utilize an exotic form of matter to cause space-time to contract in front of and expand behind them. Harold “Sonny” White, a NASA physicist, is experimenting with these concepts on a smaller scale using a light-measuring device in the lab. … “We’re looking for a change in path length of the photon on the interferometer, because that would be potential evidence that we’re generating the effect we’re looking for,” White told SPACE.com. “We’ve seen, in a couple different experiments with several different analytic techniques, a change in optical-path length. We’re making one leg of the interferometer seem a little shorter because of this device being on, versus the device being off. That doesn’t mean that it’s what we’re looking for.” […]

Science Art: Positron Discovery by C.D. Anderson

16 June 2013 // 0 Comments

That scratch going up the left half of the picture might look like an accidental blemish, but it’s actually the first trace of a positron (a fundamental unit of antimatter) ever recorded. That thick line across the middle is a lead barrier. The thing went through it from the bottom to the top, we know, because the top part is more curved. The line could have been left by a proton, but it’s 10 times too long. So this is an electron with a positive charge. Nowadays, they’re commonly used in every hospital – the “P” in PET scan stands for “positronic.” We use antimatter to look inside people. In 1932, though, this little scratch was kind of amazing.

Computing with light.

14 May 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily isn’t talking about fiberoptics. They’re looking at the latest breakthroughs that take the “electrons” out of “electronics” by using photons to process information: Scientists from the Group of Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna succeeded in prototyping a new and highly resource efficient model of a quantum computer — the boson sampling computer. … The huge advantage of photons — a particular type of bosons — lies in their high mobility. … “According to the laws of quantum physics, the photons seem to take all possible paths at the same time. This is known as superposition. Amazingly, one can record the outcome of the computation rather trivially: one measures how many photons exit in which output of the network,” explains Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics. Photon computers can go way, way faster than electronic computers because they can literally be in more places at once. Superposition. Instead […]

Why is there something? Anything? Instead of nothing?

1 April 2013 // 0 Comments

NPR asks the biggest question of all – the original question. Look around. Why is there something instead of nothing?: The best answer we have at this point is that the Universe emerged spontaneously from a random quantum fluctuation in some sort of primordial quantum vacuum, the scientific equivalent of “nothing.” However, this quantum vacuum is a very loaded nothing: it assumes the whole machinery of quantum field theory, the modern description of how elementary particles of matter interact with one another, was already in operation. In the quantum realm, even the lowest energy state, the “vacuum,” is not empty. Even if the energy of a quantum system is zero, it is never really zero due to the inherent quantum fluctuations about this state. A zero energy quantum state is as impossible as a perfectly still lake, with absolutely no disturbances on its surface. This quantum jitteriness amounts to fluctuations on the value of the […]

After everything, the Higgs boson still dooms us all. In a few billion years.

27 March 2013 // 0 Comments

Scientific American crunches the numbers that show how the mass of the Higgs boson spells the end of the universe… eventually: “If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it is bad news,” says Joseph Lykken, a theorist who works at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. “It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable.” … The Standard Model also says, as Lykken puts it, that “for the vacuum of empty space to be stable, we should be living at a minimum of potential energy.” In other words, most things end up resting in a place of lowest energy. A ball rolls downhill and settles in a low point; getting it to move away from this point requires a kick of energy. In the case of the universe it would be like living at the bottom of a […]

Lockheed Martin’s quantum computer steps into the limelight.

25 March 2013 // 0 Comments

New York Times has a pretty good profile of what could be the next big breakthrough in computing – the chips that understand “maybe”: [A] powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time. It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers. Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to upgrade […]

We’ll all be staring at quantum dots.

20 February 2013 // 0 Comments

The Economist is gazing into the pretty colors…not of quantum computers, but quantum television screens: An LCD screen works with a backlight shining through red, blue or green filters to produce the pixels which make up an image. Many televisions use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the backlight because they are brighter and use less power than fluorescent bulbs. Sony’s new televisions uses quantum dots with conventional LEDs to produce a hybrid backlight of greater intensity. In time, though, quantum dots might be used directly as the coloured pixels on screens. When a voltage is applied to a quantum dot it causes electrons contained in the crystal to release energy in the form of light. Changing the size of the dots changes the amount of energy released, which in turn determines the wavelength, and therefore the colour of the emitted light. This means they can be made into nanoscopic LEDs and, in principle, be tailored to […]

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