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+ - Einstein and Schrödinger didn't believe in quantum indeterminism

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "When it comes to the very nature of quantum mechanics — about the inherent uncertainty and indeterminism to reality — it’s one of the most difficult things to accept. Perhaps, you imagine, there’s some underlying cause, some hidden reality beneath what’s visible that actually is deterministic. After all, a cat can’t simultaneously be dead and alive until someone looks can it? That’s one of the problems that both Einstein and Schrödinger wrestled with during their lives. An investigation of that story, their work on that front, and their friendship that ensued as both pursued that same end is thoroughly investigated here by physicist Paul Halpern."

+ - Most solar systems are not like ours

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "It’s the simple formula we all know and recognize: inner, rocky worlds closest to the Sun, an asteroid belt farther out, and then gas giant worlds out beyond them. That’s how our Solar System works, at any rate. We’ve finally got enough data to determine whether other planetary systems are like us or not, and it turns out our configuration is quite rare. Simulations have caught up to this as well, and we've learned that Jupiter basically 'cleaned house' early on, a rare story explaining why our Solar System is so unusual!"

+ - Do all planets rotate in orbit around their stars?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "When you think about our world and our place in the Solar System, you very likely think about Earth, spinning on its axis, with the Moon orbiting around it, and with the entire Earth-Moon system orbiting the Sun. In fact, all of it — the Earth spinning on its axis, the Moon revolving around Earth, the Earth revolving around the Sun, and even the Sun spinning on its own axis — spins in the same direction: counterclockwise, as viewed from looking "down" on the Earth's north pole. Is this true for all planets in all solar systems? The answer turns out to be "mostly," but there are some incredibly interesting exceptions."

+ - How do volcanoes make lightning?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "When the electric potential difference between storm clouds in the upper atmosphere and the solid ground of the Earth becomes greater than the breakdown voltage in air, spontaneous lightning strikes occur, exchanging some 10^20 electrons per bolt. But this same phenomenon occurs, spontaneously, during volcanic eruptions, something that's been well-documented for nearly 2000 years. After decades of investigation, we're finally very close to understanding exactly how this happens."

+ - Pulling someone out of a black hole is impossible

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "If you move at the speed of light and are inside the event horizon of a black hole, you inevitably fall towards the singularity at the center. But if you were completely outside of the event horizon, you can escape. So what if you were completely outside of a large, massive black hole (with small spatial curvature at the event horizon) and then dipped just a small amount of matter inside. Could you just pull it out again? It turns out the answer is no, and that — to date — there's still no way to escape from a black hole!"

+ - Overcoming the Fingers (and Pancakes) of God

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "We’re all familiar with Hubble’s law, or the notion that the Universe is expanding, and that the farther away you look, the faster you’ll see that distant galaxy moving away from you. This relation would be exact, if only the rest of the objects in the Universe didn’t exert gravitational forces on one another. They do, however, leading to distortions that aren’t really there when we try and reconstruct maps of the Universe, known as “fingers” and “pancakes” of God. Thanks to some amazing physics, however, we can understand and remove these artifacts, allowing us to map the Universe on the largest scales to unprecedented accuracy."

+ - Why a French Abbey becomes an island every 18 years.

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Once every 18 years, a French Abbey — Mount St.-Michel — becomes inaccessible, as the English Channel rises to such levels that the causeway that normally reaches it becomes engulfed by the surrounding waters. You might think this is due to the tides, where the Earth, Moon and Sun align, but then shouldn’t this happen twice a month, during the two Spring Tides? As it turns out, the effects are much more subtle, and involve the Moon’s elliptical orbit and the equinoxes as well, but when they all align, once every 18 years, a supertide is the result, and Mount St.-Michel becomes an island!"

+ - No, the LHC will still not make an Earth-destroying black hole

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Every time we go to higher-and-higher energies with our particle accelerators, we increase the chances of finding new particles, new knowledge, and new fundamental physics. While there are also potential risks, the most commonly trotted-out one is that the LHC — set to run at 13 TeV, up from 7 TeV previously — will create an Earth-destroying black hole that will devour the planet in short order. Here's the physics of why that's impossible."

+ - The first billion-pixel mosaic of Mars

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "In 2012, Mars Science Laboratory performed the first robotically-controlled soft landing of a vehicle of such incredible mass: nearly half a tonne. A few months later, the rover, Curiosity, took the first ever billion-pixel mosaic from the Red Planet's surface, with breathtaking views of the terrain and alternate views of what the soils would look like were they here on Earth. Now in its third year on Mars, Curiosity is roving the low slopes of its ultimate destination: Mount Sharp."

+ - Space CAN expand faster than the speed of light

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right."

+ - The stolen credit for what makes up the Sun

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. But before we even knew that nuclear fusion was possible, we needed to figure out what the Sun was made out of, a more difficult task than you'd imagine. The credit was given to Henry Norris Russell (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame), but he completely stole the work from a woman you never heard of, his student, Cecilia Payne, after discouraging her from publishing her work on the subject four years prior."

+ - The first stars in the Universe were invisible

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "You'd think it would be enough to form some stars, and "let there be light" would be a reality. But these stars don't become visible for literally hundreds of millions of years until after they form. It's not that they don't emit light — they do — but rather that the Universe is opaque to that light for up to half a billion years after those stars form. While modern telescopes like Hubble are inherently limited by this fact, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will observe in wavelengths that these dusty particles ought to be transparent to, might be able to finally probe the true light from the very first stars."

+ - The skies celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a spectacular aurora

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Everyone's a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, but it's a very rare St. Patrick's Day indeed when the skies themselves turn green! But the Universe is aligning for us tonight, as the particles from a class-C solar flare slam into Earth's auroral oval, creating a spectacular green show visible much closer to the equator than anyone has a right to expect. Check out the Earth's natural, physical celebration of St. Patrick's Day tonight!"

+ - Einstein's happiest thought was really macabre

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Sure, Einstein came up with both special and general relativity, revolutionizing our understanding of how the Universe works. But how did he come up with his new theory of gravity? Oddly enough, by imagining someone plummeting towards their doom. By comparing a freely-falling observer with one accelerating under a non-gravitational force, Einstein unearthed the equivalence principle, and eight years later, General Relativity came spilling out. The Universe has never been the same."

% APL is a natural extension of assembler language programming; ...and is best for educational purposes. -- A. Perlis