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Physics is one of the oldest fields of scientific study, with some of the most mature theories and laws about how the world works. But those theories don’t always match up perfectly with each other.

Linus Mimietz / unsplash

We all use physics every day. Every time we pick something up, throw a ball, charge our cell phones, or drive a car, physics is involved. But most of us never choose to ignore how those things actually work.

A new theory of gravity has been shown to form spiral-shaped galaxies in a computer simulation. This image is the night sky above Paranal taken by astronomer Yuri Beletsky in 2007. The laser points to the galactic center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Yuri Beletsky, https://tinyurl.com/y6nnetk6

Einstein's theory of general relativity was revolutionary when it was introduced. Over the past century, aspects of the theory have been proven in experiment after experiment and much of it has become an assumed underpinning of daily life, even for non-scientists.

Take Einstein’s description of gravity.

Gravity is gravity, right? How strong it is depends on the mass of the objects involved. Or maybe not.

Atomic Clock FOCS-1 (Switzerland). The primary frequency standard device, FOCS-1, one of the most accurate devices for measuring time in the world. It stands in a laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology METAS in Bern.
METAS, https://tinyurl.com/y627lkc5

So, it happened. And you probably didn’t notice. But the long-awaited, new definition of the kilogram went into effect this past week.

The metal cylinder that has defined the kilo for over a century has now been replaced with a mathematical equation based on a number known as the Planck constant.

It was the last physical artefact defining any unit of measurement in the international system, so its replacement marks an important point in efforts to define those units in ways that are permanent and immutable – based on constants of nature, rather than somebody’s foot or a hunk of metal. But it’s certainly not the end of the effort.

Now they’re taking on the second with renewed vigor. You know, the base unit of time in the International System of Units. That second. 

Astrophysicist and cosmologist Marcelo Gleiser is this year's Templeton Prize winner.
Dartmouth College-Eli Burakian

The Templeton Prize is sometimes described as the Nobel Prize for spirituality.

Figures from Aaron Slepkov's experiments in microwaving grapes and other watery orbs.
Slepkov Biophotonics Lab, Trent University

It’s not every day that a scientific study reads like great literature, but here’s how a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences begins:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pair of grape hemispheres exposed to intense microwave radiation will spark, igniting a plasma.”

Image by cytis https://goo.gl/TFNzDa / pixabay.com

"There's plenty of sciencethat supports that CBD might have therapeutic indications. Obviously, for intractable pediatric epilepsy, CBD does have clinical validity. However, for all the other claims regarding CBD, we just don't quite know scientifically whether or not it's really going to hold water."  - Jenny Wilkerson

This week on Living Lab Radio:

The winners of the 2018 Quantum Matters™ Science Communication Competition Award at the Museum of Science
Museum of Science

You’ve heard of the space race and the arms race, but there’s another international race that many of us have never even heard of. It’s the race to make quantum mechanics the basis for new technology.

Quantum physicists say we are in the midst of a revolution that could transform computing, energy, medicine, and things that we can’t imagine yet. 

Physicist Dominic Walliman's map of physics.
Dominic Walliman / http://dominicwalliman.com/

“The term quantum leap has already pervaded our vocabulary. We use it to mean something magical - something that challenges the imagination - even if many people who use it don't quite understand what it means."  -Evelyn Hu

This week on Living Lab Radio:

Flavio Gasperini / unsplash

Over the past few years, breakthroughs in quantum physics and astrophysics have been making international headlines. (Think Higgs boson and gravitational waves.)

But many of us struggle to understand what these advances mean or why we should even care.

A new book attempts to explain elements of quantum physics with the help of heavy metal.

NASA / go.nasa.gov/2uqb0ga

In September of last year, an observatory at the South Pole detected a tiny streak of blue light deep within the ice below. That observatory is known as Ice Cube. Yes, like the rapper. It’s a coincidence that Dawn Williams of the Ice Cube Collaboration says sometimes confuses people on the internet.

The Nobel Prizes in science were awarded this past week, and Massachusetts was well-represented. 

Agence de presse Meurisse / bit.ly/2gCH6zx

When Marie Curie discovered radioactivity, she kick-started the field of atomic physics and inspired two other female physicists whose work gave rise to the atomic age. Her daughter, Irene (and son-in-law, Frederic) Joliot-Curie, discovered a method of inducing artificial radioactivity. And Austrian-born Lise Meitner figured out nuclear fission.

Enrico Fermi is a household name in Italy, revered as the greatest Italian scientist of the modern age. But on this side of the Atlantic, he’s less well-known despite having changed the course of history with his work on the Manhattan Project and other atomic-age advances.

Kip Thorne to Speak at Umass Dartmouth Today

Mar 29, 2016

Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne is the executive producer and science advisor for the 2014 film Interstellar. Black holes and gravity anomalies feature prominently in that film, and have been the subject of Kip Thorne’s research career.  He subsequently wrote a book about the science of Interstellar.