July News Roundup
July 23, 2014
The blackest material ever invented, solar-powered spacecraft, and the crushing environments inside gas giants round up this month in physics news.
June 25, 2014
The most seemingly mundane materials in our lives, like glass and plastics, actually contain some of the most fascinating physics and richest histories of all.
June News Roundup
June 18, 2014
An asteroid nicknamed "The Beast," Earth's most abundant material, bridgmanite, and the surprisingly strong sight of frogs' eyes roundup this month in physics news.
Beating the Game of Go
March 26, 2014
Chess masters have been beaten by computers, but machines still can't beat the best Go players. Nonetheless, mathematicians are working to perfect the art and science behind this classic game.
Phase Transitions and Bull Sperm
March 12, 2014
New research found a striking resemblance between bull sperm behavior and phase transitions found in physics, and this may lead to applications in contraception and infertility treatments.
March 05, 2014
Despite their fiery nature, volcanic eruptions actually cool the Earth over time and may explain a recent deceleration in global warming trends.
Olympic Snowboard Physics
February 19, 2014
Our resident snowboarding expert James Riordon explains the physics behind one of the most exciting Olympic sports.
Ig Nobels 2013
September 18, 2013
Water walking in reduced gravity, bovine behavior, and shrew swallowing are but a few of the quirky, funny research topics that won awards this year.
August 28, 2013
Myths abound in the world of bicycle materials, so Mike has untangled what truly makes for a smooth ride. Is it the material or the design?
Physics for the Blind
August 21, 2013
After losing his sight midway through his physics career, John Gardner developed a technology to help other blind persons in the sciences; but the technology goes far beyond the blind community.
Mysteries of the Glass Transition
July 15, 2013
Does old cathedral glass really flow over time? Mike investigates this myth and more mysteries surrounding this peculiar material.
May 22, 2013
See how NASCAR teams use physics to boost speed while keeping their drivers safe on the track.
Read more on this podcast's blog post
Super Sticky Gecko Adhesive
May 01, 2013
A material inspired by gecko toe pads might be the ideal household adhesive: it can support hundreds of pounds but peels off
April 03, 2013
This musical tradition hosted by physics professor Walter Smith prompts its physicist audience to belt out some of their favorite tunes - with a physics twist.
February 20, 2013
Scientists are adapting a shellfish's unique ability to latch onto wet surfaces strongly for medical adhesives and new nanoparticles.
Hiding in the Light
November 09, 2012
New research reveals how tiny crystals fish skin help silvery swimmers hide from predators by reflecting more light. The structures responsible for this creative camouflage could be put to use in man-made reflectors as well.
July 25, 2012
Even though Hollywood films aren't known for being completely scientifically accurate all of the time, the writers of some of the biggest films and TV shows have been relying on their science advisors to make the science in science fiction all the more believable.
Who is Enrico Fermi?
July 18, 2012
Physicist Enrico Fermi has his name attached to a number of monumental physics items, like Fermilab, fermions and fermium. Who was Fermi, what did he do to earn so much notoriety and the title of "universal physicist"? We'll try to find out in today's podcast.
How the Hippies Saved Physics
July 04, 2012
Dr. David Kaiser, author of the book "How the Hippies Saved Physics"
talks about how the culture of the 1970's influenced physics, and
brought the philosophical exploration of quantum mechanics back into
June 13, 2012
A single sheet of paper is easy to tear, but why, then, do crumpled balls of newspaper work as cushioning in packing boxes? Physicists are studying this unique architecture that maximizes the inherent strength of paper.
June 06, 2012
Jim Ottaviani writes comic books (or graphic novels) about famous scientists including Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, and those involved in the Manhattan Project.
NASA's Super Black Material
May 09, 2012
Light noise can make it difficult for Astronomers to see the objects they want to study. To help this, engineers have created a material that absorbs 99.8% of incoming light.
Curling Plant Roots
April 25, 2012
Jesse Silverberg is a physicists studying the way plant roots curl. His research contributes to a larger effort to understand how plants live and grow in unusual environments, like sandy or depleted soil. With the booming global population and the rising demand for food, this kind of research could find its way to your refrigerator very soon.
Naming the Elements
April 18, 2012
Ever wonder how Argon got it's name? Calla Cofield explores how the elements came to be named some very strange names.
March 28, 2012
Some of the world's greatest chefs have been lecturing at Harvard to share the science of food with the world.
March 21, 2012
Soft robots are robots controlled by humans but made of materials that are soft. These robots are so gentle, they can even pick up a mouse.
Physics of Curly Hair
March 07, 2012
Did you know that there is a lot of physics that goes into making
animated hair look realistic? Today we chat with MIT graduate student
Jay Miller who studies how a single hair curls. But this research goes
way beyond animation; it turns out you can apply these same principles
to a whole bunch of stuff, like the flagella on bacteria and very long
Butterlfly IR sensors
February 22, 2012
The Morpho Sulkowsky butterfly uses its flashy iridescent wings to
attract attention, but humans could use those wings in applications
ranging from homeland security to medical imaging. Researchers at the
General Electric Global Research Center attached carbon nanotubes to
real Morpho butterfly wings, and used the resulting structures as
infrared (IR) light sensors, which have applications in medicine,
science, environmental sustainability and the military, to name a few.
Self Organizing Patterns
December 14, 2011
Researchers have found a way to hide secrete messages inside
self-organizing patterns. Self-organizing patterns include zebra
stripes, flocks of birds, and termite colonies, to name a few. These
examples might seem biological, but it is physicists who study the
science of self organizing patterns -- and sometimes hide top secret
messages in them.
September 14, 2011
10 years after the towers fell the reflecting pools are about to open to commemorate this tragic event. Join Calla Cofield as she reflects on the physics of the falling towers and lessons for future presidents.
Coffee Ring Physics
August 11, 2011
Coffee Ring Physics
April 27, 2011
Scientists are using carbon nanotubes to detect cancer cells in the bloodstream. The nanotube device is about the size of a dime and could provide a low cost and portable way to test for cancer.
February 09, 2011
Engineers at Duke and Harvard Universities are working on a new technology that could eventually administer medical drugs to patients
via a very small sponge that squishes up under the force of a magnetic
International Year of Chemistry
January 26, 2011
It's the start of the International Year of Chemistry, and it's always good to start with the basics. What is chemistry, and how does it relate to physics?
Glowing Snail Shells
January 12, 2011
These shells glow! Learn what makes these snails glow and why they glow in this podcast.
December 08, 2010
Most of the colors we see everyday arise from chemicals like dyes. Unlike these colors, iridescence arises from structure. Iridescent objects change color depending on the angle that light hits the object. Scientists have been able to create this iridescent structure in glass.
The Granular Gripper Gizmo
November 10, 2010
Soft robots? You heard right. Scientists at the University of Chicago demonstrate a new example of soft robotics, with their "bean bag gripper." Based on the physics of granular materials, this robotic gripper picks up delicate and oddly shaped objects by gently molding to them, then locking in place.
October 20, 2010
Researchers at the University of Maryland College Park, announced a new record for the fastest spinning object, graphene.
New Years Physics Resolutions Part 2
January 23, 2009
In this podcast we describe some of the major experiments and concepts that physicists hope to resolve this year. This is part 2 of 3.
Whale Flipper Bumps
October 02, 2008
Why are humpback whales more agile in the water than other whales? Scientists discovered that the bumps on humpback flippers decrease water turbulence. This allows the humpback whales to tilt their flippers up and achieve greater lift over other whales and hence gives more maneuverability.