Saturday, June 30, 2012

18 Indian students head for Lindau to meet with 27 Nobel Laureates in Physics - Times of India

LINDAU: Sixteen year-old Sahal Kaushik is definitely excited. But he is quite cool when you ask him how come he is so young and set to enter third year of the MSc Integrated Physics course at IIT Kanpur? "Oh I was home-schooled till the age of ten when I enrolled in the ninth standard at a school in Delhi. That's how," he says as he gets ready to meet and converse with as many as 27 Nobel Laureates in Physics at Lindau, Germany, between July 1 and 6. Sahal, with a special interest in astrophysics, is the youngest in a group of 18 outstanding students from India including three from Punjab and two from Kerala who leave for Germany today, selected by the DFG and DST of the ministry of science and technology, government of India, to participate in the annual Lindau Nobel Lectures where they will interact with the creme de la creme of cutting edge science as part of the group of around 500 students selected from across the world for this unique experience.

Once the Lindau meeting concludes, Indian students will spend a week touring premium laboratories in Germany and interact with experts, thanks to generous DFG funding.
"The outlook for Indian science is very positive with a 20-25 per cent increase in R&D funding over the past five years," says the Cambridge-educated Arabinda MItra, advisor and head, international bilateral cooperation, DST. "India has moved to ninth position from 15th in world ranking in R&D and soon we will be fifth," he says. Torsten Fischer, director of DFG-India and member of the DFG-DST Fellowship panel, is more optimistic. He thinks India will soon be Number One; so impressed is he with Indian youth's collaborative skills and scientific talent. "Indo-German cooperation is also all about friendship - students talk with not just Nobel Laureates and other experts but also interact with their peer groups from around the world and form lasting associations. Such networking provides a wide range of opportunities for scientific paper writing as they will establish contact with institutional heads and research students," he says.

The DFG will give grants to five students out of the 18 on a first come, first served basis to stay in Germany for three months and work in a lab of their choice from among the ones they will visit during their tour.

"For students, the Lindau meeting is an achievement, challenge, commitment and huge opportunity - and the DFG will follow their career for the next couple of years, ready to facilitate deserving students planning on higher-end research," says Dr Fischer.

Plans are afoot to open an integrated German House of Science and Innovation (DWIH) in New Delhi in October this year that will bring under one roof all German scientific, academic institutions and universities and research funding organisations like the DFG, Max Planck Society, Humboldt Foundation, DAAD and others. The DWIH will act as facilitation and information centre for students aspiring for higher research with German collaboration either in Germany, in India or both. A virtual version of the one-stop shop will offer the same services for those unable to make the trip to Chanakyapuri, Delhi, where DWIH is to be located. More ambitious plans are under way including setting up a web-based forum for Lindau Alumni, A Science Slam and a science workshop funded by DFG and coordinated by Max Planck.

The picturesqueBavarian town of Lindau in Germany facing the Swiss and Austrian Alps is becoming more known now for its annual intellectual samvad between Nobel laureates and students, presenting a unique learning and networking opportunity. The language of communication? Why, science of course! Physics is the theme of this year's 62nd meeting of Nobel Laureates at Lindau, and experts are slated to discuss not just pure scientific theory but also share their solutions to problems of world energy shortages and the challenge of climate change. For instance Carlo Rubbia, Matinus Veltman, George Smoot and David Gross will discuss particle experiments at CERN to better understand dark matter; Carlo Rubbia and Robert Laughlin will discuss the future of energy supply and storage; Harold Kroto will speak of the need to simplify scientific language and content for popular understanding; and Dan Schechtman will impress upon students the importance of perseverance in the face of disappointments in research.

"We will be adding 10,000 more new positions in scientific academic institutions, so we need to nurture talent in science, and the Lindau meeting is sure to change their lives forever. The DFG-DST Lindau venture is part of the DST's efforts to connect with the younger generation," says Dr MItra. "The DST pays for students' airfare while the DFG foots other expenses in conjunction with the Lindau Committe," says R K Sharma, who has accompanied student groups at least nine times to Lindau as head of the German international division at DST. The students are right now too excited to express their thoughts other than say they are terribly excited and grateful for the opportunity; they do need to focus and conserve their energy for the big occasion when they will come face to face with great minds that are going to be their captive audience once they finish with their lectures.

English major: Twins' Brian Dozier spins incredible, physics-defying RBI ... - Yahoo! Sports (blog)

Something quite strange happened during the Twins 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Target Field on Saturday afternoon that in the opinion of all who have witnessed it, simply defied physics.

During a fifth inning at-bat with runners at first and second and only one out, Minnesota Twins shortstop Brian Dozier was busted inside quite severely by a Jonathan Sanchez fastball, but somehow managed to fight it off with a very awkward swing.

Now here's where it gets weird. After Dozier made contact with the ball (it's difficult to tell where exactly it hit on the bat), it went backwards and into the left-handed batter's box. However, when the ball landed an estimated five feet behind the chalk line, it had so much side spin on it that it actually turned towards the Twins first base dugout, and then slowly circled back around into fair territory about 40 feet up the line.

Watch Brian Dozier literally hit a curveball:

You can take an additional look taken exclusively from the camera behind home plate by clicking here.

As Twins color analyst and baseball Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven said of the play, this is why you come to the ballpark. You never know what you're going to see.

Well, as you did see in the clip, thanks to his own awareness, hustle and perhaps a little desperation (and the awareness and hustle of Ryan Doumit, who scored all the way from second base after catcher Brayan Pena vacated home plate), Dozier ended up with one of the craziest run-scoring infield singles you'll ever see.

''It was spinning really, really hard, so I was just like, 'Well, why not, I'm dying for a hit, let's just take off and see what happens,''' Dozier said with a laugh. ''(Justin Morneau) of course was the first one, he said, 'Hey why don't you just try that every time, you might get a hit out of it.''

As for the opposing view of the play? Well, let's just say it was a very typical Royals response.

''It was clearly a foul ball,'' Pena said. ''Then I saw it spinning back and I saw that it was a fair ball. It's one of those games where things don't go your way.''

If fans in Kansas City had $1 for every time they've heard that quote after a loss, they might be to afford the entire Royals payroll.

Looking for more baseball chatter?
Follow @bigleaguestew, @Townie813 and check out the BLS Facebook Page

The Twins' Brian Dozier Defied Physics With The Craziest RBI Single We've Ever ... - SportsGrid

MLBVideoWeird But True

Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Brian Dozier was batting today in the bottom of the 5th against the Kansas City Royals when something inexplicable happened. A 1-0 fastball rode in on Dozier’s hands and jammed him, and he only managed to knock the ball 45 feet up the first base line into foul territory. Except all of a sudden the ball, which was at least five feet foul, spun violently back into fair territory for an infield single. There’s really no sufficient way to explain this â€" only the video can do it justice. We don’t say this often, but you really need to see this.

Because Dozier ran hard out of the box, he beat the throw to first. But the best part about the whole thing was that Ryan Doumit, who was on second base at the time, managed to score, giving Dozier the RBI.

Video via CJ Fogler


The Physics of Toilets - io9

The Physics of ToiletsYou may be dealing with a plumbing issue. You may get sent back in time and realize you don't have the strength to go on without indoor plumbing. You may get asked this by a small child who, up until that moment, was the one person who believed you had the answer to everything. Trust me. Sooner or later, you are going to want to know this.

Why does the water rush out of the bowl of the toilet so fast when the lever is in the tank? Why does a slow rush of water fail to clear the bowl completely? Why do toilets always seem to block up on Friday night before a long weekend? We can answer two of those questions with physics. The last will just have to depend on, oh, let's say karma.

Toilets have three major components. The first is a bowl. We all know what that's for. The second is a tank. We can all see that. The last is behind the bowl, in that little tube from whose bourn - hopefully - no traveler returns. That part is a siphon. As simple machines go, siphons get less respect than wheels, levers, or inclined planes; but to be fair, not that many people know that siphons make flush toilets possible. If they did, siphons would be celebrated.

A siphon works because it allows water to move like a chain instead of like discrete particles. Grab a pitcher and fill it with water. Stick a length of flexible tube deep in the water and let the tube droop down over the side of the pitcher. Then suck one the end of the tube until the water comes up over the edge of the pitcher and down the tube a ways. The water in the tube will splash on the floor. (Oops. Did I not tell you to put a container there to catch the water? My bad.) But the water in the length of tube climbing up the side of the pitcher will not fall back down into the pitcher. It'll keep going, drawing more and more water over the side until the pitcher empties onto the floor. (Really my bad. I mean. Did I have to tell you a whole pitcher? Couldn't I have just said a glass?) The water will be drawn over the side the same way a length of beads will be drawn over the side of a container if the beginning of the strand is pulled over the side.

It doesn't seem to make sense that water will act like a chain when it breaks apart so easily under other circumstances. Water molecules, though, have their own cohesive forces. That's why they even stick together in the first place. The cohesion, under the constraints of the walls of the siphon tube, will allow the water to act like string. There are even self-siphoning fluids, where the molecules are so tangled and long that even a bit over the lip of glass will siphon off the whole thing. (Some sticklers will argue that atmospheric pressure, which pushes on the water in the pitcher, plays a part. If the water filling the tube "breaks apart," there will be a vacuum, which will suck the water back together again. Most, though, say it's just plain cohesion that makes it work.)

How does this help a toilet flush? Behind the bowl, there's a little pipe that goes up, like a siphon tube that's built into the pitcher. However, since there's no water in there, no water is being siphoned out of the bowl. However, when you flush, you empty the tank into the bowl. The increase in water fills the bowl until the water makes it over the apex of the siphon tube behind it, and down into the pipes below. Once that happens, the rest of the, oh, let's say "water," in the bowl gets siphoned out, and the bowl can begin to refill.

As for why a toilet doesn't seem to work if the flow is low or slow, the water doesn't fill the tube of the siphon. Instead it pours over the side in a meager, steady trickle that doesn't allow the siphon to kick into gear.

As to why they break on holiday weekends, that's between you and your dietician.

Via MIT and Straight Dope.

Higgs boson buzz hits new heights - msnbc.com (blog)

ATLAS Collaboration / CERN

This diagram shows the results of a proton-on-proton collision in the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS detector last September, with four muons indicated by red tracks. Such a result could be consistent with the Standard Model with or without the Higgs boson, depending on the analysis of multiple events.

By Alan Boyle

Has the Higgs boson finally been detected? It's almost gotten to the point that if a discovery of some sort doesn't come out of next week's update on the multibillion-dollar subatomic search, it'll be a big surprise. But how far will the announcement go, and what will it mean for the future of physics?

To refresh your memory, the Higgs boson is the only fundamental subatomic particle predicted by theory but not yet detected. It's thought to play a role in endowing some particles, such as the W and Z boson, with mass ... while leaving other particles, such as the photon, massless. The Higgs mechanism, proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs and others in the 1960s, could have played a role in electroweak symmetry breaking, which was a key event in the rise of the universe as we know it.


The Higgs boson is so key to the current understanding of fundamental physics that Nobel-winning scientist Leon Lederman nicknamed it the "God Particle" â€" a term that has been making other physicists wince ever since. Another religion-tinged cliche would be to call it the "holy grail of particle physics," as CERN physicist John Ellis has. He says finding the Higgs is a key goal for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"That's one thing that we're really looking forward to with the LHC," Ellis told me five years ago. "In fact, back when we persuaded the politicians to stump up the money to build the thing, that's probably what we told them."

Last December, the teams reported that they saw "tantalizing hints" of the Higgs' existence at a mass of around 125 billion electron volts, or 125 GeV. But the confidence in those results was not yet high enough to claim a discovery. Now the teams behind the collider's CMS and ATLAS experiments have collected higher piles of data, at higher energy levels, sparking higher expectations.

An hour-long BBC Horizon documentary focuses on the hunt for the Higgs boson.

The 5-sigma fetish
When physicists talk about their confidence, they talk in terms of statistical "sigma" levels. The higher the sigma, the less likely that the results are just a fluke. In particle physics, 3 sigma constitutes strong evidence, but it takes 5 sigma to accept the results as a discovery. At the 5-sigma level, statisticians say there's roughly one chance out of 3 million that you're leaping to the wrong conclusion, as opposed to a 1-in-1,000 chance at the 3-sigma level. That distinction makes a big difference when you're sifting through billions upon billions of proton-on-proton collision reports.

Last year, the best that the LHC teams could do was 3.6 sigma for ATLAS, and 2.6 for CMS. Now physicists are looking for a 5.

For three weeks, the teams have been running the numbers on their experimental results in secret, so as to avoid any chance that one analysis will influence the other. Their results are to be announced during a presentation at the CERN nuclear research center in Geneva, which will be webcast starting at 9 a.m. CEST (3 a.m. ET) on July 4. Although no official word has leaked out, the unofficial word is that someone looking for a discovery could get to the magic number.

"Reports from the experiments indicate that at least one of them, if not both, will reach the 5 sigma level of significance for the Higgs signal, when they combine 2011 and 2012 data and the most sensitive channel. So, this will definitely be the long-awaited Higgs discovery announcement, and party time for HEP [high-energy physics] physicists," Columbia mathematician Peter Woit wrote on his Not Even Wrong blog a week ago.

Since then, other physicist-bloggers have been fine-tuning the expectations. Here's a selection:

  • On the Resonaances blog, physicist Adam Falkowski (a.k.a. Jester) has a countdown clock ticking toward the Higgs discovery. "It is not clear, at least to me, if either of the two experiments will pass the 5-sigma fetish. But it does not really matter. ... What's going to change next Wednesday is that the status of the Higgs will be upgraded from 'almost certain' to 'beyond reasonable doubt.'"
  • On Quantum Diaries, Southern Methodist University physicist Aidan Randle-Conde advises against trying to combine the data from the two teams to get to 5 sigma. "With all this pressure to get as much out of the data as possible, it's tempting to move too quickly and do what we can to get a discovery, but now is not the time to rush things," he writes.
  • On the ViXra Log, Philip Gibbs says that when CERN's researchers report their progress, "it is likely that the main question they are investigating will switch from 'Is there a Higgs Boson?' to 'Is it the Standard Model Higgs boson?'"
  • On a blog titled "Of Particular Significance," Rutgers physicist Matt Strassler advises caution, but also suggests getting "the cases of champagne ready, in case the time has finally come to pop the corks." He points out that a discovery announcement would by no means be the end of the story. "Even if we see strong evidence of a Higgs-like particle ... the correct understanding of that particle â€" in particular, determining whether it is or isn't a 'simplest Higgs' â€" may take years."
  • As we approach H-Hour, you can expect to hear more via all these outlets as well as other blogs such as Cosmic Variance and "A Quantum Diaries Survivor."

Physicist Gigi Rolandi discusses the Higgs search in a CERN video.

Hedging on the Higgs
What Strassler and Gibbs are saying is important: Technically speaking, CERN is unlikely to announce that the Higgs boson has been definitively discovered. It's more likely that physicists will talk about a new particle that has a signature consistent with the Higgs but has to be investigated further.

CERN hinted at that approach last week in the news release announcing Wednesday's webcast. "It's a bit like spotting a familiar face from afar," said the center's director general, Rolf Heuer. "Sometimes you need closer inspection to find out whether it's really your best friend, or actually your best friend's twin."

Gigi Rolandi, a senior research physicist at CERN, used a similar analogy in a video released this week, referring to crops of corn (which he calls maize, as most Europeans do), wheat (which he calls corn) and poppy flowers. Some particles are as easy to spot as a red poppy in a wheat field, he said. But not the Higgs. "The search for the Higgs is more similar to looking for a single plant of maize among many, many corn plants, than looking for a poppy among the corn," he said.

We'll get a foretaste of Wednesday's proceedings on Monday, when Fermilab is due to provide its final update on the Higgs boson search, based on the full set of data from the now-closed Tevatron. Will Fermilab try to steal some of CERN's thunder, at least for a couple of days? Stay tuned....

Previous episodes in the Higgs hunt:


Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.

The Physics of Miracles and the Problem of Evil - Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies


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Giulio Prisco on 'The Physics of Miracles and the Problem of Evil' (Jun 30, 2012)

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Comment on this entry

Turing Church

June 29, 2012

We may be bots in a reality-wide simulation, and perhaps the player(s) from above can violate our simulated physics when they want. In a more popular formulation of the same concept, called Religion, the player(s), called God(s), created our reality and can perform miracles.


...

Complete entry



COMMENTS
Posted by Peter Wicks  on  06/29  at  04:32 PM

It seems to me that there’s quite a bit of motivated reasoning going on here. Yes the medieval philosophers were smart, but like everyone they were also motivated. They wanted to believe that God was both omnipotent and benevolent. That motivation still exists today, and as David Eubanks has pointed out (see his article under “hottest articles of the month”) motivated reasoning tends to work better in the short term than in the long term.

Certainly the problem of evil was one of the factors that made me lose my faith in e Christian belief system in which I was raised, and part of the reason for this was the one motivation that Eubanks flags as being necessary to neutralise the other motivations that constantly distort our cognitive processes: the motivation not to be fooled. That motivation remains strong.

Giulio, we agreed on another thread that logic and reason are tools, not ends in themselves, but also that they are very useful ones. At their best they can be used to elucidate otherwise obscure issues, to everyone’s benefit. At their worst they can be used to prop up false or unhelpful belief systems, in the same way that epicycles were used to resist (and delay) the Copernican revolution.

Not that any of this disproves your thesis. Sure, you can define “God” as a post-human programmer with basically good intentions, and “omnipotent” as “in charge of the simulation but still working with incompete resources and information”. Weird definitions in my view, but whatever. But it does raise for me the following questions. 1. Should we be trying to convince ourselves that there really is an omnipotent and benevolent God? 2. What does that do for us? 3. Isn’t there a risk that, in the process, we might end up fooling ourselves?



Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  06/30  at  01:39 AM

Peter, I don’t think we should frame these questions as “Should we…” They don’t require a collective answer, but personal answers. The belief systems that we adopt to better cope with life, pursue happiness and motivate ourselves are personal choices. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. My answer to 1., 2., and 3. is “it is up to you to make your own choice.”

I wrote this article for those who want to believe, but are blocked by the problem of evil and the mistaken notion that belief and science are incompatible. To them, I show that belief can be formulated in a way that is perfectly compatible with the scientific method and our current scientific knowledge, and that the problem of evil is a non-problem when looked at from the right perspective.



Posted by Peter Wicks  on  06/30  at  02:14 AM

I would put this somewhat differently: it’s not that, “Should we…?” is the wrong way to ask the questions, but rather that the answers are indeed likely to vary from individual to individual. I certainly agree with that.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from reflecting on the questions collectively. Even if the answers vary, there might be some common conclusions that we can reasonably draw.

You say you wrote the article for those who “want to believe”. Different way of phrasing my first two questions in this context would then be, “If they succeed, will that make them happier in the long run, and more importantly will it increase the amount of happiness overall? What does this depend on?”

As far as the third question is concerned, the answer is always yes: there is always a risk that we end up fooling ourselves. One thing I liked about Eubanks’ article was the implication that, in the long run, happiness (both individually and collectively) is most likely to be achieved if we consciously try to reduce the extent to which we fool ourselves. This is why I think it’s important to increase our awareness of motivated reasoning, both in ourselves and others, hence my earlier comment.

But of course you’re right: what is best for one person to believe is not necessarily what is best for someone else to believe.



Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  06/30  at  02:39 AM

If one person is happier and nobody is less happy, the amount of happiness overall increases.

re “in the long run, happiness (both individually and collectively) is most likely to be achieved if we consciously try to reduce the extent to which we fool ourselves.”

I disagree. In sports, the only way to win against a better opponent is to deliberately “fool yourself” into _knowing_ that you will win. I think “winners” are those people who can easily practice this mental discipline (which is much more difficult than it sounds). And they are happier, and they make others happy too.

My belief system is based on the idea that _we_ will build God(s) and _we_ will resurrect the dead. These are tough challenges to say the least, and we need some motivation.

These goals are beyond our current reach, and the only thing that we can do is to ensure that our civilization survives, develops transhuman technologies, and spread to the stars. So, the motivation inspired by far future possibilities also extends to making the world a better place here-and-now.



Friday, June 29, 2012

Spider-Man Gets A Physics Lesson - NPR

Copyright © 2012 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy hit the big screen again next week. The new movie "The Amazing Spider-Man" opens on July 3rd. And once you accept the premise that a man can get super spidey skills from a radioactive - sorry to laugh - spider bite, well, you know, just like Johnny Carson used to say, you buy the premise, you buy the bit.

You might be surprised to learn that moviemakers worked some real science into the superhero saga. Hollywood has gotten wise to what savvy audiences want. You folks, you want the physics to be real, right? You want the physics to be real right there in the fantasies after you bought the idea that there is a Spider-Man.

Joining me now to talk about it is James Kakalios. He's a professor of physics at University of Minnesota. He was a science consultant for the new Spider-Man movie. He's author of "The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition," and he joins us from Minnesota Public Radio in Saint Paul. Welcome back to the show, Peter.

JAMES KAKALIOS: It's Jim.

FLATOW: James. I'm sorry. Keep calling you Peter.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: I don't know why I keep calling you Peter. James. James Kakalious...

KAKALIOS: I was bitten by a radioactive spider, and I just got very sick.

FLATOW: I just thought you look like Peter Parker, so you should be very complimented by that.

KAKALIOS: I did grow up in Queens, New York, so I share a lot with Peter.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: I apologize. So you were basically called on to referee the physics in this movie?

KAKALIOS: That's right. Through the National Academy Of Sciences science and entertainment exchange program, they match-make professors from academia with film or television creators in Hollywood because they're increasingly in - when they create science fiction or superhero stories, they'd like to talk to scientists to try to be able to ground the science and also to even see if they can come up with plot points based upon real science.

So they contacted me, flew me out to meet Marc Webb and some of the producers and production designer, Mike Riva, before the filming even began. It was kind of fun to go there and just see copies of the physicist superheroes throughout their office.

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: So they were out - they were doing this study, and they were doing their homework.

FLATOW: All right. Hang on a second because we have to take a break. We'll come back and talk lots more with James Kakalios after this break and about Spider-Man. 1-800-989-8255 is our number. Stay with us. We'll be right back. I'm Ira Flatow. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLATOW: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking with Jim Kakalios, professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, author of "The Physics of Superheroes," spectacular second edition. He is, I guess, the science expert on the new Spider-Man movie, "The Amazing Spider-Man." Do the producers realize that the audience really want their science correct, showed in the movie?

KAKALIOS: Well, obviously they don't want it 100 percent correct because then it'd be like watching the news.

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: So they're - the audience is willing to make, you know, a suspension of disbelief to grant a one-time miracle exemption from the laws of nature, as it were.

FLATOW: Right.

KAKALIOS: But then the filmmakers want to get the science right within that context. Once you accept spider powers or people transforming into giant lizards, the other stuff that happened should be consistent, should be right, because it helps keep the audience in the story. Anytime when they're questioning what they're seeing on screen, even little things like, you know, a laboratory doesn't look like a real laboratory, is a moment when they're not paying attention to the story.

So they key thing is to get the audience to buy into this fantastic story, and sometimes the best way to buy into something fantastic is to try to make it as realistic as possible.

FLATOW: But you know, these days everything is computer-generated, it seems, in all of these movies.

KAKALIOS: Right.

FLATOW: And you say to yourself, I don't even know what scenery is real. I don't know if the person is flying or what is real in here. Anything could happen.

KAKALIOS: That's exactly right. And in fact, actually, one of the interesting things with this new Spider-Man film is that they tried to go as much as possible to stuntmen actually swinging on wires and not do CGI as much as possible. I think it's partly because of exactly what you said, that the CGI is so good that the only way to make something look realistic, truly real, is to actually put a person in a suit.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: So when Spider-Man is swinging around, he's actually swing - or a stuntman is actually swinging around.

KAKALIOS: For a large part of the film, that is correct, yeah.

FLATOW: Because one of the physics questions I was going to ask you is how, you know, in some of these scenes in some of these films, the heroes jump off buildings, they stop on a dime, you know, things that would be impossible.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: You know, by swinging, they might be breaking their bones trying - or their necks or something with these arcs...

KAKALIOS: Well, that's exactly right. Fortunately, Peter Parker has spider strength and so...

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: I forgot. I forgot.

KAKALIOS: He's able to withstand enormous accelerations and decelerations. But you're absolutely right. And that's, in fact, the challenge for the CGI, is to try to get that as correct as possible. One interesting experience I had at the end of the very first Spider-Man film in 2002, there's a scene where he's swinging through the canyons of New York and he lands on a flagpole. And I've used this scene in my class. And if you listen very carefully, you could hear a very subtle thunk as he lands on the flagpole.

And the entire scene is CGI, so they obviously had to put that thunk in by hand. And I had an opportunity years later to talk to the special effects people who did that, and they said that their studies of neuroscience show that you expect to hear certain things even subconsciously. And so if that thunk isn't there, it's not as if you would have walked out of the movie complaining that the movie stunk because when he landed on the flagpole there was no thunk.

FLATOW: Right.

KAKALIOS: But rather, you wouldn't - without being aware of it, you'd know that something was off, and it would remind you that it's CGI, whereas the thunk is a very subtle cue to try to convince you that what you're watching is real. And so they're - you're absolutely right. The CGI has gotten tremendously sophisticated, and they're using cutting-edge science, neuroscience in some cases, to try to paint a realistic world inside the computer.

FLATOW: Yeah. You know, every science fiction, science movie on radio or TV, somewhere along the line, there's a giant blackboard filled with equations, right?

KAKALIOS: Yes.

FLATOW: And this movie is no different.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: You had to come up with...

KAKALIOS: That's right.

FLATOW: How do you come up with those equations? And I know that you were involved in it. How do you figure our what to put on the blackboard?

KAKALIOS: That's an excellent point. One of my pet peeves is that sometimes you would see on blackboards in these films a random collection of complex equations that had no connection to each other, as if the art designer had just flipped through some physics textbooks and written down things that look very complicated. And often they look complicated to someone who is outside of science. Within science they're like undergraduate material, and there'd be no real reason to write them on the blackboard.

KAKALIOS: And so they asked me to come up with an equation that would actually play a role in the plot, that a character would see this equation and something would happen, and the audience would have to recognize it when they saw it again later on. So it had to be visually recognizable and striking. And I asked, well, what is it about? And they said, well, it has to do with cell regeneration and human mortality issues. And I didn't want to use a real equation because, again, if it's a major plot point that some people know this and some people don't, if I just wrote down like say in physics, the Schrodinger equation, you know, all the people who study physics would say, what's the big deal? It's the Schrodinger equation.

FLATOW: Right.

KAKALIOS: So I started - I did some - it was actually a fun weekend looking through the literature on issues of, you know, human aging and longevity studies and an equation called the Gompertz equation that describes human mortality. And so I took that as the basis, as like the primer coat. And then I added terms in order to turn it from something real into something not real because the Gompertz - the equation in the movie, if you try to actually apply it, will not actually turn you into a giant lizard. Spoiler alert.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: Thank goodness. I couldn't write fast enough in the film there as I was watching.

KAKALIOS: And so - but...

FLATOW: But they - did they insist on having the whole board filled or, you know, or you sweetening it up with other stuff?

KAKALIOS: That was them to the most part, but I did add various things. They also asked me like, you know, what would whiteboards, what would blackboards look like? And again, I stressed that it's not just, you know, a random collection of equations, that frequently when we write on board, we're trying to solve a particular problem. So you're seeing, you know, a lot of similarity because it's steps in a solution.

FLATOW: Stanley Kubrick was very famous for making sure his equations were right in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: Yes. And...

FLATOW: Directors like that, some of the good ones.

KAKALIOS: And that's why it's a classic.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah. What about some of the other questions you have? For example, when you talked about Spider-Man, why do they have - why was it - is it a radioactive spider? And what is the radioactivity doing in a genetics lab, things like that?

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: Well, you know, it was originally a radioactive spider because Peter - Spider-Man first appeared in 1962. So radioactivity...

FLATOW: That explains it all.

KAKALIOS: ...that was the big bugaboo. And then back in the '90s and 2000s, it was genetic engineering that became the thing that people were nervous about. Maybe in another 20 years it'll be a nanotechnology spider that is - it's always like whatever...

FLATOW: Michael Crichton was already there with...

KAKALIOS: Yeah, that's exactly right.

FLATOW: Right.

KAKALIOS: And so it was radioactive first because Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the creators of Spider-Man, viewed that as kind of like a catch-all way to give people super powers. Why you might have radioactivity in a lab now - and this is something that I don't - I haven't seen the film yet. I haven't seen any script.

FLATOW: Wait a minute. You put all this in the film and you haven't seen the film?

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: Not yet, not yet. But I'll be there. I'll be there on July 3.

FLATOW: OK.

KAKALIOS: And - but why you might use radioactivity is for gene-splicing, say. I could imagine if someone was under pressure to get results in a short period of time, like in - working for a company like Oscorp - that they might try to shortcuts and use radioactive - radioactivity as a scalpel to kind of slice the lizard DNA, say, or something like that, in order to do cross-species genetics. This is just - again, these are the kind of things that you kind of - when - they asked me, why would we have radioactivity in a genetics lab? And you know, these are...

FLATOW: You don't say, it's not my script?

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: I'd certainly didn't get a writing credit.

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: But...

FLATOW: Yeah. Go ahead.

KAKALIOS: But it's - and whether this is indeed how people who do real genetic engineering do it or not is almost immaterial. It's a way of trying to justify, you know, that this is some plausible scheme by which you could move the story forward.

Again, the whole point is to just get the audience to not, like, you know, accept it. They're not there taking notes. And when I go to these movies, I don't take notes with a pad of paper and a calculator saying, ooh, my physics sense is tingling. But it's to try to create a believable world so that the audience buys into what they're seeing and accepts it. And they can pay attention to what you're trying to do in the story, like the personal - you know, the characters' relationships and things like that.

FLATOW: Yeah. It's all about the story. Let's go to Tim in Chicago. Hi, Tim. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

TIM: Hey, how are you doing?

FLATOW: Hey there.

TIM: Hey, you know, those old science fiction movies in the old days where they got stuff, you know, it's hard to watch those these days because, you know, we're quite advanced now. You know, the only guys that can get away with most of this stuff is like Bones in "Star Trek," you know? But when some patient's laying down on a bed and they're trying to get these vital statistics and they can see that the guy doesn't even have a blood pressure cuff on or he doesn't have an IV, and they've got all this stuff hooked up but there's nothing hooked up to the patient, it kind of - it loses its credibility.

FLATOW: Now, wait. Tim, wait a minute. Tim, you haven't seen the new stuff coming out. This is not, I mean your iPhone is going to be able to do a lot of this stuff soon - you know, digital medicine. But you're right. How much - Tim, how much do you need to know that, you know, you bought the bit that there's a Spider-Man. But now how much do you need to know that the rest of stuff fits together?

TIM: If a guy is actually sitting there doing a procedure on somebody, I mean it has to at least - it has to boggle my mind, or it has to at least, you know, make me ask the question, is this possible? If something is really hocus pocus like rabbit-out-of-a-hat stuff, then I'll walk out of the theater right there, right then and there. I mean, it's that point when I'll lose - when it loses its credibility totally is when I've lost interest in the movie and that's it, because I know what I can expect through the rest of show.

FLATOW: Jim, is there a limit of what people are willing to put up with?

KAKALIOS: Well, a lot of it depends on how far in the future you're going to go. And the prediction of the technology in the future is obviously very difficult. For example, one thing that was very futuristic back when "Star Trek" first appeared in the mid-'60s was the communicator. You would never buy a cellphone today that did only what a "Star Trek" communicator does. It has no Web access. It doesn't take photos. There's no video. You can't update your Facebook page. And so...

FLATOW: But it flipped open.

KAKALIOS: But it flipped open. It made that cool noise. Doo-doo-doo.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: It's where Motorola got the idea for its cellphone.

KAKALIOS: Yes, that's right. So to some extent, predicting, you know, they predicted the cellphone, but they, you know, were totally off in terms of how fast it would move. One of the things that I try to find predictions of - for another book that I wrote about, quantum mechanics, that of technology from science fiction pulps or movies at the time and I couldn't find was magnetic resonance imaging. I was trying to see if any of the pulps had ever said that there'd be a time where you could just lay down on a table, as they mentioned, and the doctors could see inside you without the cut of a knife.

And if you saw that in the 1950s science fiction movie, you'd say, oh, that's just science fiction. You know, that's, you know, never going to happen. That's a special effect. But it's a routine diagnostic today. And so while it does seem implausible that one could take blood pressure remotely, wirelessly as it were, in 300 years, you know, or 200 years, I'd be hard-pressed to make ironclad prediction of what can or cannot be done. If anything is limited by computer speed, that will probably almost certainly happen. Other than - if anything involves an actual violation of the laws of physics, then probably not so much.

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. Talking with Jim Kakalios about, well, with physics in the movies. He's author of "The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition." You know what drives me nutty sometimes is when - if you go so far ahead, like hundreds of years in the future, but they're still using old tankers. You know, like on "Alien" and things like that. You'd think they'd have more kinds of weapons that could kill anything, but they haven't advanced the technology very much.

KAKALIOS: Right. Yeah, it's - well, at least in "Alien," they do acknowledge that you have to go in suspended animation for these long hauls and things like that. But, yeah, you're absolutely right. It's - that is the hardest thing and, you know, Neil - not Neil Diamond. Neil Stephenson, in the novel "The Diamond Age," wrote something back in the '90s about electronic paper that you would roll up and unroll, and they would suddenly pick up and display the newspaper and what's going on today. And we pretty much have that today, except you can't roll it up. And with the organic semiconductors that are coming, that probably will happen soon. And he was suggesting that was going to be, you know, several hundred years in the future, and he's off only by, you know, 190 years.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: Hey, yeah, give or take.

KAKALIOS: Right. Close enough.

FLATOW: Close enough. Let me ask you about the movie. Do you know what happens to Gwen Stacy?

KAKALIOS: Ah.

FLATOW: Does - is she going to die again?

(LAUGHTER)

KAKALIOS: Yeah, I almost thought that the filmmakers were going to count me out as the red herring and say, well, Jim Kakalios is involved, therefore, Gwen Stacy is going to buy the farm. Yeah, so in comic books, this is, you know, well-known, a famous storyline. Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker's girlfriend for many years, many issues, and she died in "Amazing Spider-Man #121," published in 1973. And it was a very significant milestone in comic book history because it was the first time that a recurring character, a long-standing character, innocent bystander, died when the hero and villain fought.

She was caught - she died when Spider-Man was fighting the Green Goblin, and it's also very significant because it's been, you know, going on nearly 40 years now, and Gwen Stacy is still dead in the comic books. Nearly inevitably, these characters get better at some point, but poor Gwen doesn't. And so she was on top of a bridge, brought to the top of the George Washington Bridge by the Green Goblin in order to lure Spider-Man into battle. She gets knocked off the bridge during the fight. Spider - falls to her apparent doom, Spidey catches her in his webbing at the last moment but discovers, when he brings it back up to the top of the bridge, that she is, in fact, dead, even though he caught her in the webbing.

And we can analyze this from a physics point of view, ask if you neglect air resistance, which we always do in these problems, how fast are you going if you fall from the top of a bridge and fall, say, 300 feet? You're going nearly 95 miles per hour. How much force would the webbing have to exert to stop her in, say, half a second? And it's like about half a ton worth of force, equivalent to roughly 10 G's of deceleration. And so that part doesn't require a suspension of disbelief. If you tell someone they are going 95 miles an hour, you stop them in half a second with a force of 10 G's, you'd say, yeah, and their neck broke.

FLATOW: So this - and this is - I gave - I've given many talks about the physics of superheroes, and this is always a central part of me, talking about the death of Gwen Stacy because this - then you connect up why we have airbags on our automobile.

Yeah, well - I got you. Jim, we've ran out of time, but I want to thank you for making this the closest to The Big Bang Theory comic book discussion.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: We could have had (unintelligible).

KAKALIOS: I'll give my - I'll give your regards to Sheldon and Leonard.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: Pleased to hear that. Jim Kakalios is author of "The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition." Have a good weekend. A happy Fourth of July to you.

KAKALIOS: And the same to you. Thanks very much.

FLATOW: We're going to say goodbye for this, but I want to remind you that we have our book club going on. We're reading "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. It's a Fourth of July weekend. I want to wish you a happy Fourth of July. Maybe over the weekend, you'll pick up a copy or dust off your old copy, read it because next week, we're going to have our - our book club is going to start, our first SCIENCE FRIDAY book club, and we'd like you to take part in talking about "Silent Spring." So have a great, safe and happy Fourth of July. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

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Physics teachers fool around with cosmic rays and other cool things at ... - Syracuse.com

Alexa Perry and Erika CowanAlexa Perry (left), a teacher at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, works with Syracuse University physics student Erika Cowan on a photomultiplier tube as part of the gamma spectroscopy lab work. Their work is part of the QuarkNet summer camp for high school physics teachers at SU.

Syracuse, NY - Ten physics teachers finished their first week of a camp at Syracuse University that will teach them how to build cosmic ray devices and learn other cool lessons for their classrooms.

The "QuarkNet program" has been operating since 1999 at universities across the country.

"The best and the brightest students are not going to be happy with what you give them, they're going to ask questions that are beyond that," said Steve Blusk, an associate professor of the Physics Department at SU. "(Teachers) should be ready and prepared to deal with questions, and to field the questions that come from the best and the brightest. We want to make students feel like their questions are interesting, they're relevant, and they're important."

The program includes lectures on particle physics, laboratory work, and a three-day workshop to teach them how to build cosmic ray devices.

"I'm always trying to extend my knowledge base, it makes me way better in the classroom," said Wanda Padula, a teacher at Liverpool High School.

Padula says the summer camp will deepen her knowledge so she can take it a little bit further, and feel confident in the classroom.

Participators receive a $1,500 stipend and a $200 materials budget for take-home activities. The money comes from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Ranald Bleakley, Justin Shute, and Dylan HsuRanald Bleakley (left foreground), a teacher at Weedsport High School, and Justin Shute, who teaches at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, work with Syracuse University physics student Dylan Hsu on an operational amplifier circuit.


The teachers will be building cosmic ray counters, testing components of a neutrino detector and learning about the latest results of experiments being conducted on CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world's largest centers for scientific research. The LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland, is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

This is the second year for the program at SU, hosted by the SU Experimental Particle Physics Group in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Last year, two teachers traveled to CERN to work with SU researchers who were experimenting on the LHC.

Mike Madden and Ryan SokolMike Madden (left) from Canandaigua Academy and Ryan Sokol from Little Falls High School study the frequency changes in a resonating wire (just visible at far right).


Although no teachers will be traveling to CERN this year, the program will continue for a third year next summer. For information, email Steve Blusk at sblusk@syr.edu.

Participating teachers

Ranald Bleakley, Weedsport Junior-Senior High School (returning participant)

Josh Buchman, Fayetteville-Manlius High School (returning participant)

Cindy Lamphere, Dana West Junior-Senior High School, Port Byron

John Lerner, Charles W. Baker High School, Baldwinsville

Mike Madden, Canandaigua Academy

Wanda Padula, Liverpool High School

Alexa Perry, Fayetteville-Manlius High School

Tanya Rutter, Holland Patent High School

Justin Shute, Fayetteville-Manlius High School

Ryan Sokol, Little Falls Senior High

The Higgs Boson: Whose Discovery Is It? - Wired News

The track of the Tevatron. Image: Fermilab

Next week is Higgs week.

On July 4, scientists at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider will present their latest results on the search for the Higgs boson, with many physics bloggers eagerly speculating that they will officially announce the discovery of this long-sought particle. Not to be outdone, U.S. researchers at Fermilab will be presenting their final analysis from Tevatron data regarding evidence for the Higgs. And precious more bits of information could come out during the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia, which runs July 4 to 11.

“Until pretty recently, there didn’t seem to be any real prospect of discovering the Higgs,” said Nobel-prize-winning theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg from the University of Texas at Austin. “Now the time is finally ripe for finding it.”

While the history books will likely remember the final announcement of the Higgs discovery at the LHC most clearly, the road to discovering this strange particle has been a long one, paved by many.

The Higgs boson was first predicted during the 1960s and theories about its workings were refined in subsequent decades. It is the final particle in the so-called Standard Model â€" physicists’ working theory of all known particle and force interactions in the universe â€" and is needed to provide the other elementary particles with their mass.

The $9 billion LHC was sold to lawmakers and taxpayers in part as a Higgs-finding machine. Though no one yet knows if the accelerator will capture its quarry for sure, there were good hints of a Higgs boson in December and the strongest rumors yet suggest that these will be confirmed next week.

One thing is clear: The Fermilab results will not be announcing the discovery of the Higgs. Scientists at the Tevatron have been chasing the Higgs for years, always keeping hope alive that they would see it before the more powerful LHC swooped in, and they have been sifting through its data since the machine’s shutdown last year. But there is just not enough there to qualitatively confirm the Higgs’ existence, said Fermilab spokesman Kurt Riesselmann.

This is likely a disappointment for American physicists. Before its shutdown, there had been hope that the Tevatron was powerful enough to find the Higgs boson. Had the United States gone ahead with building the Superconducting Supercollider, discovery of the Higgs would have solidly been an American achievement â€" and would have happened a decade ago.

Yet the Tevatron and other particle accelerators have laid the groundwork for the LHC’s Higgs discovery â€" whenever that should happen. An even earlier experiment at CERN’s Large Electron-Positron Collider set bounds on where the Higgs could exist. Many data analysis techniques and detector strategies were learned during these searches.

“There were a number of key experimental discoveries that have gone into confirming the Standard Model,” said Weinberg. “It’s difficult to sort out how much any one lab contributes.”

Things get trickiest when trying to come up with credit for the Higgs discovery. The two Tevatron experiments â€" CDF and DZero â€" engaged roughly 1,150 scientists while the dual LHC experiments â€" ATLAS and CMS â€" together employ more than 6,000 scientists. Physicists’ top prize, the Nobel, can go to at most three recipients. It would be a logistical nightmare trying to assign the glory and the Nobel committee may simply decide to forgo giving a prize for the Higgs.

Theory of relativity - Business Standard

Theory of relativity
Audi and Ducati are now relatives! Kyle Pereira gets their entry-level machines together
Kyle Pereira / Mumbai Jun 30, 2012, 00:08 IST

Facebook buys Instagram for $ 1 billion. Audi just bought Ducati for $ 1.2 billion. The world is going loony.

But Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, certainly has all the parts of its business brain screwed in right. Bossman Ferdinand Piech always wanted a motorcycle marque in his shopping bag. After bagging the likes of Lamborghini and Bugatti, it’s only fitting that one as evocative and exotic as Ducati is that motorcycle marque. For Ducati, this deal means unrestricted access into daddy VolksWagen’s deep pockets to pay for R&D and other expenses. Ka-ching!

However unattainable brands such as these might seem, a spoilsport (for them) called economics brings them closer to the ground. Catering solely to a niche market can only bring in so much revenue. Open up your product portfolio to a larger audience, you could make your accountants smile!

Such reasoning is the cause for the Ducati 795 and the Audi A4, now improved by a facelift. Make no mistake, these two are not cheap by any standards. But they are definitely affordable to a larger number of people than the other models from their makers. Therein lies their purpose. And the sales figures reflect this â€" the A4 is Audi’s highest seller in volume and the 795, Ducati’s cheapest model on sale in India, although mainly Asia-specific for now, is flying out of showrooms almost as quickly as the Thailand factory can make them.

Money can buy you performance and, hence, happiness when it comes to the contents within your garage. The general notion is the more you’re willing to spend, the less likely are you to slip into depression every time you are on the road. But with the Ducati 795, the Rs 5.9 lakh ex-showroom, Maharashtra price gets you all of 87 bhp and 7.8 kg from its 803cc engine. With a kerb weight of 167 kg, that power-to-weight ratio of 520 bhp per tonne is astounding, making the 87 horses seem like they were fed a diet of whey protein and steroids, galloping from naught to the tonne in 5.6 seconds.

The Audi, on the other hand, might seem a bit pricier. Rs 27.33 lakh, also ex-showroom, Maharashtra gets you 170 bhp and an extra set of wheels, among other things. Although in terms of the power-to-weight ratio, 115 bhp per tonne might seem lame in comparison to the Ducati, but hurling 1,470 kilos of air-conditioned studio apartment forward to a 100 kph from standstill changes your perspective almost instantly â€" all of 9.5 seconds to be precise. Yes, that was the 32.6 kg of torque talking, thank you.

Well, by now you probably have guessed that this duo certainly have the potential to raise hell. But more so with the Ducati. That power-to-weight ratio equals Tinker Bell strapped to a pair of V10 rockets, so the Monster needs some serious stopping power. To help keep you from sprouting wings and dressing up like Simi Garewal, the 795 has two 320 mm discs grabbed by 4-piston Brembo radially mounted callipers at the fore. The aft gets a rather deadpan 245 mm disc with a twin piston calliper that does the biting, also a Brembo unit.

With enough braking power, it’s quite easy to lock the front end if you go ahead and yank in the right lever. When that happens, it mostly results in you kissing the tarmac. Hard. But cutting costs means that the Monster has to do without ABS, even as an optional extra. With none of the babying, not even traction control, the Ducati is recommended for mature and experienced motorcyclists who know what they’re doing.

The Audi pampers your every whim. The MMI infotainment system has been altered, ergonomics have been worked upon and controls like the steering column stalks have been redesigned and so has the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Safety aids abound in the A4. From the airbags to the ABS, EBD and ESP, the Audi is built to keep you out of trouble. That is more than I can say about the Monster. This one is the delinquent among the two, with tendencies that ought to be locked away in solitary confinement at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, but that’s also what makes it so attractive.

Whack open the throttle, and the L-twin launches you forward with an almost manic urgency. This one loves to be wrung hard in every one of its six cogs. Upshift early, like slotting in the top gear at anything below 70 kmph, and the 795 bogs down, blabbering in protest. But when you’re giving it the stick, revving the motor to as close to the 9,000 rpm redline as possible, the 795 shows its true character â€" brash, uncouth, frenzied and so very desirable. The throttle response is immediate, and twisting that grip too enthusiastically will land you in jail in many parts of the world.

The mere 167 kg make the Monster a perfect fit in the city, a world that it was destined for right from the onset. The Sachs monoshock at the rear, coupled with the Marzocchi forks, all of which have been suspended from the trellis frame, combine to result in an awesome handling motorcycle. Grip from the Pirelli tyres is exceptional and despite the chunky rubber, the Monster is a blast to filter through traffic with.

In comparison, the Audi feels laidback, sluggish even. Although the 1.8 TFSI petrol makes all the right noises, the CVT gearbox is the culprit for the rather mediocre experience, with its lazy shifting. Plonk in a good manual transmission, and things would certainly liven up behind the wheel, which has decent feedback. The manual tranny may do justice to the brilliant engine, but unfortunately, in the segment the A4 operates in, people prefer the car to do the shifting.

When it comes to the ride quality, the Ducati’s a brilliant mix of tautness and plushness, without coming off as being too jarring in the potholes nor too mushy around corners. The Audi is on the softer side though, with a slight pogo-ing ride that can go on for a few moments after the speed breaker has passed.

As far as the looks go, the A4 now looks sharper than ever before. The grille now resembles something emblazoned on Superman’s chest, while the headlights and fog lights have gotten more angular and the bonnet and bumper have been tweaked to incorporate the changes done to all of the above. At the rear, the tail lamps along with the registration plate lights have gone the LED way, and the redesigned bumper gets a new diffuser at the bottom. On the whole, the A4 now looks a lot more sophisticated â€" an ideal match for a banker in a finely tailored business suit.

The Ducati, however, is a totally different ball game. With every line exaggerated for maximum effect, subtlety is not even in the Monster’s dictionary. The huge tail pipes nestled beneath the seat are in your face, and there hasn’t been even a half-hearted attempt to cover up the 795’s mechanicals. They’re there for all to lust over, in their naked glory. Piping and tubing run in and out of view, with the trellis chassis cocooning the whole thing, almost like an ornate frame around a painting displayed behind six feet of bullet proof glass at the Louvre.

These two machines are as similar to each other as chalk and cheese, like, erm, motorcycle and car. But they have been made family through holy matrimony. This brings up the question â€" what does Audi intend to do with Ducati? Will it let Ducati find its own way forward, or will the parent company choose to get into the day-to-day workings of the Italian marque, running it like another car brand? As I see it, it’s best to allow the Italians do what they do best â€" build exciting motorcycles that are as erotic as they are exotic. I mean, a Ducati that has Audi genes isn’t really worth looking forward to, although an A4 displaying Monster characteristics seems particularly interesting!

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'Don't teach maths or physics to kids on Thursdays' - Times of India

MOSCOW: Schools should not teach difficult subjects like mathematics and physics to children on Thursdays because it was "the hardest day of the week", Russia's chief sanitary doctor has said in a recommendation.

"Children have their own bio-rhythms and Thursday is the hardest day of the week," RIA Novosti quoted Gennady Onishchenko as telling the Ekho Moskvy radio station in an interview.

"Therefore, it is not recommended to teach difficult subjects like mathematics and physics on Thursdays because those subjects require a heavier load on the brain," he said.

The doctor said there are special conditions in school scheduling and that parents should know about them. Parents should also take a more active role in curriculum planning to cut down on excessive mental load on children.