Friday, August 31, 2012

Have three little photons broken theoretical physics? - NBCNews.com

Seven billion years ago, three cosmic travelers set out together on an epic journey to Earth. They just arrived, and the trio has a surprising tale to tell about the structure of the universe. Their story could overturn decades of work by theoretical physicists.

But first, an introduction: Scientists have long wondered about the nature of space and time. Albert Einstein envisioned the two concepts as an interwoven fabric that extends smoothly and continuously throughout the universe, warping under the weight of the matter it contains. The smoothness of this stretchy "space-time" fabric means that no matter how closely one inspects it, no underlying structure emerges. The fabric is completely pure even at infinitesimal scales.

The snag in this picture of a space-time fabric is that it doesn't jive with quantum mechanics, the set of laws describing the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles. To explain gravitational interactions between planets and stars, Einstein's theory works beautifully; but try to describe quarks or electrons zipping about on a fabric with no elemental structure, and the equations turn to nonsense.

Modern "theories of everything" try to reconcile Einstein's big picture view of the universe, built of space-time, with the small-scale picture of the universe described by quantum mechanics. Most of these theories, collectively called "quantum gravity," posit that space-time must not be smooth after all, but must instead be comprised of discrete, invisibly small building blocks â€" sort of like 3-D pixels, or what scientists have dubbed a "foam."

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com

    1. Here's how to honor Neil Armstrong

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: First moonwalker Neil Armstrong's family has specified at least four ways you can pay tribute to the man who took a giant leap into the cosmos.

    2. Spacewalkers stymied by sticky bolts
    3. Jupiter-bound spacecraft makes key maneuver
    4. NASA's 'Mohawk Guy' is now 'Morse Code Guy'

But real or not, such space-time pixels seemed to be permanently out of human reach. For reasons having to do with the uncertainty that exists in the locations of particles, theories suggest the pixels should measure the size of the "Planck length," or about a billionth of a billionth of the diameter of an electron. With the key evidence for quantum gravity buried at such an inaccessible scale, physicists were at a loss for how to confirm or refute their ideas.

Then, a paper published 15 years ago in the journal Nature proposed an ingenious method of detecting space-time pixels. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, a theoretical physicist at Sapienza University in Rome, and colleagues said the building blocks of space-time could be discovered indirectly by observing the way light of different colors disperses as it travels through the pixels on its journey across the universe, just as light spreads into its component wavelengths when it passes through the crystalline structure of a prism.

As long as one is sure all the photons, or particles of light, left their source at exactly the same time, measuring how much photons of different wavelengths spread out during their commute to Earth would reveal the presence, and size, of the pixels they passed through.

Such studies hadn't been feasible, until now.

"Very few of us were suggesting that the structure of space-time could be detected, and now 15 years later facts are proving us right," Amelino-Camelia told Life's Little Mysteries. [ Top 10 Strangest Things in Space ]

Burst of light
Seven billion years ago, 7 billion light-years away, a gamma-ray burst sent a blitz of photons tearing into space. Some of them headed for Earth.

Gamma-ray bursts occur when an extremely massive, rotating star collapses in on itself, unleashing in less than a minute as much energy as our sun will radiate in its entire 10-billion-year lifetime. These shockwaves of gamma rays and other energetic photons are the brightest events in the universe. When gamma ray bursts have occurred in the Milky Way galaxy, scientists speculate that they might have altered Earth's climate and induced mass extinctions. Thankfully, the bursts are so rare that they typically occur a safe distance away â€" far enough that only a light mist of photons reaches our planet. NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 2008 to scan the skies for these mists of shockwaves past.

Robert Nemiroff, an astrophysicist at Michigan Technological University, and colleagues recently took a look at data from a gamma-ray burst detected by the Fermi telescope in May 2009.

"Originally we were looking for something else, but were struck when two of the highest energy photons from this detected gamma-ray burst appeared within a single millisecond," Nemiroff told Life's Little Mysteries. When the physicists looked at the data more closely, they found a third gamma ray photon within a millisecond of the other two.

Computer models showed it was very unlikely that the photons would have been emitted by different gamma ray bursts, or the same burst at different times. Consequently, "it seemed very likely to us that these three photons traveled across much of the universe together without dispersing," Nemiroff said. Despite having slightly different energies (and thus, different wavelengths), the three photons stayed in extremely close company for the duration of their marathon trek to Earth.

Many things â€" e.g. stars, interstellar dust â€" could have dispersed the photons. "But nothing that we know can undisperse gamma-ray photons," Nemiroff said. "So we then conclude that these photons were not dispersed. So if they were not dispersed, then the universe left them alone. So if the universe was made of Planck-scale quantum foam, according to some theories, it would not have left these photons alone. So those types of Planck-scale quantum foams don't exist."

In other words, the photons' near-simultaneous arrival indicates that space-time is smooth as Einstein suggested, rather than pixilated as modern theories require â€" at least down to slightly below the scale of the Planck length, a smaller scale than has ever been probed previously. The finding "comes close to proving (that space-time is smooth) for some range of parameters," Nemiroff said.

The finding, published in June in the journal Physical Review Letters, threatens to set theoretical physicists back several decades by scrapping a whole class of theories that attempt to reconcile Einstein's theory with quantum mechanics. But not everyone is ready to jettison quantum gravity. [ Top 3 Questions People Ask an Astrophysicist (and Answers) ]

Other effects?
"The analysis Nemiroff et al. are reporting is very nice and a striking confirmation that these studies of Planck-scale structure of space-time can be done, as some of us suggested long ago," said Amelino-Camelia, an originator of the idea that gamma rays could reveal the building blocks of space-time. "But the claim that their analysis is proving that space-time is 'smooth with Planck-scale accuracy' is rather naive."

To prove that Planck-scale pixels don't exist, the researchers would have to rule out the possibility that the pixels dispersed the photons in ways that don't depend in a straightforward way on the photons' wavelengths, he said. The pixels could exert more subtle "quadratic" influences, for example, or could have an effect called birefringence that depends on the polarization of the light particles. Nemiroff and his colleagues would have to rule out those and other possibilities. To prove the photon trio wasn't a fluke, the results would then require independent confirmation; a second set of simultaneous gamma-ray photons with properties similar to the first must be observed.

If all this is accomplished, Amelino-Camelia said, "at least for some approaches to the quantum-gravity problem, it will indeed be a case of going back to the drawing board."

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @ nattyover   or Life's Little Mysteries @ llmysteries. We're also on   Facebook   and   Google+.

© 2012 LifesLittleMysteries.com. All rights reserved. More from LifesLittleMysteries.com.

Monson: Utah wins, but it can't beat the Theory of Relativity - Salt Lake Tribune

(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah players thank their fans in the MUSS after defeating Northern Colorado 41-0 on Aug. 30.

The Theory of Relativity ruined everything but the partying at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday night, and it was, indeed, attributable to equations of mass and energy.

Utah had all of it, Northern Desperation had none.

Photos

Any questions?

Yeah, there are still plenty, while answers are yet in short supply, and here’s why: No matter what the Utes accomplished in their opener here, including the final score of 41-zip, they did it against one of the worst football teams in the country, a second-tier outfit coming off a winless, 10th-tier season.

Everybody knew that coming in.

Including the Utes themselves.

Kyle Whittingham said before and after the game that his team was supposed to win. Defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly was candid about that in the postgame, saying, in so many words, that the Utes were the bigger, badder team before this thing was ever played.

That fact pretty much canceled out any usefulness any fool wanted to attach to the outcome. It was simply a win, bought with the few hundred thousand large Utah handed over to the N. Colorado Bears for their trouble. It was college football’s version of prostitution.

Wham … bam … and the Utes got what they paid for â€" an easy, empty victory.

When Whittingham was asked afterward what he learned from the game, he said: "That’s a good question."

story continues below

He later added: "We understand there are bigger challenges on the horizon."

The main tidbits culled from watching were: Jordan Wynn’s arm didn’t fall off when he threw the ball â€" "Overall, I was pretty pleased with my performance," he said â€" and Brian Johnson can, it turns out, call plays from the booth without a brain freeze, a fact that left Whittingham satisfied.

Johnson’s new offense is all over the place and much more adventurous than Norm Chow’s was a year ago. How effective it will be against teams that actually match up against Utah … well, that information comes later in the course of study.

John White, who gained 119 yards, with a TD, on 24 carries, is already convinced: "The new offense is really explosive and balanced. It’s going to be that way the entire season. I can’t wait."

The defense was decent, too.

"They couldn’t run on us," said defensive end Joe Kruger, "and that’s our No. 1 priority every game. … Just shove it down their throat."

Kruger wasn’t bad at stopping the pass, either, picking off a Bear throw early in the fourth quarter and taking it 23 yards to the house for Utah’s final score.

The relative numbers read like this: The Utes outgained UNC, 414 yards to 114. The Utes had 193 rushing yards to the Bears’ 35. The Utes had 221 passing yards to UNC’s 79. The Utes scored six touchdowns to the Bears’ none. After a slow offensive start, Utah plowed ahead and the defense kept it there.

Next Page >

Copyright 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Have Three Little Photons Broken Theoretical Physics? - Space.com

Gamma Ray Burst Illustration
Artist’s impression of a gamma ray burst.
CREDIT: ESO/A. Roquette

Seven billion years ago, three cosmic travelers set out together on an epic journey to Earth. They just arrived, and the trio has a surprising tale to tell about the structure of the universe. Their story could overturn decades of work by theoretical physicists.

But first, an introduction: Scientists have long wondered about the nature of space and time. Albert Einstein envisioned the two concepts as an interwoven fabric that extends smoothly and continuously throughout the universe, warping under the weight of the matter it contains. The smoothness of this stretchy "space-time" fabric means that no matter how closely one inspects it, no underlying structure emerges. The fabric is completely pure even at infinitesimal scales.

The snag in this picture of a space-time fabric is that it doesn't jive with quantum mechanics, the set of laws describing the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles. To explain gravitational interactions between planets and stars, Einstein's theory works beautifully; but try to describe quarks or electrons zipping about on a fabric with no elemental structure, and the equations turn to nonsense.

Modern "theories of everything" try to reconcile Einstein's big picture view of the universe, built of space-time, with the small-scale picture of the universe described by quantum mechanics. Most of these theories, collectively called "quantum gravity," posit that space-time must not be smooth after all, but must instead be comprised of discrete, invisibly small building blocks â€" sort of like 3D pixels, or what scientists have dubbed a "foam."

But real or not, such space-time pixels seemed to be permanently out of human reach. For reasons having to do with the uncertainty that exists in the locations of particles, theories suggest the pixels should measure the size of the "Planck length," or about a billionth of a billionth of the diameter of an electron. With the key evidence for quantum gravity buried at such an inaccessible scale, physicists were at a loss for how to confirm or refute their ideas.

Then, a paper published 15 years ago in the journal Nature proposed an ingenious method of detecting space-time pixels. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, a theoretical physicist at Sapienza University in Rome, and colleagues said the building blocks of space-time could be discovered indirectly by observing the way light of different colors disperses as it travels through the pixels on its journey across the universe, just as light spreads into its component wavelengths when it passes through the crystalline structure of a prism. As long as one is sure all the photons, or particles of light, left their source at exactly the same time, measuring how much photons of different wavelengths spread out during their commute to Earth would reveal the presence, and size, of the pixels they passed through.

Such studies hadn't been feasible, until now.

"Very few of us were suggesting that the structure of space-time could be detected, and now 15 years later facts are proving us right," Amelino-Camelia told Life's Little Mysteries, a partner site to SPACE.com. [Top 10 Strangest Things in Space]

Burst of light

Seven billion years ago, 7 billion light-years away, a gamma-ray burst sent a blitz of photons tearing into space. Some of them headed for Earth.

Gamma-ray bursts occur when an extremely massive, rotating star collapses in on itself, unleashing in less than a minute as much energy as our sun will radiate in its entire 10-billion-year lifetime. These shockwaves of gamma rays and other energetic photons are the brightest events in the universe. When gamma ray bursts have occurred in the Milky Way galaxy, scientists speculate that they might have altered Earth's climate and induced mass extinctions. Thankfully, the bursts are so rare that they typically occur a safe distance away â€" far enough that only a light mist of photons reaches our planet. NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 2008 to scan the skies for these mists of shockwaves past.

Robert Nemiroff, an astrophysicist at Michigan Technological University, and colleagues recently took a look at data from a gamma-ray burst detected by the Fermi telescope in May 2009.

"Originally we were looking for something else, but were struck when two of the highest energy photons from this detected gamma-ray burst appeared within a single millisecond," Nemiroff told Life's Little Mysteries. When the physicists looked at the data more closely, they found a third gamma ray photon within a millisecond of the other two.

Computer models showed it was very unlikely that the photons would have been emitted by different gamma ray bursts, or the same burst at different times. Consequently, "it seemed very likely to us that these three photons traveled across much of the universe together without dispersing," Nemiroff said. Despite having slightly different energies (and thus, different wavelengths), the three photons stayed in extremely close company for the duration of their marathon trek to Earth.

Many things â€" e.g. stars, interstellar dust â€" could have dispersed the photons. "But nothing that we know can un-disperse gamma-ray photons," Nemiroff said. "So we then conclude that these photons were not dispersed. So if they were not dispersed, then the universe left them alone. So if the universe was made of Planck-scale quantum foam, according to some theories, it would not have left these photons alone. So those types of Planck-scale quantum foams don't exist."

In other words, the photons' near-simultaneous arrival indicates that space-time is smooth as Einstein suggested, rather than pixilated as modern theories require â€" at least down to slightly below the scale of the Planck length, a smaller scale than has ever been probed previously. The finding "comes close to proving [that space-time is smooth] for some range of parameters," Nemiroff said.

The finding, published in June in the journal Physical Review Letters, threatens to set theoretical physicists back several decades by scrapping a whole class of theories that attempt to reconcile Einstein's theory with quantum mechanics. But not everyone is ready to jettison quantum gravity. [Top 3 Questions People Ask an Astrophysicist (and Answers)]

Other effects?

"The analysis Nemiroff et al. are reporting is very nice and a striking confirmation that these studies of Planck-scale structure of space-time can be done, as some of us suggested long ago," said Amelino-Camelia, an originator of the idea that gamma rays could reveal the building blocks of space-time. "But the claim that their analysis is proving that space-time is 'smooth with Planck-scale accuracy' is rather naive."

To prove that Planck-scale pixels don't exist, the researchers would have to rule out the possibility that the pixels dispersed the photons in ways that don't depend in a straightforward way on the photons' wavelengths, he said. The pixels could exert more subtle "quadratic" influences, for example, or could have an effect called birefringence that depends on the polarization of the light particles. Nemiroff and his colleagues would have to rule out those and other possibilities. To prove the photon trio wasn't a fluke, the results would then require independent confirmation; a second set of simultaneous gamma-ray photons with properties similar to the first must be observed.

If all this is accomplished, Amelino-Camelia said, "at least for some approaches to the quantum-gravity problem, it will indeed be a case of going back to the drawing board."

This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to SPACE.com. Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover or Life's Little Mysteries @llmysteries. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Iowa State physicists excited about Higgs studies, look forward to new physics - Phys.Org

Data from the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider show the tracks of electrons (green) and their heavier cousins muons (red) during proton-proton collisions recorded on June 18, 2012. Physicists say the event could be evidence of the long-sought Higgs boson. Image: ATLAS Experiment © 2012 CERN

Ten Iowa State University physicists have their names on a new paper describing how the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider has observed a new particle in the search for the Higgs boson.

Get the faculty leaders of Iowa State's work with the in a conference room and it's clear they're proud of the research described in that paper. After all, few expected a Higgs-like particle to be detected within three years of the collider's restart in November 2009.   

But, they're also quick to say any future discoveries at the collider near Geneva, Switzerland, that's operated by the for () could be even more exciting.

"The most disappointing outcome, which is still quite exciting, would be if we find the Higgs and nothing else â€" we really do hope that we will find something beyond the Standard Model," said Jim Cochran, a professor of physics and astronomy. "That would be an absolutely monumental discovery."

Soeren Prell, a professor of physics and astronomy, said the Standard Model of particle physics already tells a lot about the Higgs, a theorized to be an of a field that interacts with other particles, giving them their mass. The standard model of particles and their interactions, however, doesn't tell physicists the mass of the .

The ATLAS physics paper explains that a particle with a mass of about 126 billion electron volts has been discovered at the Large Hadron Collider. The paper says the particle is "compatible with the production and decay of the Higgs boson."

Prell said there will be many more studies to determine just what the physicists have found. If it is the Higgs boson, physicists still have to collect more data and perform additional studies to measure its exact mass and confirm other properties.

"We want to emphasize the discovery of this Higgs-like particle is a huge achievement," said Chunhui Chen, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy. "But we did expect that. In the future we will find even more interesting things."

Those discoveries could include:

  • an explanation of how matter came to dominate antimatter in the early universe
  • direct production of dark matter, the mysterious and invisible matter that makes up 84 percent of the universe
  • an understanding of why the force of gravity is so weak.
"This whole thing could really be getting into science fiction, things like hidden dimensions or a fourth generation of quarks and leptons," said W. Thomas Meyer, a retired adjunct research professor of physics and astronomy. "I really think the next 10 to 20 years of high energy physics could be very exciting."

As physicists and engineers upgrade the Large Hadron Collider and ramp it up to nearly full power of 7 trillion per beam of colliding protons or lead ions in late 2014 and early 2015, the Iowa State researchers expect more opportunities for new physics.

More energy in the collider is better for finding new physics than just collecting more data at the same energy levels, Prell said. It's like Einstein said â€" E=mc² â€" more energy equals heavier particles to study in the collider.

As the physics goes to higher energies, Iowa Staters are positioned to contribute to any discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider: Cochran will help manage United States operations of the ; Prell is working with the software for the silicon pixel detector (the innermost part of the larger ATLAS detector); Chen just finished a one-year ATLAS fellowship at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., and is developing new techniques to search for new physics; Meyer is giving talks and doing other work to explain the high energy physics at the collider; and Eli Rosenberg, an Iowa State professor of physics and astronomy, collaborated on the ATLAS project and is just finishing an assignment with the U.S. Department of Energy.

There are also Iowa State post-doctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduates working on collider experiments.

As part of their work with the , Iowa State physicists are building collaborations at the Argonne and Brookhaven (Upton, N.Y.) national laboratories. The labs have tools and technologies that aren't available at Iowa State while the university has students not available at the labs.

Without those collaborations, it's difficult for students to get real experience in physics experiments.

And it would be impossible for students and faculty to get their names on big papers such as "Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC."

Provided by Iowa State University

F1 2012 dev diary details physics, weather, audio advancements - Computerandvideogames.com

Codies has sent over a new F1 2012 developer diary looking at improvements the studio has made to the series' physics, weather and audio.

F1 2012 Screenshot "If you want that Formula One experience, the stuff we've been doing in 2012 has moved on a whole new generation now," claims the title's creative director, Stephen Hood.

"Significant work has gone into the physics model, particularly the suspension, which has a real sea change on the feel of the car. You can really attack the track."

Game director Paul Jeal adds: "The whole weather scenario system has really been refined this year. You'll get weather fronts come in now and it could be raining at one section of the track but dry on another. So you get those moments where you're not sure which tyres to be on and that really mixes up the racing."

Codemasters has confirmed a F1 2012 release date of September 21 in the UK on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

The Counterintuitive Physics of Tarzan Swings - Technology Review

Let's ignore air resistance for a second. If you point a cannon, aim an arrow or throw a basketball, the trajectory that gets you furthest will be at 45 degrees to the vertical. So the same must be true for Tarzan on a rope swing. He ought to let go when the rope is at 45 degrees to the vertical, right?

Not so, says Hiroyuki Shima at the University of Yamanashi in Japan, who today takes us through some straightforward calculations to show the answer is not quite as intuitive as you might imagine. 

Shima begins by defining the question as in the diagram above. The problem, of course, is that Tarzan's horizontal velocity reaches a maximum when the rope is at the bottom of its swing, at 0 degrees to the vertical. 

By hanging on beyond this point, Tarzan begins to convert some of this horizontal velocity into vertical speed, which sends him on an upwards parabolic trajectory that can increase his time in the air and therefore the distance he travels along the ground .

The balance that has to be struck is between the lost horizontal velocity and the vertical velocity gained. When does this maximise the horizontal distance he travels?

Shima shows first that to maximise the distance, the angle of the rope at the point of release should always be less than 45 degrees. That's in stark contrast to the case of throwing or firing a missile, which is why this problem is a little counterintuitive.

He goes on to show that Tarzan cannot significantly increase his flight duration by hanging on to the rope much beyond the lowest point  of the swing. "The flight duration is not significantly altered by acquiring the upward component," he says.

So a small angle of release is ideal, although not too small an angle. 

In fact there is no simple rule for maximising the horizontal flight distance. It turns out this depends on a number of factors, such as rope swing's distance off the ground, the length of the rope and the angle of the rope when Tarzan begins his swing as well as the angle of the rope at the point of release.

So there you have it: a well posed problem with some interesting physics to boot. Johnny Weissmuller would be pleased. 

Or as he would put it: Aaaaaaaaaayaaahh-eeeeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaah.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1208.4355: How Far Can Tarzan Jump?

Monson: Utah wins, but it can't beat the Theory of Relativity? - Salt Lake Tribune

Paul Fraughton | Salt Lake Tribune After defeating the Northern Colorado Bears 41 to 0 Utah players thank their fans in the MUSS.The University of Utah Utes played Northern Colorado at Rice Eccles Stadium. Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Theory of Relativity ruined everything but the partying at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday night, and it was, indeed, attributable to equations of mass and energy.

Utah had all of it, Northern Desperation had none.

Photos

Any questions?

Yeah, there are still plenty, while answers are yet in short supply, and here’s why: No matter what the Utes accomplished in their opener here, including the final score of 41-zip, they did it against one of the worst football teams in the country, a second-tier outfit coming off a winless, 10th-tier season.

Everybody knew that coming in.

Including the Utes themselves.

Kyle Whittingham said before and after the game that his team was supposed to win. Defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly was candid about that in the postgame, saying, in so many words, that the Utes were the bigger, badder team before this thing was ever played.

That fact pretty much canceled out any usefulness any fool wanted to attach to the outcome. It was simply a win, bought with the few hundred thousand large Utah handed over to the N. Colorado Bears for their trouble. It was college football’s version of prostitution.

Wham … bam … and the Utes got what they paid for â€" an easy, empty victory.

When Whittingham was asked afterward what he learned from the game, he said: "That’s a good question."

story continues below

He later added: "We understand there are bigger challenges on the horizon."

The main tidbits culled from watching were: Jordan Wynn’s arm didn’t fall off when he threw the ball â€" "Overall, I was pretty pleased with my performance," he said â€" and Brian Johnson can, it turns out, call plays from the booth without a brain freeze, a fact that left Whittingham satisfied.

Johnson’s new offense is all over the place and much more adventurous than Norm Chow’s was a year ago. How effective it will be against teams that actually match up against Utah … well, that information comes later in the course of study.

John White, who gained 119 yards, with a TD, on 24 carries, is already convinced: "The new offense is really explosive and balanced. It’s going to be that way the entire season. I can’t wait."

The defense was decent, too.

"They couldn’t run on us," said defensive end Joe Kruger, "and that’s our No. 1 priority every game. … Just shove it down their throat."

Kruger wasn’t bad at stopping the pass, either, picking off a Bear throw early in the fourth quarter and taking it 23 yards to the house for Utah’s final score.

Next Page >

Copyright 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paralympics: Scientist Singleton predicts epic 100 dash - Reuters

Paralympic sprinter Jerome Singleton stretches while posing for a portrait during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Dallas, Texas May 15, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Paralympic sprinter Jerome Singleton stretches while posing for a portrait during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Dallas, Texas May 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

LONDON | Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:22pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Single amputee Jerome Singleton studied physics so he could learn how to master the use of his prosthetic leg, having been born without a fibula.

It was never a hindrance to the 26-year-old, who was at one stage in the top 100 American college football prospects, and is now among the quickest Paralympic sprinters on the planet.

Silver medalist in the 100 meters four years ago, this time round he will do battle against holder Oscar Pistorius, world record pacesetter Jonnie Peacock of Britain, compatriot Blake Leeper and Arnu Fourie. He expects big things.

"This is going to be some of the best amputee sprinting you've ever seen. Period," he told Reuters, overlooking the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the River Thames.

"When you look at the Olympics there was Usain Bolt. But when you come to the Paralympics there are about six individuals within a tenth of a second of each other. It's going to be an epic final."

South African Pistorius, dubbed the 'Blade Runner' for the two carbon fiber prosthetic blades he uses after being born without a fibula in both legs, said he has lost sight of the 100 event, but Singleton was not convinced.

"I think Oscar said that because it gives him an out. Oh, he's going to be prepared," he said with a knowing grin, adding the race could be anyone's on the day.

"If you slip up, take a wrong step, it's going to be bad. You've got to be up on that particular day, at that particular time."

Singleton turned down athletics scholarships from various colleges to focus on his studies having been offered a full academic scholarship, during which time he learnt more about his condition.

His right leg was amputated below the knee when he was aged 18 months, but there was no stopping the American.

"I took mathematics and applied physics so I could learn more about myself. So I read about walking and running limbs.

"Now I can go out and change someone's perceptions on life in 10-11 seconds," he said.

Singleton said his boyhood memories are of being treated like the "rest of the children", but he had a mountain to climb and was not even made aware of the Paralympic movement until 2006.

SELF CONSCIOUS

Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble have ploughed 50,000 dollars into Paralympic sports clubs to help people with physical disabilities from childhood.

"If I could have found out at a very early age it probably would have changed my perception on myself," Singleton said at a P&G sponsored event.

"I was very self-conscious. I would always wear long pants when I was younger because I didn't want people to know I was an amputee."

Singleton's next hurdle to conquer was his surprise at how talented disabled athletes were when he first came up against them.

"I went to the US Paralympics and contacted everybody. In 2006 I trialed for the team. I got cut, even though I had been competing against able-bodied athletes. That showed me the level of competition."

Pistorius became the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics earlier this month, and said on Tuesday he felt the door had always been open to disabled athletes.

Singleton would love a shot in the Olympics, but also knows it would be an almost impossible task, given the strength and breadth of sprinting talent in the United States.

"We have 50 different states, which is almost like 50 different countries. So the chances of me being picked would be very slim. But would I have a desire to go to an Olympic trials? Of course."

Singleton is scheduled to race in the 100, 200 meters and 4 x 100 relay at the Olympic Stadium.

(Editing by Matt Barker)


The Tasty Physics of Eating Candy - PhysicsCentral.com (blog)

With the Ig Nobel Prizes just around the corner, there's at least one more entry worthy of consideration: research on the physics of maximally satisfying candy consumption. Yesterday, a team of Austrian physicists posted a preprint of their research paper titled, "Sticky physics of joy: On the dissolution of spherical candies."

Don't be fooled by the title, however; candy physics is serious business! As the authors note in their abstract, "Serious questions on the optimal strategy of enjoying a candy will be addressed, like whether it is wise to split the candy by breaking it with the teeth or not."

Read on for some curious confection physics.

Image Courtesy of exper via flickr.

For their research study, Andreas Windisch from the University of Graz in Austria and his colleagues first developed a physical model for the disintegration of candy. They wanted to model the decrease in candy mass over time to find ways to minimize this disintegration.

Assuming a constant density for the candy throughout the gormandizing process, the researchers could express the candy's mass as a function of time. While the mass decays exponentially under the researchers' simple model, the radius decays linearly. In other words, the radius of the candy gets smaller and smaller at a constant rate.

After developing their model, the researchers naturally tested it against experimental evidence. Unfortunately for the research team, they decided not to test the candy dissolution process on themselves. Instead, they dissolved the candy over time in a water bath while periodically taking photographs to measure the candies' radii.

Image courtesy of Windisch et al. via their arXiv article.

Their model passed the test — for the most part. Once the unspecified candies reached a certain point, however, the radii no longer dissolved at an approximately constant rate. The researchers contacted the candy manufacturers and discovered that the candies' denser cores were to blame.

The Key to Longer Lasting Candy

If you want to make your candy last, the authors advise you to maintain a spherical shape as long as possible. Of all three dimensional shapes, spheres have the smallest surface area to volume ratio. Additionally, surface area drives the dissolution of candy: the larger the surface area, the faster the candy disintegrates. Combining these two facts suggests that you should keep you candy spherical to make it last longer.

That's why breaking a candy into several pieces makes the experience last shorter. Your saliva can dissolve the candy more easily when there's more exposed surface area.

But the authors ultimately suggest you disregard the physics of candy eating if you want to truly enjoy the experience:

"Even though we now know how candies dissolve in time we stress that the best thing to do when eating a candy is to forget about these considerations, since they draw your attention away from what candies are made for: enjoyment."

There's a time for enjoying physics, and there's a time for enjoying candy eating. Apparently, they're mutually exclusive.

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If you want to keep up with Hyperspace, AKA Brian, you can follow him on Twitter.

Powerful Mobile Destruction Physics Dedicated to Beating Up a Poor Old Woman - Kotaku

Powerful Mobile Destruction Physics Dedicated to Beating Up a Poor Old Woman The rollerskating Granny Smith is a spry old bird. She has to be, as developer Mediocre has dedicated substatial technology towards beating the living hell out of her.

Granny Smith falls from great heights onto her back, her intense pain communicated through the loss of the large gold coins she's collected. She jumps off of ramps only to come smashing down through the roof of a house. Maybe she breaks through to the ground floor. Maybe she just busts through the second-story window.

Moving into the city, Granny Smith dives through the window of a towering skyscraper, glass flying in all directions. She might make it through the window of the adjascent building. She might miss and fall to her death. Sometimes she almost makes it, upper half of her body smacking the tiled floor inside before gravity pulls her down once more.

Granny Smith really likes her apples, you see. That's the whole reason she's putting herself through al of this pain. A thief has stolen them, but instead of just taking them away, he's scattered them across 36 levels, three at a time, forcing her to race him for a chance at retrieving them.

What a sadistic bastard.

Granny can purchase upgrades using in-game coin if she wishes. Helmets to protect her fragile skull, baseballs to break through destructible walls and objects before she does; she can even save up for additional characters, resting her battered body whilst someone else takes the brunt.

Powerful Mobile Destruction Physics Dedicated to Beating Up a Poor Old Woman No matter what special protective measures she takes, however, she's still an incredibly old woman in a world designed specifically to keep her from her goals as spectacularly as possible.

At her best, Granny Smith is quite graceful. Mediocre, the developers behind the water-physics showcase Sprinkle, have gifted the apple-fanatic with amazing grace and agility. Her plight runs smoothly on both platforms, with simple two-button controls (jump and hook, for snagging clothes lines and wires, probably dislocating her shoulder in the process) to make it easier to enjoy the show.

And at her broken, battered worst? That's really when she's really at her best.

Granny Smith $.99 [iTunes]

Granny Smith $.99 [Google Play]

Review: 'Madden NFL 13' a bold revamp of franchise; new physics engine ups ... - Washington Post

EA Sports has rolled the dice on a major overhaul of its best-selling “Madden NFL” football franchise this season â€" and most of its gambles have paid off.

“Madden NFL 13” (for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.95) swapped out the booth announcers, switched to a more classic presentation, overhauled the menu system and crafted a comprehensive Connected Career mode.

But the most notable change is a new physics engine that dramatically varies the hits and avoids the repetitive sequences of previous years. The real-time action is way more exciting than in previous years, as players bounce off each other with force and stumble over on-field pileups.

The Infinity Engine is far from perfect, resulting at times in bent-back arms, overly dramatic flailing and enough neck snaps to keep a team neurologist running tests around the clock. But most of the animations hold their realism in slow motion. Introducing real physics into collisions is a huge change for the Madden franchise, and the developers are sure to refine it in future installments.

One of the major offensive changes this season is the addition of receiver awareness. A quarterback now must wait for a receiver to be ready (as indicated by his icon changing from grayed-out to color) before making a throw. That’s a big improvement, since quickly throwing a 10-yard pass to a wide-out running a deep route should not result in a completion.

Xbox 360 players can now use the Kinect microphone to control some of the action. To be able to simply call out “Audible, Deep Pass” when you see the defense stacked against the run or yell “Blitz” on defense is much easier than scrambling with buttons.

After modeling its presentation style in previous years around Fox Sports and ESPN broadcasts, “Madden NFL 13” has opted for a more subdued CBS-style approach, replacing rock and hip-hop tunes with orchestral scores and putting Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the booth.

The play-by-play and commentary are remarkably natural considering EA Sports started from scratch with the announcing pair, and their laid-back style is better suited to make 9,000 recorded phrases sound like they’re being spoken in sentences. Attempts during the past two years to piece together clips of Fox announcer Gus Johnson â€" ranging from calm to frenzied â€" never quite worked.

After revamping the franchise mode last year, “Madden NFL 13” combines the franchise and be-a-star modes into Connected Careers, which offers incredible depth. Gamers can create a rookie, become a coach or take control of a Hall of Famer in either off-line or online modes.

Altogether, the upgrades in “Madden NFL 13” provide great hope for the future of the franchise. Three-and-a-half stars out of four.

___

EA Sports has taken a more conservative approach with its college football sim, “NCAA Football 13” (for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.95).

The series has continued to improve its graphics to keep up with its pro-football cousin. It also made some key improvements on offense, adding new quarterback drop-backs, throw and catch animations and pass trajectories as well as the receiver awareness feature found in “Madden NFL 13.”

A great new mode is the Heisman Challenge that allows players to take control of a legendary player during his breakout season. Since EA can only refer to current college athletes with generic names like “RB (hash)22,” the ability to play to run over defenses as Barry Sanders or Herschel Walker is a welcome addition. The Heisman Challenge also offers the ability to briefly slow time to look down receivers or find key blocks to trail. It’s like the bullet time in “Fallout 3” â€" without the bullets.

“NCAA Football 13” is a solid game, but its improvements are incremental and I’m not sure it’s worth shelling out another $60 if you own last year’s model. Three stars out of four.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Physics in Football? - TotalPlayStation.com

Around this time every year every year, football fans gather around their local electronics retailer (or place an order online) for their virtual football fix. It’s a sort of annual tradition that in late August everyone gets their chance to stand at the controls of their favorite team. I’ll admit it, I still get giddy every year about getting the opportunity to play as Tom Brady and make those precision passes that he is capable of. It helps, of course, to have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and the other assortment of weapons on the Patriots.

I know, you’re not here for me to gush about my favorite team and their juggernaut offense. You’re here for the lowdown on Madden NFL 13. I wish I could paint a picture as pretty as a Brady to Gronkowski pass in the corner of the end zone, but unfortunately Madden 13 has its fair share of flaws. That’s not to say that it is a bad game, because it’s honestly one of, if not the best Madden on the PS3. It should be though, considering that we are near the end of the console’s life cycle and EA has had a ton of time to perfect this formula.

There is no better place to start than the new physics engine. EA touts the Infinity Engine as one of the “greatest technical innovations in a generation” because it accounts for so many attributes. Every collision accounts for mass, speed, and body type and delivers outcomes that reflect that. I remember being floored that Darren Sproles could run over Kevin Williams, but thankfully those days are gone. I will admit that every tackle looked realistic and felt unique, but there are some unfortunate quirks that come with that. First off, players will bend and contort into inhuman ways. I saw Wes Welker fold like a lawn chair, sandwiching a defensive lineman between his rear and his shoulders. It also seemed that players would bump into one another after the whistle and both would flop like they were shot. I don’t know how either of these things are calculated in muscle tension, but it is a serious enough problem that I had people over, watching me play the game, who pointed it out in their very first viewing.

The overall animation outside of tackling has been greatly improved, however, Players can fight for those extra few yards, get tripped and stumble forward before falling, and depending on where they are hit they can brush it off. Going for big hits has always been a risk/reward proposition, but in Madden 13 you absolutely have to measure your shots if you are going to take him. Quite often in my first few guys I would have a defender launch, only to graze the ball carrier's shoulder, and watch them take off for six. Momentum plays a key role, because if your defender is fading back and making an interception you will start out running backwards to complete the movement. It’s not as easy as a player’s feet touching the ground and being able to take off.The Infinity Engine passes its test with flying colors in the balance department. Well, at least until the whistle blows, then all bets are off.

The passing game has also been revamped this year. There are more than 25 pass trajectories, whereas old Madden players will remember there were only three. This allows players to fit the ball over a defender and in those tight windows that just weren’t possible before. Either you’d lob it directly to the defender, throw a touch pass over everyone’s heads, or throw a bullet through someone. I will admit to letting out an audible “woo” during my first touchdown pass over Ike Taylor’s shoulder. Of course, the changes aren’t just for the passers, but also the receivers. Receivers must become aware of a pass before you can attempt a completion, symbolized by their button getting greyed out. If you decide to sling a pass toward a player who isn’t quite aware the ball is coming their way, you must snap control over and make the play manually.

It wouldn’t be fair for the offensive guys to get all the love, so EA has also made some changes for the defense. Defenders who aren’t looking for the ball no longer snap around and make an interception outside of the realms of probability. The defense will react far more realistically and this is something that Madden players have complained about for years. I can’t tell you how many times I would make a beautiful throw and see the defender make a play on the ball even though he was beat on the route and playing catch up. Champ Bailey in particular was infuriating due to this, diving for balls over his head and snatching interceptions on what should be deep completions to burners like Mike Wallace, Randy Moss, or Julio Jones. No offense to Champ, if he somehow ever ends up reading this, but I don’t think he’s quite good enough to magically predict a ball is coming his way, not look at it, and make a diving catch even though the receiver is standing over him. Defenders are no longer tethered to a side of the field. If you move your best WR to the slot against the Jets, prepare for Darrelle Revis to also get in there and mix things up. The defense will always go for the best-on-best matchup and disguising coverage has also taken a big step forward.

TA Plays: 'Blast-A-Way' - Illusion Labs Puts Their Stamp on Physics Puzzlers - Touch Arcade

A few weeks back, we found out that Illusion Labs had a new iOS project in the works called Blast-A-Way [$4.99]. At first we weren’t really sure what it was all about, but a trailer released a couple of days later revealed it to be a physics puzzle game that used various types of explosives to blast apart a level and reach the end goal.

So, a physics puzzler. Is my excitement not showing? It's not that I haven’t enjoyed that genre immensely over the years, because I have. It’s just that the overabundance of them on the App Store has sapped my enthusiasm for more, even though great new ones are being released all the time. I mean, why don’t you just make a match-3 while you’re at it?

Then, about 10 minutes after diving into an advanced copy of Blast-A-Way, it hit me: this is Illusion Labs, you idiot. These folks made Touchgrind BMX [$4.99], Sway [$4.99 / Free], and Labyrinth 2 [$4.99 / Free]. Everything they do exudes quality, they don’t play silly App Store pricing games, and they only release new products when they’re fully ready. They’re like a little iOS Valve.

My hesitation quickly subsided as the brilliance of Blast-A-Way started to unfold. It starts off in typical fashion, slowly introducing the mechanics of the game as you get yourself oriented. The goal on each level is to collect 3 little characters named Boxies by dislodging them from the environment or using the blast concussion to move them within reach. Think of it like iBlast Moki 2 [$2.99 / $4.99] in 3D, because it kind of is.

Besides the bombs, Blast-A-Way has several other interesting types of orbs you can toss around, like one that can teleport you across a level or one that will repair damaged blocks to create a traversable path. As you might expect, levels can get intricate and challenging once you throw all these mechanics in at the same time, not to mention having up to 3 controllable characters in a level to manage as well.

Check out as Brad and I take a tour of some of what Blast-A-Way has to offer:

I completely underestimated Blast-A-Way when I first saw it, and now I’m paying the price. Fortunately for me, that "price" is simply enjoying the hell out of an ingeniously designed puzzle game. Of course, the Illusion Labs mark of quality permeates this release as well, with fantastic visuals, great sound, and an overall well thought out design.

I'm roughly a third of the way into Blast-A-Way as of this writing, and I'm already dying to jump back in for more. It should have filtered through most of the international markets by now, and it's just hit the US App Store as a Universal app for $4.99.

App Store Link: Blast-A-Way, $4.99 (Universal)

Elon Physics Prof. Named AL Hook Emerging Scholar - WFMY News 2

Eric Townsend, Elon University

Elon, NC -- Assistant Professor Benjamin "Ben" Evans in the Department of Physics has been selected as the fourth recipient of the A.L. Hook Emerging Scholar Professorship in Science and Mathematics at Elon University.

The professorship provides funding and opportunities for faculty to mentor students and involve undergraduates in research and special projects. Evans will receive an annual salary supplement, research materials and funds for travel and student research. He will hold the rotating professorship for a three-year term.

An active mentor to undergraduate researchers, Evans has focused his research since coming to Elon on artificial cilia systems and magnetic microspheres, the latter of which may have the potential to revolutionize the way drugs are delivered to tumors without the side effects of current cancer treatment regimes.

He has worked extensively with undergraduate researchers from a variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, engineering and biochemistry. His own work, and that of the students he has mentored, has helped him publish research in four journal articles and one book chapter. In addition, he has presented at a regional conference and two international conferences. Nine students in all have worked in his lab since Evans first joined the Elon University faculty in 2008.

"It is clear that those who designed this award were familiar with the challenges of a new faculty member, and that the award is well-designed to have the greatest impact on my research and my work with undergraduate students at this early point in my career," Evans said. "The aid provided by the Hook Professorship will be an immeasurable help in ... allowing me to better provide for student researchers and therefore fulfill my obligation to my department and meet the needs of the university."

Evans has a doctorate in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor of science in physics from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

Tommy Holmes and Harris L. Hendricks, Elon alumni, established the A.L. Hook Emerging Scholar Professorship in Science and Mathematics to honor former physics and mathematics professor, Alonzo Lohr Hook, and to support science, research and student involvement at Elon. Previous faculty members who have held the professorship are Crista Arangala, Kyle Altmann and Kathryn Matera.