Hot Jupiters: The OG Exoplanets

Author: Hayley Beltz.
Editors: Alison Claire Ludzki, Callie Corsa, and Sarah Kearns

Take a moment to remember that you and everyone you know live on a small blue orb hurling itself around a hot ball of hydrogen and helium that pays us no mind. Furthermore, we are only one of eight staggeringly diverse planets within our solar system that have been making this trip for billions of years. These planets range from hot rocks too small to even hold onto an atmosphere to cooler, massive gas giants where a day lasts less than 10 hours. Our solar system is only one of many (billions) and is only a small sample of the set of possible planet types and configurations. When astronomers started to look outside our solar system at nearby stars and the planets that orbit them–known as exoplanets–we began to understand just how strange other worlds can be.  Our solar system was unable to prepare us for what we saw first: Hot Jupiters. Continue reading “Hot Jupiters: The OG Exoplanets”

The Quantum Tunnel

Author: William Black, Edited by Zena Lapp, Zuleirys Santana-Rodríguez, and Whit Froehlich

Quantum_Tunnel_Blueprint.png

Some say that studying a flower’s structure makes it less beautiful—that it’s best to appreciate the façade at face value, without details of underlying mechanisms. I wholly disagree. Knowledge of how a leaf photosynthesizes gives botanists greater awe for its elegance. Knowledge of how black holes tear at the fabric of spacetime gives physicists greater wonder for the universe. Knowledge of the quantum realm gave me a greater appreciation for Ant-Man and the Wasp. It can even give insights into where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) may be headed with Avengers: Endgame. To better understand how the quantum realm works, I’ll expound on the powers of Ghost, the main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and how they relate to probability clouds, Schrödinger’s cat, quantum tunneling, and the current state of the MCU. Continue reading “The Quantum Tunnel”

El Dilema Cuántico

Autora: Kristina Lenn
Editores: Alex Taylor, Zuleirys Santana-Rodríguez, and Whit Froehlich
Traducido al español por Irene Vargas-Salazar

Mi película favorita es El Código Enigma con Benedict Cumberbatch y Kiera Knightley. Me fascina esta película por las siguientes razones:

  1. En toda la película se demuestra que uno no se puede rendir ante las personas pesimistas.
  2. Como química computacional, siento orgullo al ver como mi campo obtuvo mayor visibilidad ante el público.
  3. Y, por supuesto, ¡Benedict Cumberbatch!

Continue reading “El Dilema Cuántico”

The Quantum Quandary

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Alex Taylor, Zuleirys Santana-Rodriguez, and Whit Froehlich

My absolute favorite movie is The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and I love this movie for these reasons:

  1. The lesson of not giving in to naysayers is showcased throughout the movie.
  2. As a computationalist, I am proud to see my field obtain more visibility in the public eye.
  3. And duh – Benedict Cumberbatch!

However, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when school-age Alan Turing is walking with his only friend, Christopher. Alan’s perceived oddities make him a target of ridicule among his classmates, but Christopher makes this very poignant statement: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Continue reading “The Quantum Quandary”

Chaos: Not Quite (but Almost) Randomness – Part 2 of 2

Author: Feng Zhu

Editors: Nayiri Kaissarian, Jimmy Brancho, and Noah Steinfeld

The first part of this post explained what chaos is, how it was first discovered in studies of the solar system, and why chaotic systems can be difficult to understand. In this second part of the post, we will explore what we can do to get a grip on such systems.

Continue reading “Chaos: Not Quite (but Almost) Randomness – Part 2 of 2”

Chaos: Not Quite (but Almost) Randomness – Part 1 of 2

Author: Feng Zhu

Editors: Nayiri Kaissarian, Jimmy Brancho, and Noah Steinfeld

What is Chaos?

Is our solar system stable, or will the orbits of the planets at some point collapse into the Sun? Closer to home: will it rain tomorrow?

Both these questions turn out to be surprisingly tricky to answer for the same underlying reason: the mathematical models we use to understand these systems are chaotic.

Continue reading “Chaos: Not Quite (but Almost) Randomness – Part 1 of 2”

Setting the Tone: How Physics Can Help Us Understand Musical Harmony (Part 2)

Author: Joseph Iafrate

Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Scott Barolo, and Bryan Moyers

*Editor’s Note: This post has several sound files to help readers understand the author’s message better. These sound files can be accessed via bolded links.

Part one of this post explained how physics gave us a new language for talking about musical notes. In part two, we look at combinations of notes. Will two notes sound pleasant together, or will they clash? We can apply what we’ve learned about frequencies to get an answer.

The Harmony of Ratios

If you’ve ever used the Pythagorean theorem, you are well-acquainted with one of Pythagoras’ contributions to society. Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician dedicated to discovering mathematical principles in the world around him. During his time, the Greeks already had an idea of which notes sounded good together, a pleasant combination of two or more notes that we call a harmony. Pythagoras and his followers could identify harmony by ear, but they wanted to see if the math that permeated the rest of their worldview had anything to say about this phenomenon.

According to legend, they took two taut strings of different lengths and plucked them at the same time. The sounds seemed to clash with one another. So the Pythagoreans increased the length of one of the strings and tried again. It was a bit better, but the notes still seemed to clash in their ears. So they increased the length again. This kept going until the sounds complemented one another. Eventually they got it just right, and the two notes were in harmony.

Continue reading “Setting the Tone: How Physics Can Help Us Understand Musical Harmony (Part 2)”

Setting the Tone: How Physics Can Help Us Understand Musical Harmony (Part 1)

Author: Joseph Iafrate

Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Scott Barolo, and Bryan Moyers

*Editor’s Note: This post has several sound files to help readers understand the author’s message better. These sound files can be accessed via bolded links. 

At my elementary school, entering the fifth grade meant we could finally join the school band, and for most of us, that was a big deal. I had been set on playing the clarinet for ages, so I was ready and raring to immediately dive into “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary had a Little Lamb.”

But before we could do that, we had to learn how to name the building blocks of those songs and the sounds we were making: the musical notes. Our learner books instructed us to orient our fingers in a certain way and call the sound that came out a “G.” Western music labels its tones with the letters A through G. There are also modified notes (sharp and flat) such that we reach twelve total note names.

Continue reading “Setting the Tone: How Physics Can Help Us Understand Musical Harmony (Part 1)”

How Gecko Feet Will Make Your Next Move Easier

Author: Andrew McAllister

Editors: Ana Vasquez, Molly Kozminsky, and Kevin Boehnke

One of the most frustrating parts of moving is dealing with furniture. Most pieces need to be taken apart to fit through doors or into your moving van. Even if you’re lucky enough to have buff friends to help, one lost or stripped screw is enough to make you question your choice to cart everything miles away.

If only things could be simpler. Instead of screws, why not a super strong, reusable, and easy-to-detach piece of tape to hold your furniture together? Sounds like a tall order, but scientists inspired by a gravity-defying lizard, the gecko, are trying to make it a reality.

Continue reading “How Gecko Feet Will Make Your Next Move Easier”

String Theory: Worth the Wait or Just Stringing Us Along? (Part 2)

Author: Molly Kozminsky

Editors: Theresa Mau, Jimmy Brancho, and Alisha John

In my previous post, I discussed what string theory is, how it has not been experimentally verified, and how the existence of Higgs boson was proved fifty years after it was first proposed. In this post, I will continue to discuss the lengthy process of validating the theory of gravitational waves and where we stand with string theory research.

Continue reading “String Theory: Worth the Wait or Just Stringing Us Along? (Part 2)”