Scientists Thought They’d Proved Einstein Wrong, Hadn’t

Over at Gizmodo:

[Researchers] found instances where moving (but not stationary) atoms spitting out packets of light energy would bring into existence a tiny force that acted like friction, and published research on it earlier this year. A force that exists when an object is moving, but not when it is stationary, violates the core principles of Einstein’s (and Galileo’s) laws of relativity—there isn’t anything special about the laws of physics when something is moving at constant velocity versus when it’s at rest. So, had they accidentally spotted a tiny hole in the most well-accepted theories of physics?

Nah.

But the researchers thought, well, what if they redo all of the physics of this situation, but allow the mass of the atom to change, too?

This, it turns out, resolves the paradox—the moving atom loses a tiny amount of mass through the emission of energy, eliminating the requirement for a velocity-dependent frictional force. Essentially, they came across Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc^2, demonstrating that energy and mass are proportional using the basic laws of physics.

Einstein: still the undisputed champ at all levels of mass or energy.

einstein_laughing

‘Nice try.’

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Nuclear Fusion in Ten Years, Say Lockheed Martin

A bold claim, as reported in io9. The company’s own website has more detail including a compelling timeline that has fusion powering small cities in fifteen years and providing inexpensive power to the developing world in twenty.

This is a development worth keeping an eye on, as io9 point out:

Harnessing fusion has been the Holy Grail of physics, a game-changing solution that could provide a virtually unlimited source of cheap energy.

LM also rolled out this cheery guy to explain what the heck nuclear fusion is in case anyone’s forgotten.

I’m disappointed that only the intro had a dramatic dubstep soundtrack, though.

Jumbo Extended Captain America Trailer: Banter, Fighting, Scarlett Johansson’s Bum

Looking good. And in a trailer otherwise full of quick jump cuts between action scenes, it’s nice to see they took the time to spend a full four seconds on Black Widow walking away from the camera. As if the average guy in the 18-35 demo wasn’t already going to see the movie.

Meanwhile, Tor are disappointed that the upcoming Terminator reboot is going to, well, be a reboot, which doesn’t fit with the ontological paradox set up in the existing canon. I might also care about this, but it’s the end of a long week and half way through reading the article I decided to have a beer instead. (Of caring. I did finish the article. And now I need to go and research what a Nokikov self-consistency principle is.)

Surprising no-one, 300: Rise of an Empire may not be great, based on the scathingly sarcastic review over at io9.

Arrows and dead men and ship parts float past his head, in the gooey slow motion style that elevates the 300 franchise from mere war porn to aesthetically rich political statement.

Ha.

Sun Goes Mental, No One Really Knows Why

Late Sunday night, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the first ‘X-class’–i.e. really powerful–solar flare of 2013. Which was cool, and they’d been expecting it, so no biggie.

But then there were another two. In the next 23 hours. From the same spot on the Sun. Should we be scared? Has our reliable old star entered some kind of monsoon season that comes every 10,000 years, auguring the apocalypse and end of all humanity?

Seems not. Although “An X-class flare in our direction, combined with a colossal, interplanetary CME (coronal mass ejection), could have serious consequences here on Earth.

And “X-class flares and their associated coronal mass ejections can lead to mindblowing northern lights at very non-northern latitudes… [and] can also trigger massive geomagnetic storms, jam satellites, ground airplanes, and precipitate global radio blackouts.

Space, eh? It’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

More at io9.

SF Writers + Science Researchers = Getting Big Stuff Done

My mum pointed me in the direction of a fantastic project that Arizona State University are running with legendary sci-fi/historical fiction author Neal Stephenson: Hieroglyph.

Full article here:

The project teams up writers and other creative thinkers with scientists and engineers to write science fiction stories that envision a near future radically changed by technological innovation. Hieroglyph aims to break out of the gloomy, dystopian rut that dominates so many of our visions of the future by inspiring people to think critically and creatively about science, technology and society.

It’s a fascinating and wonderfully ambitious idea; using the wild and speculative imagination of SF writers to generate actionable ideas that could turn out to be the Next Big Thing. And ASU professor Ed Finn supplied a great quote that really encapsulates everything that’s great about SF:

“What science fiction can do better than almost anything else is to provide not just an idea for some specific technical innovation, but also to supply a coherent picture of that innovation being integrated into a society, into an economy, and into people’s lives. Often, this is the missing element needed to bring some new idea to life.”

Great stuff. I’ve signed up to contribute, and I can’t wait to see where this leads.

In The (SFF) News This Week…

A super-nerdy but awesome explanation of the Kardashev scale, which is ‘used to classify hypothetical alien civilizations according to the amount of energy at their disposal’.

‘This led him to speculate about a Type II civilization. For an [extraterrestrial intelligence] to reach K2, it would need to capture the entire energy output of its parent star. The best way to achieve this, of course, is to build a Dyson Sphere.

Conjured by Freeman Dyson in 1959, this hypothetical megastructure would envelope a star at a distance of 1 AU and cover an inconceivably large area of 2.72 x 1017 km2, which is around 600 million times the surface area of the Earth. The sun has an energy output of around 4 x 1026 Watts, of which most would be available to do useful work.’

As anyone who’s read Ascension Point knows, I’ve always been more of a Dyson Swarm kind of guy, but each to their own.

Next up, are you ready for season three of Game of Thrones? I know I am.

We should stop using nuclear weapons as a unit of measurement, says annoyed atomic historian.

“In general,” he added, “What I don’t like is … the idea that kiloton or a megaton is just an energy unit, that it’s equivalent to so many joules or something. Because you could do that. You could claim that your house runs so many tons of TNT worth of electricity per year, but it sort of trivializes the notion.”

Also at The Atlantic, a spectacular NASA video of three simultaneous solar phenomena.

…a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and coronal rain, “complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere,” NASA explains.’

Finally, in Dan-specific news, Venus Rising goes to my editor on March 8th, which means it should be out in just a couple of months!

Spectacular Meteor Footage

Just in case anyone hasn’t seen the news in the last four days, a 56ft-wide asteroid weighing around 10,000 tons and travelling at 40,000 miles per hour entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia on February 15th. (At which point it became a meteor, not an asteroid, I’ve learned.)

It disintegrated under the force of atmospheric pressure nine miles over the city of Chelyabinsk, causing a shockwave that shattered windows across the city and injured 1200 people.

This write-up at the New Yorker sums it up pretty well, and io9 has some science here.

The key lesson in all this? Space is very big, and IT IS TRYING TO KILL US.