Scientist-musician wins Nobel Prize

Happy to hear that Saul Perlmutter has won a Nobel Prize today! We met at SciFoo 2010 and I’ve spoken with him last year (and earlier this year, according to my email archives) about a music-in-physics course he organised. He’s also a musician himself, and plays violin. Congrats to Saul, and I will schedule an interview once I make my way out of the backlog of other things. (Same goes for the 15 or so other people who I promised to catch up with and who may not have won any Nobel Prizes.)

Einstein’s Universe

Last week, James Dacey let me know about an interview he did for PhysicsWorld: In the first video, particle physicist Brian Foster and violinist Jack Liebeck talk about Einstein’s musical career and about a show they do together called “Einstein’s Universe”, which is a lecture interspersed with music. In the second video, both men play a duet together.

In the video of the interview, James asks Jack about the link between science and music, and the violinist answers: “A lot of physicists, and generally scientists and mathematicians love playing music. It’s difficult to put your finger on what the exact link is, but I should think there is some kind of link in the discipline of reading a code on a page and turning it into music, and in the day to day life of trying to work out what’s going on in their particular discipline through looking at the codes that come out and deciphering how things are put together.”


I previously wrote about the documentary BLAST! when I saw it at HotDocs last year. If you’re in Canada and you haven’t seen it yet, you can catch it on TV soon. It is being broadcast by Discovery Channel Canada on February 21st at 7:30 PM EST.

IgNobels announced

Funnier than the Nobel Prizes, the IgNobels highlight research that makes you laugh. The research itself is completely valid and serious, but the topics can be funny.
Among this year’s winners (copied from the site)

-Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
-Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert,, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
-Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

Street Corner Science

ScienCentral has two videos on their site of a project where they put Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman at a desk on the street, from where he answered questions about science.

Which Nobel Prize winning scientist would you like talk to on the street?

Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?

Concerned conference attendees at the Perimeter Institute anxiously follow the Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet? website. Has it? Has it now? Let’s refresh it to be sure!

(Actually we were laughing about the source code of the site. Wait, that’s probably even geekier. Never mind.)


LHC pictures

Flickr user µµ works on one of the particle physics experiments that will be carried out on the Large Hadron Collider, and uploaded some pictures of the LHC-under-construction to the Flickr group pool. She also has an entire set with more pics and explanations.

YB0 through YB-1 and YB-2

Look at the size of the people in this next one – especially the people on or near the scaffolding.
Muon Barrel

April 1

I’m not good at April Fool’s, but I’m entertained by some of the jokes so far. I like the very subtle Spacing Hut post and was actually tricked by Metafilter‘s slowly changing colours. (I didn’t think it was weird, though. I just thought: “Oh, it’s a different colour now. Maybe it’s a feature.” Stranger things have happened.)
The only good science-themed joke I’ve seen, although completely obviously fake, is this question from Albert Einstein on UClue. I don’t know if they keep it on the site after today, so here it is in its entirety:

“Asked by einstein1879 on Tue 1 Apr 2008 – 5:14 am UTC:

My relatives are coming in for the holidays, and I’m at my wit’s end. I have to feed them, house them, entertain them, all this while juggling my responsibilities at the Patent Office. It’s total information overload.
Among those coming are:

– The astronaut twins, one of whom is hale and hearty, while the other’s aged horribly.

– The entire Brownian clan. They seem to arrive by the billions, and immediately begin bouncing off the walls.

– Mr. Lorentz and family. I swear, they’re all getting shorter.

– Then there’s Planck’s constant need for attention.

– Schrödinger (always brings his darned cat!)

– Heisenberg may come, but I’m uncertain.

You’d have to be a genius to keep track of that many people. I don’t “do” social stuff. It’s more than I can handle. Help me, Uclue!

Albert Einstein”

(Isn’t the problem with Heisenberg more that he may be there, but you don’t know how fast he’ll get there, or you know he’s on his way but don’t know if he’ll actually get there?)


doodlesChris of Jacks of Science has posted a Flickr gallery of some of the doodles he drew in the margins of his third year Physics class notes. They’re all really great!

Chris says: “I may even scan my previous years of doodles so you can see how much I’ve improved as an artist by studying Physics!”