If only there was an Oscar for "Smallest Movie," a group of IBM nanophysicists would be a shoo-in with their new one-minute stop-motion video starring 130 atoms.
A Boy and His Atom, which debuts Wednesday, has already been certified by the Guinness folks as the "world's smallest movie."
While it isn't exactly the most complicated story line — the nearly monochrome video features a boy, appropriately named Adam, who dances and plays with a toy atom — what's really amazing is how they did it.
When Isaac Newton published his theory of universal gravitation in 1686, he knew he'd have to confront a few critics. Like a ghost stretching its arms across empty space, Newton's theory described the gravitational attraction between two masses, say, the Sun and the Earth, as a mysterious force that acted instantaneously between them.
How could the Sun influence the Earth, and the Earth the Sun, without direct contact?
We physicists are all romantics. Don't laugh; it's true. In our youth we all fall deeply in love. We fall in love with a beautiful idea: beyond this world of constant change lies another world that is perfect and timeless.
This eternal domain is made not of matter or energy. It's made from perfect, timeless mathematical laws. Finding those exquisite eternal laws — or better yet, a single timeless formula for everything — is the Holy Grail we dedicate our lives to.
NASA is calling it "The Rose." By any other name, it's a mammoth storm on Saturn's north pole. Its eye spans an estimated 1,250 miles — 20 times the size of an average hurricane's eye on Earth. Winds in the Saturn storm's eye wall are believed to be four times as fast.
The stunning image of the spinning vortex was given "false colors" to emphasize low clouds (in red) versus high clouds (in green). NASA estimates that the clouds at the outer edge are moving at up to 330 miles per hour.
Three popular pesticides will soon be illegal in the European Union, where officials hope the change helps restore populations of honey bees, vital to crop production, to healthy levels. The new ban will be enacted in December.
"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion ($28.8 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected," said EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg.
In a compelling New York Times piece published last Friday, writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee discusses the rise and fall of Diederik Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist who committed fraud in 55, or more, of his scientific papers.
While I have very little sympathy for Stapel, I was surprised to recognize the impulse behind his fabrication. Here's how the article explained it:
Patricia East is a developmental psychologist who began her career working at an OB-GYN clinic in California. Thursday mornings at the clinic were reserved for pregnant teens, and when East arrived the waiting room would be packed with them, chair after chair of pregnant adolescents.
It was in this waiting room, East explains, that she discovered her life's work — an accidental discovery that emerged from the small talk that staff at the clinic had with their young clients as they walked them back for checkups.