Liquid N2 + ping pong balls + hi-speed cam = SLOMO boomhappy funtime

While it definitely lacks the low-budget charm of this nearly identical classroom presentation, this demonstration of liquid nitrogen's explosive potential does have two major things going for it. One: more ping pong balls. Two: A high-speed camera, for slowmo playback goodness. » 9/13/13 10:14am 9/13/13 10:14am

How Skynet Might Emerge From Simple Physics

A provocative new paper is proposing that complex intelligent behavior may emerge from a fundamentally simple physical process. The theory offers novel prescriptions for how to build an AI — but it also explains how a world-dominating superintelligence might come about. We spoke to the lead author to learn more. » 4/26/13 9:00am 4/26/13 9:00am

Why Julius Robert von Mayer was one of the unluckiest men in science

It's a truism of science that concepts and inventions are rarely attributed to the person who actually came up with them. Most concepts and inventions have several creators, from the Pythagorean theorem to the radio. But one particular concept — the first law of thermodynamics — has two creators who came up with it… » 2/22/13 8:00am 2/22/13 8:00am

The world's tiniest steam engine uses lasers instead of coal

Steam engines run because of statistics — the particles in the machine have a predictable overall behavior, which drives the engine's piston up and down. But if you shrink the engine down to micrometer size, it'll contain far fewer particles, few enough that the behavior of each individual particle could potentially… » 12/16/11 12:27pm 12/16/11 12:27pm

Does entropy increase with time or does it make time?

In this week's Ask a Physicist, we're going to go old school and do some thermodynamics. I'll explore why disorder is such a big deal and whether it might explain the mysteries of how time works. » 10/21/10 9:00am 10/21/10 9:00am