How Do Cells Manage To Obey The Laws of Physics?

You know what's absolutely impossible? A system going from chaos to order. You know what cells do? Turn a chaotic universe into organized, channeled motion, again and again and again. How can that be? » 1/22/15 9:00am 1/22/15 9:00am

What Does It Mean When Someone Says "There Is No Such Thing As Cold"?

Perhaps you have heard that cold does not exist – that what we subjectively experience and describe as cold is, in fact, the absence of heat. But what does that mean, exactly? Joe Hanson explains this mind-bending concept in the latest episode of It's Okay To Be Smart. » 1/21/15 2:30pm 1/21/15 2:30pm

This Dying Star Is The Center Of The Coldest Place In The Universe

Until NASA's Cold Lab comes online in 2016, the coldest place in the universe is a faint scattering of gas and dust 5,000 light years away in the Centaurus constellation. The Boomerang Nebula is just 1 degree above absolute zero, colder than the natural background temperature of space. » 12/18/14 5:02pm 12/18/14 5:02pm

Melt Ponds on Ice Sheets Are Chillingly Beautiful

When endless summer days reach the Arctic, the massive expanses of rarely-interrupted blinding white is cut by lakes and rivers of meltwater. The deep blue set against white is a unique, surreal beauty, creating an alien landscape that is smooth, crisp, and cool in its simplicity. » 8/05/14 7:49pm 8/05/14 7:49pm

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

That condensation on your beer can might not be a good sign

We've all seen a cold beer can sweat in the summer heat. Now, a new scientific study reveals the surprising effect that layer of condensation has on the temperature of your beverage. » 5/01/13 11:14am 5/01/13 11:14am

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

Scientist + liquid nitrogen + 1500 ping pong balls = boomhappy funtime

Come for the science, stay for the explosions. Watch Plymouth University professor Roy Lowry* demonstrate what happens when you try to contain liquid nitrogen while it's returning to its gaseous state. (The impatient among you can skip to 3:15.) » 9/19/12 1:30pm 9/19/12 1:30pm

Why removing the uncertainty principle accidentally creates perpetual…

Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells us it's impossible to know simultaneously the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle. It's one of the main ideas that famously prompted Albert Einstein to declare God doesn't play dice with the universe. » 6/24/12 4:00pm 6/24/12 4:00pm

Are we on the verge of a thermal battery revolution?

Are finally we on the cusp of economically viable thermal batteries — devices to store and transmit heat? A perspective article published in this week's Science seems to think so, and it could mean a major change for the way we think about heating and cooling. » 3/23/12 8:40am 3/23/12 8:40am

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

Watch some vibrating nails do their best imitation of melting crystals

These nails start out perfectly arranged, the hardware store equivalent of a perfect crystalline structure. But as their bed begins to vibrate and they start moving around, they become increasingly disordered, actually imitating all the stages of a melting crystal. » 10/25/11 4:30pm 10/25/11 4:30pm

Quantum entanglement helps computers defy the laws of thermodynamics

The longer you use a computer, the hotter it will get. That seems like just an everyday fact of life, but it might actually be its own law of physics. And, like all phyiscal laws, quantum mechanics apparently violates it. » 6/02/11 9:56am 6/02/11 9:56am

You can see the light of the Big Bang the next time you turn on your TV

Ask scientists a question, and you might get amazing answers. Consider this video, which poses three head-scratchers: what happens to electrons at absolute zero, whatever happened to the light from the Big Bang, and are you any good at sports? » 1/16/11 10:45am 1/16/11 10:45am

The thermodynamics of rubber bands

Heating generally expands a substance. Yet if you heat up rubber bands, they shrink — and when they're stretched they get hotter. What's going on? » 1/05/11 6:30am 1/05/11 6:30am

The story of Einstein's refrigerator

We tend to think of Albert Einstein has a highfalutin theoretical physics guru, but the physicist also worked on much more everyday tasks...like developing an energy-efficient refrigerator. Allow Jennifer Ouellette from Cocktail Party Physics to explain. » 12/05/10 9:00am 12/05/10 9:00am

What happens to a cup of hot water in -40°F Siberian weather?

The Russian village of Oymyakon is one of the coldest hamlets on planet Earth. Check out what happens when you lob a cup of warm H2O in the air on a bone-chilling Siberian winter day. [BBC] » 12/01/10 8:00am 12/01/10 8:00am

Information-powered device manages to cheat the laws of thermodynamics

The laws of thermodynamics tell us that all work requires energy. But a recent demonstration used only information, not energy, to control electric potential, apparently violating the laws of thermodynamics. Here's how they did it. » 11/22/10 5:00pm 11/22/10 5:00pm