Stephen Hawking Was Offered Euthanasia in 1985 and Turned It Down to Keep Rocking

stephen-hawking-chicks

The guy with the sexy ladies is Stephen Hawking.  Most people know him as one of the smartest mophos in the known Universe.  He has a very advanced case of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (as it’s known here in the US, or motor neuron disease in some countries), which negates his speech, movement, breathing, swallowing, and pretty much everything else that can go wrong in the body.  It’s proof that if there happens to be a god in the Universe, he is one cruel bastard.

Stephen Hawking got really terribly ill in 1985 with a case of pneumonia, while he was writing his book A Brief History of Time.  Stephen and his first wife Jane were in Switzerland at the time — a time that Hawking calls “the darkest of my life.”  Doctors were so concerned about Stephen that they offered his first wife Jane the option of unplugging Stephen’s life support, thus ending the world the benefit of learning from his incredible mind.  From an article at Wikipedia, confirmed by a source at Medical Daily:

During a visit to CERN in Geneva in the summer of 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia which in his condition was life-threatening; he was so ill that Jane was asked if life support should be terminated. She refused but the consequence was a tracheotomy, which would require round-the-clock nursing care, and remove what remained of his speech. The National Health Service would pay for a nursing home but Jane was determined that he would live at home. The cost of the care was funded by an American foundation. Nurses were hired for the three shifts required to provide the round-the-clock support he required. One of those employed was Elaine Mason, who was to become Hawking’s second wife.

When I read this the first time before I decided to write about it, all of the hairs on both of my arms stood up.  Stephen Hawking is one of my life’s heroes, I have been reading his books and papers since I was a young boy, when I learned that Science was my life’s calling — to think of having grown up without his influence in my life would have been one of the most detrimental things imaginable to me.  From the article at Medical Daily:

“The doctors thought I was so far gone that they offered Jane [the option] to turn off the machine,” Hawking, 71, says in the film. “The weeks of intensive care that followed were the darkest of my life.”

Hawking describes to documentarians the progression of the disease, which kills brain cells controlling essential involuntary muscles as the victim loses speech and ambulatory functions. He was initially diagnoses with the disease in 1963 and given two years to live, but continued to work and became an accomplished researcher and professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

“Slowly the drugs worked, though a small incision in my throat robbed me of my ability to talk,” Hawking says. “I was then put on a ventilator and hopes of finishing my book seemed over.”

For the sake of the world’s knowledge of the Universe, I am so glad that Jane had the forethought to forego the Euthanasia option.  Stephen has been divorced twice, and is apparently an avid attendee of the strip club culture.  Hey, we’ve all been there, Stephen!

Something I noticed missing in the myriad articles about Stephen Hawking’s potential but passed opportunity for euthanasia was what he has done since turning down the euthanasia way out.  Don’t you find it a little short-sighted that news stories mention that he was offered euthanasia but none of what he’s done since turning it down?

Since 1985, Stephen Hawking:

  • had three children and been married twice
  • published the best seller, A Brief History of Time
  • was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985), the Paul Dirac Medal (1987), and jointly with Roger Penrose, the prestigious Wolf Prize (1988)
  • was named a Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989
  • co-edited a book on Euclidean quantum gravity with Gary Gibbons
  • had a movie made of “A Brief History of Time,” directed by Errol Morris and produced by Steven Spielberg
  • appeared on Star Trek:  The Next Generation in 1993
  • became a grandfather!
  • got to take a zero-gravity flight in the Vomit Comet
  • lost a bet to Higgs that the Higgs Boson would never be discovered
  • has developed Locked-In Syndrome :(
  • was awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society (2006), America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), and the Russian Fundamental Physics Prize (2012).
  • and, among other numerous list items, narrated the Enlightenment segment of the 2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony

Stephen Hawking, thanks for sticking with it.  We here at JimOnLight.com salute you!

stephen-hawking

The Heartbeat of a Sun-Like Star in Infancy

SUPER NERD ALERT!  ASTROPHYSICS INCOMING!

This is so beautiful — you’re looking at what appears to be the “heartbeat” of a protostar, which is a sun-like star that forms out of a giant interstellar cloud full of molecular hydrogen and dust.  Most of these clouds are found within the interstellar medium, which is best explained as the big space between star systems in a galaxy.  Inside of these huge clouds of dust and molecular hydrogen (among other interstellar stuff), there is a lot that goes on, and it is some very complicated stuff, as you can imagine.  Essentially, all of our knowledge on this is theoretical to some extent, as we obviously can’t just swing over and check it out for ourselves, we have to rely on telescopes, satellites, spectral analyses, and other data we collect on the subject.

As dust and gasses float around inside of these interstellar clouds, gravity plays a huge part in the creation of a new star.  As gravity pulls dust and gasses into a “clump” at the center of one of these clouds, more and more stuff clumps together, creating a core of sorts — nobody really has a clue how this happens and why it occurs, but as a trillion trillion trillion of these bits of dust, interstellar gasses, and other “stuff” pull together to create a mass, the temperature of the core goes up.  This is to be expected, as these bits of dust and gasses slam into each other.  The density of this “core” also increases as more and more atoms inside of the interstellar cloud try to occupy the same space as they are pulled together by gravity.  Also as you can imagine, the gravity of this core gets considerably stronger as more and more bit of interstellar stuff collect and clump at the core, which causes the temperature to get higher and gravity to get even stronger.  This is the birth of a star.  This process of a star grabbing more and more mass is called accretion.

A pretty interesting phenomena happens when the star being born reaches a point where the gas pressure inside the core is equal to the gravity of the entire core — the protostar reaches an equilibrium, and no more mass is pulled into the core.  This is what is happening right now in the star being born in the video above, called V1467 Orionis, which is being born right now in McNeil’s Nebula, a big circular cloud of dust and gas located inside the constellation Orion.  It was detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Japan-led Suzaku satellite.  This is literally a star being born.  In the video above you saw two spots, one on either side of the star — these are enormous holes where the core is sucking in more gas and dust to fuel birth.  Once equilibrium is established, this feeding will stop.  The when, where, how, and why is unknown, but boy is it gorgeous.

Click on the image below for a full-size image of V1647 Orionis.

This image below is McNeil’s Nebula, which resides inside of the constellation Orion:

Thanks to Space.com, NASA, and Cosmic Ray!

150 Billion Pixels, 1 Billion Stars

Ok, have a look at this image — if you click on it, it gets really, really big:

That’s our Milky Way.  The image below here represents the material within the white square on the left — a star-forming region called G305 to astronomers and astrophysicists — again, a click makes it bigger:

That cutaway image above?  Only ten thousand stars.  SLACKERS!  (Of course I jest)

Scientists from the UK, Chile, and Europe have created the initial 150 billion pixel image by combining ten years’ worth of data into a monster survey of the Milky Way region.  From the University of Edinburgh website:

Astronomers have today released a picture containing more than one billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. It combines data from two near-infrared1 telescopes – the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii and the VISTA telescope in Chile –  and is the result of a decade-long collaboration by astronomers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge to process, archive and publish the prodigious quantities of sky survey data generated by these two telescopes.

Dr Phil Lucas from the University of Hertfordshire leads the UKIRT study of the Milky Way, and co-leads the VISTA study. He said: “The combined data on over a billion stars represent a scientific legacy that will be exploited for decades in many different ways. They provide a three-dimensional view of the structure of our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, while also mapping several hundred nebulae where stars are being born. The VISTA data, in particular, is breaking new ground by showing how several hundred million stars vary in brightness over time.”

The full image contains 150 billion pixels, and the detail it contains is only revealed by the three zoom levels, centred on G305, a large and complex star-formation region: the innermost zoom covers a tiny fraction of the full image, but still contains more than ten thousand stars.

Presenting the image at the UK-German National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester, Dr Nick Cross of the University of Edinburgh said: “This remarkable image is only one of the many outputs from the VISTA Data Flow System (VDFS) project2. VDFS data is being used by astronomers around the world and has led to great discoveries in many fields of astronomy, from the coolest known stars to the most distant quasars.”

Something pretty cool:  you can view the monster image with a custom viewer at the University of Edinburgh’s website.  You have to check this out, it is  amazing.

Thanks, Space, HuffPo, PhysOrg, and Science Daily

Amazing Video of the Birth of the Universe

Physicists at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA have created some pretty cool videos of how they think the universe was created — things like the birth of stars, the universe expanding, and other things that happen to be so beautiful that not showing them is a crime.  Check this out:

Way too cool.  From the press release by Stanford University:

The mysteries of the universe – from the first stars and supernovas to galaxy clusters and dark matter – are being revealed in stunningly beautiful full-color, high-definition 3-D videos played on a huge screen in an intimate theater on the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory campus.

Diaphanous veils of semi-transparent fluorescing gas and dust swirl hypnotically among exploding stars; colliding galaxies dance a cosmic do-si-do before they coalesce. These are some of the compelling scenes shown in the second-floor Visualization Lab of SLAC’s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC.)

In addition, KIPAC’s newly redesigned websitefeatures an elegant gallery for the movies and images.

Each animation lasts just a minute or three. But whether it depicts only the few milliseconds of a supernova explosion or nearly 14 billion years of cosmic evolution, each KIPAC video shows the results of calculations involving trillions of bytes of data, and marries the latest physics theories with groundbreaking visualization techniques. The videos give scientists insights into their research that cannot be gleaned from old-school data-dump printouts. And they’re as entertaining as they are educational: the videos are featured in planetarium shows now playing to the general public in New York City and San Francisco.

As beautiful as the 3-D videos are, though, they are first and foremost scientific tools.

“I’m trying to predict the past – how the universe came to be the way that it is today,” said Tom Abel, an associate professor of physics at Stanford University and head of KIPAC’s computational physics department, who specializes in using computer calculations and visualizations to understand how the universe may have evolved after the Big Bang.

Thanks to Space.com for the image!

Remember That Huge Solar Storm We Just Had?

At the beginning of March 2012, we had a few days’ worth of pretty major solar activity — does anyone remember this?

This storm produced some pretty incredible Auroras Borealis and Australis for days before and after the big CME from the Sun.  CME means coronal mass ejection, which is a huge burst of solar wind that is powerful enough to push the bits of solar wind our direction.  Solar wind is a big gust of protons and electrons with very, very strong electrical charges.  Solar wind and coronal mass ejections are the things that the news and scientists talk about that might disrupt our power grids and kill our electronics.  All of these phenomena are called space weather — which tickles me silly and makes me giggle:

These massive bursts (CMEs) of charged particles plays hell on the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is a protective magnetic field that basically wind blocks the Earth from solar wind.  When the CMEs are very, very strong, the magnetosphere just gets sort of magnetically bent out of the way, causing havoc at the planet’s surface.  In the scary event of something like a nuclear war, a similar tactic is utilized to disable an enemy’s defenses and communication electronics — a nuclear weapon is detonated above the target country somewhere in the upper atmosphere, and the huge electromagnetic pulse fries anything that has a circuit board.  After that, the bombardment begins pretty much whenever chosen; the enemy can no longer see, hear, or talk electronically.

This is an excellent GIF of this phenomenon taken using the LASCO telescope — watch the bottom right quadrant of the image:

There are so many theories on why we’re seeing this activity in such magnitudes.  *deep breath* Could it be a coincidence of some kind of Mayan calendar thing, where the dark rift of the Milky Way is going to unleash a solar storm of magnitudes only seen by Nicolas Cage in Knowing?!  Who knows, probably not.  But I was so disappointed in that movie about this very same thing when the damned aliens showed up to “save the planet’s children.”  COME ON.  ALIENS?!  COME ON, NICK!

This is a video of the big X5.4 class solar flare that happened on March 7, 2012:

The beautiful thing is that if I’m wrong, who gives a poo, we’re all completely dead and vaporized from this world anyway, and probably with a quickness.  Really, is there anything to be afraid of?  it’s not like we’re going to know once it happens!  There are lots of websites out there that talk about all of our electrical grid being knocked out; now granted if that were to happen, we’re in quite a lot of trouble fo sho, but anything along the line of a super-mega-ultra-duper X-class flare that brought the heat and torched up our planet would just make us go away.  Solar wind travels somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds of billions of miles per hour.  Do you think there’s anything that man can make that can protect us from something of that scale?

There is a theory about this thing called the Milky Way dark rift, too — the dark rift is the middle bit of the Milky Way that the earth passes through once every “age,” as it’s known to those who take stock in the study of Astrology.  Not tied to Astrology is what the dark rift actually is, which is a dense mass of charged particles and clouds that are very thick and full of stellar stuffs.  if you were to do some google searching on this phenomenon, you would come across some very end of the world websites and some “nah, calm the eff down” websites.  Really, everything we can track is speculation at this point, regardless of the fact that some of the smartest brains on Earth are studying this very phenomenon and that we have some very high tech but relatively primitive looking glasses in the skies above Earth.

From NASA on the subject of the Dark Rift, 2012 Alignment and Doomsday predictions:

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy — or perhaps the galaxy’s thick dust clouds — on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way’s faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun’s mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

On the bright side (get it?), the images and video that have been captured from places like the International Space Station and in extreme latitudes of the Aurora Borealis (northern) and Aurora Australis (southern) have been absolutely unbelievable.  Seeing them on video just blows my mind, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I could see one in real time!  Check some of these out, this stuff is absolutely amazing:

Aurora Borealis:

Aurora Australis:

Seriously, it is almost unexplainably beautiful:

Photo credit Giles Boutin

Photo credit Yuichi Takasawa

So who’s right and who’s wrong, here?  Who cares?!  This stuff is amazing and beautiful!

Thanks to HD Wallpapers, Wikipedia, Policy Mic, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, and Nicolas Cage, even though the end of Knowing sucked (but I still love you, Nick!)

A Quasar with 140 Trillion Times the Water in All of Earth’s Oceans.

So, something exciting happened in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics this last week – two groups of scientists and astronomers at CalTech discovered a mass supply of water in the form of water vapor, living at the center of a quasar called APM 08279+5255, about 12 billion light years away.  That is a lot of water.  That is also a lot of water that just happens to be hanging out in the literal middle of nowhere.

For a little perspective, that water supply is 100,000 times larger than our Sun, and it’s 7.2X10+22 miles away.  There’s about six trillion miles in a light year, and this quasar is about 12 billion light years away.  That’s 72,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from Earth.  So, this being the case, if we start hitchhiking now, we should make it there by – actually we’ll never make it there.  Not in our lifetimes!  At least not until we invent the Event Horizon, but from what I understand they had a bit of trouble with that ship being all possessed and everything.

Now, something to consider is that these things are way, way old when we actually see the light from them.  That light is at least 12 billion light years old, which means it took 12 billion light years to get to us.  We can measure these things with different kinds of measuring devices that look for the electromagnetic waves that move at faster speeds, like infrared and microwave, that occur “before” the visible light spectrum.  Radio waves and microwaves are very long and infrequent, compared to ultraviolet waves, which are very frequent and short.  Like this:

Okay – first and foremost, what is a quasar, exactly?  Well, honestly we don’t really know all there is to know about them, they’re so far away and of such mass that obviously all we can do is speculate and theorize.  We can observe them with radio telescopes and devices that observe the range of electromagnetic energy between infrared and microwaves (see the Z-Spec gear at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii and the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA)) as well as with very large telescopes like Hubble.  Generally, what is thought to be happening in a quasar is that a large black hole is consuming a whole lot of material in space – between 10 and 1000 sun masses per year, apparently.  That is a whole lot of material that these overweight pigs of black holes turn directly from mass to energy.  So, considering we’re completely skipping a matter form, something has to happen to the material when it’s converted to energy, and that is generally what is referred to as the quasar, or quasi-stellar radio source to the real scientists.  Check out this beautiful artist depiction of a quasar doing its thing (and the image at the top of the post is also an artist’s depiction):

Beautiful.  As the black hole eats all of the mass, electromagnetic energy (which includes visible light) emanates from the quasar.  So, quasars are powered by black holes.  Make sense?  Kinda?  In short, a quasar is a large luminous stellar body.  It’s a monster thing that happens in space, and some of the brightest ones give off more energy than a few trillion of our sun.

Here’s another video, this one explains a bit about Einstein’s Cross and some of the way that the light form quasars is altered by gravitational forces:

Quasars.  Very cool.  Now how do we equate the awesomeness of all that water vapor and the incredulous distance between us and it?

Thanks Count Infinity, Virginia Astrophysics, CalTech AstrophysicsVirginia Tech AstrophysicsUPenn, WiseGeek, and NASA!

Atlantis STS-135: Congratulations, and Godspeed!

The final mission of the NASA Space Shuttle program has launched – Space Shuttle Atlantis is going upward attached to two sticks of fuel that create about a million pounds of thrust, hurling them towards that barrier in the sky where our world ends and the relatively unknown begins.  The shuttle program is ending, but Man’s fascination with the unknown will never end.  No matter how many politicians try to get in the way of progress, no matter how many budgets get cut in the future, we’ll still be heading into space.

If you’re still interested in watching some first-hand NASA video live, check out their NASA Live link.

So, what do you think is next for the NASA Space Program?  To date, we’re still using fuel and fire to get us into orbit – what do you think is coming next?  Ion drives?  Plasma drives?  Light drives?  A huge slingshot?  Lasers?

Have you ever heard of an Ion Drive?  It’s a developing technology that is suppsoed to ionize a gas, like Helium, into something that could propel a craft.  The problem right now is that it doesn’t seem to be worth a crapola in the atmosphere.  Watch this video:

Here’s some video of a solar-powered plasma drive – this is kinda outstanding!

Ah, who knows.  I’m just postulating.  Let’s all wish the crew of Atlantis a safe return journey, and a safe mission for all involved!

Thanks, KCOY!

Rotary Photon Drag Enhanced by a Slow-Light Medium. Right? Right.

Remember that scene in the Jody Foster movie called Contact when they got all of those drawings of “the machine?”  There was a part of the movie where Ellie realized that the images were encoded somehow, and the key to encoding them was by looking at them in three dimensions.  Remember that minute little detail?

I read an article on this just the other day, and after I read the entire article in the journal Science, I really want to share the gist of this thing with you all.  It totally reminds me of this for some reason.  I was explaining this all to a friend on Skype, and I got tired of typing, and then the researcher slice of my brain started going ape-sh**.  Pardon me.

First, read the abstract of the article written by Sonja Franke-Arnold (School of Physics and Astronomy (SUPA), University of Glasgow, Scotland), Graham Gibson and Robert W. Boyd (Department of Physics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada), and Miles J. Padgett (The Institute of Optics and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY):

Transmission through a spinning window slightly rotates the polarization of the light, typically by a microradian. It has been predicted that the same mechanism should also rotate an image. Because this rotary photon drag has a contribution that is inversely proportional to the group velocity, the image rotation is expected to increase in a slow-light medium. Using a ruby window under conditions for coherent population oscillations, we induced an effective group index of about 1 million. The resulting rotation angle was large enough to be observed by the eye. This result shows that rotary photon drag applies to images as well as polarization. The possibility of switching between different rotation states may offer new opportunities for controlled image coding.

Ok, got it?  Yeah, read it a few times, but generally the concept of the experiment is pretty simple, and the results are very interesting!  What these folks were doing was shining a shaped, collimated beam of light through a spinning ruby disk rotating at a given speed – in this case a maximum of 30 cycles per second.  The ruby disk causes a bit of “drag” on the photons travelling through it, causing the light to refract and exhibit some interesting behavior.  Check out this little video, from the paper and from the journal Science:

to view the .MOV file, click here

Ruby has a heavy Index of Refraction, which means the light is slowed down (refracted) at a rate of X when it leaves the air and enters the ruby itself.  If you imagine the 1.0 value of the Index of Refraction as how light travels through regular ol’ air (and not taking into account humidity, pollution, or any of that schtuff), anything greater than 1.0 is refracting.  Diamond has an Index of Refraction of about 2.42, and Ruby’s Index of Refraction is about 1.77.  Ruby refracts less than diamond.  Make sense if you didn’t already get it?

Here’s the weird thing – Ruby is not what we consider isotropic – meaning that no matter what the incidence angle is and no matter what the orientation of the crystal is, the light travels through the crystalline matrix equally as it travels through the medium.  Glass, sodium chloride crystals, and a lot of polymers exhibit this kind of “perfect” structure.  Sodium chloride is basically a cubic structure, relatively perfectly bonded in a cube matrix.  Ruby, on the other hand, is an anisotropic crystalline structure, meaning that there are more than one axes that are different within the structure of the crystal matrix.

Here’s a good image of the difference between an isotropic and anisotropic crystal structure, optically, from Olympus America’s Microscopy Resource Center.  Figure A is a sodium chloride crystal, which is isotropic.  Figure B is a calcite crystal, which has calcium ions and carbonate ions in it.  Calcite is anisotropic.  Check it:

Ok – now if you think of a crystal structure with light shining through its matrix, and the light is going to pass through two different planes of refraction, essentially – what do you expect to happen to one beam of light as it enters the anisotropic crystal structure and slows down?

Who said it’s going to split into two beams?  (DJ Lemma, pout your hand down, I know you already know the answer!)  You’d be correct – the incident beam splits into two beams, each sort-of along that individual crystal plane.  Take a look at this image of a calcium carbonate crystal, and how it is creating a double image:

This phenomenon is called birefringence.  Deep breath – bi-re-frin-gence.  Ruby, the gem used in the experiment, is also an anisotropic crystal, and it exhibits traits of birefringence.

So, imagine taking that birefringent crystal disk, spinning it at a relatively high rate (30 Hz), and shining a very specific wavelength of light (ie, a laser), that is in a certain shape through the ruby disk as it spins.  A bunch of stuff was discovered with this experiment, all related to the image.  The generalities of the experiment, as I paraphrase, is that the group shone a very bright laser with a square-ish shape through the ruby disk, noted the position that the laser had ont he other side of the ruby disk after it was on the other side of the disk.  When you shine a shaped laser beam at 532 nanometers (green) through a spinning ruby disk (which is a very slow-light medium, slowing the light down to just a few tens of meters per second) spinning at a rate between not spinning and 30 rotations per second, the image refracts from about a third of a degree to about ten degrees as the ruby disk increases from slow revolutions per second to thirty revs per second.

What a crazy experiment, huh?  I needed a good dose of photonics and optics in my Thursday!

The ramifications of this experiment have to do with encoding images with extra data – if you can imagine an image that has more information in it depending on which way the image is spinning, that is some trippy Minority Report shizzyhizzle.  “Oh, you’ve stolen my image!  But since you don’t know which wavelength to use and at which speed to spin the image, you’ll never decode my super secret plans of world domination!!!

Yeah, I have a vivid imagination.

HUGE number of thanks:
the journal Science
PhysOrg
PhysicsWorld
the Index of Refraction of Ruby and Sapphire (actually a very cool fact doc, check it out!)

The Anti-Laser – Scientists Discover How to Cancel Out a Laser Beam

Whoa – a laser story that doesn’t involve someone mounting a man-killing laser on top of some kind of vehicle?!  SAY IT AIN’T SO!

Professor Douglas Stone and his team of Yale scientists have discovered a way to get material to nearly completely absorb laser light.  They’ve developed this thing – more of a material, really – called a CPA, or Coherent Perfect Absorber.  What it seems the team has done is to take the Law of Conservation of Energy and used it to their advantage.  Do we all remember the Law of Conservation of Energy?

Energy can not be created or destroyed – it can only change form.

So what the scientists have done here, in layman’s terms, is that they’ve figured out a way to get laser light to basically be absorbed into a medium by waiting until that laser light bounces around this little silicon chamber until its energy changes forms to heat energy.  Stone and his team used a silicon structure to basically take beams of laser light and capture them in this silicon medium until they change form to heat energy.  Right now his team says that they can capture 99.4% of the light through absorption, but their Coherent Perfect Absorber will potentially be able to capture 99.99% of the laser light shone into the CPA.

Why this is significant is that silicon is already being used in the semiconductor industry in computers – this new technology from Yale and Douglas Stone’s team has potentially many, many uses in computing – the hope is that they’ll be able to use these tech as a way to make microswitches and other types of computer components.  Hey, using light instead of electrons?  Awesome!

Very cool!

Thanks CTV, BBC, PopSci, and NewScientist!

RGB Color Mixing with Atmospheric Nuclear Explosions

A cool dude named Kjetil from Twitter (@kjeik) sent me this pretty awesome and scary video from NPR – back in 1962 the United States did some atmospheric nuclear weapons testing.  It was broadcast in the news that it was going to be a neat display of color and light, so people in Hawaii sat out on their patios and watched it happen.

Crazy.

A Very Scary Light Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space from NPR on Vimeo.