Science and Technology Links 3/23: Einstein Condensates Are Not Headphones!

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”
— Isaac Asimov

‘The most frightening phrase in the Russian language is “That’s odd.”
–Guess the source


Bell Helicopter is kicking around some new ideas for rotary wing styling.  Of note, morphing rotor blades to allow for mission optimization, rotorless tail (I suspect there is a powerful air jet coming out that mesh on the tail boom), see around fuselage, and more usage of electric motors to power subsystems.

Saturn’s filled dumpling moon.

New planet definition, which actually makes sense.  A size based definition is easier to apply.  The major planets still remain as the top dogs, since they are the primary bodies in their respective orbits, and Pluto gets to be a planet again (like it really cares, but people gotta anthropomorphize…).


I have no idea why this style of architecture appeals to me, but it does.

Bio and Medical

I love the human stories of how science happens, as much as I love reading about when science and engineering go utterly pear shaped.  Meet Slava Epstein, who was part of a team that figured out a way to culture bacteria that did not want to grow in a petri dish (thus opening up to study vast amounts of the 99% of bacteria that don’t like petri dishes).  The breakthrough came down to a very quick brainstorming session that was severely time constrained, because there was a wife whose attitude was, “I don’t care if you’re trying to save the world, don’t you dare be late for date night!”

Seriously, read that link, it’s a fun story.

More vat meat.  This time, chicken!

Cardiovascular disease?  I had that once, went to doc, got a shot, cleared right up!

Cyber-nano retinas for the blind.  We do live in an amazing time.


This is neat, but it’s pure science.  There is no obvious path from this discovery to petabyte microSD cards.

This one, however, might have a much better chance of making it into consumer products in the near future.  The short:  using very fast laser pulses to allow electrons to move through semiconductors with little to no resistance.  This is essentially using lasers to turn semiconductors into superconductors, for just a tiny fraction of a second.  It’s intriguing.

Quantum Key Encryption in your phone.  Man, if we think law enforcement is whining about personal encryption now…


Flettner Rotors on cargo ships.  The first question is obviously, what in the hell is a Flettner Rotor?  It’s basically a tall, spinning cylinder.  It takes advantage of the Magnus Effect to produce lift.  If a ship has a Flettner Rotor, and the wind is off the beam (from the side), the crew can start the rotor spinning and it will produce a lift force perpendicular to the wind direction, which would be forward (or aft, but they’d spin it so the force is forward).  The small amount of energy needed for spinning is significantly offset by the amount of force generated, so you can throttle back the main engines and maintain speed.

Thinking about installing solar panels?  Want to get an idea how much solar potential your house has?  Google can help.

Sunlight and nanoparticles turn plant matter into hydrogen gas.  That’s it, no additional energy inputs needed.

Icewind vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT).  I’m happy to see more outfits working to normalize this tech, especially when it comes to residential or other small scale wind power applications.

Storing solar energy in chemical bonds.  Good idea, but I balk at the conversion rate.  I mean, a 100+% increase is awesome, but you are still only converting 1.1% of the solar energy into a chemical bond.  That’s something that is not quite ready for prime time.


Here is another story of the humans behind science, although this one is a bit longer in scope.  The Channeled Scablands is a region in Eastern Washington that long defied explanation, until one guy turned conventional wisdom on it’s head.  It’s on my list of places to explore with Bug when he gets older.

The confluence of events that gave rise to ‘Snowball Earth‘.  Stuff like this always reminds of the bit from George Carlin.  Let’s be honest folks, environmentalism isn’t about saving the Earth from us, it’s about saving the Earth for us.  Anyone tells you different, tell ’em to check their privilege.  ;-)


A very durable oil sponge that won’t absorb water.  Oil absorbent materials aren’t terribly novel, so I almost didn’t add this one, until I read this:

“The technique offers enormous flexibility, and can be adapted to other types of cleanup besides oil in seawater. You could attach a different molecule to grab any specific substance you need,”

Nanoscale 3D printing.

Finally, a use for old eggshells and flavorless tomatoes!

Always excited to see another entry in the list of ways to make plastic from things other than oil, but I just know the blue skinned people are going to find a way to use this to justify their insanity.

Non-toxic Seebeck generators.  Also, they are much cheaper than the old tech.  Win win.


“A combined fiber laser in the 60 kilowatt range…”
“Hey, just what you see on the shelf, pal”
“I see it, right there, from Lockheed.”


Supersolids, which are solids that behave like superfluids.  Yes, Bose-Einstein Condensates are just weird.

Time Crystals. I’ve mentioned these before, but they continue to fascinate, so here is a bit more information.

One collision at nearly light speed, evidence of 5 new particles for physicists to get excited about.  CERN/LHC does seem to be justifying its expense.


This one was brought to my attention by Michael Cain in the comments of a previous post.  The guy who invented the Lithium Ion battery has gone one better and invented a battery that has higher energy densities and doesn’t try to burn a hole through your leg or down your airliner.  Put it in transportation because of the implications for electric vehicles.

I admit it’s intriguing, but I want to see it in action.  I’d also be curious about durability, and replaceability.

I wouldn’t mind have a 3 wheeler for just getting myself to work and back, but I’m betting Toyota has an eye on dispatched autonomous vehicles.  Something like this just fills a nice fat niche in that space.  And speaking of autonomous dispatched vehicles



Image by brewbooks

Staff Writer

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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33 thoughts on “Science and Technology Links 3/23: Einstein Condensates Are Not Headphones!

  1. I don’t like not having physical controls in something that flies without a ‘neutral’ aerodynamic configuration.

    I like the Paris building add-ons too, but I wonder how they will age. (not they will go out of style, but how decades of weathering will make the facade look) (this is the main problem with concrete brutalism)

    Re: CERN/LHC justifying the expense. The Texas SCSC was definitely a collision between my ideological priors and my practical wants. I think the correct decision was made, even in retrospect, but it’s still a hard call. (I think the critical part of the LHC was that it was built late enough for some super duper information technology to do wonders with the data – something the SCSC may have missed, because likely it would have been tied to legacy systems for too long, kinda like the habit in military contracting)


  2. I have no idea why this style of architecture appeals to me, but it does.

    You’re a software guy these days, right? Nothing like a layer of kludges added on to the core code, and what looks to be a maintenance nightmare over time. Software folks should feel right at home.


  3. I like that kind of architecture because it tries to blend with nature and uses nature to create a sense of privacy (sort of). But it is also the cool kind of modernism instead of an ugly Brutalism (sorry Will). The architect clearly thought about aesthetically pleasing aspects of design.

    There is also a kind of future ruin nature to it. You can imagine that you are stumbling across the abandon buildings of a future society.


  4. Planet definition: For a general audience, I recommend “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming” by Mike Smith, the guy who discovered Eris. It has a bit more human interest padding that I would have favored, but it does a good job explaining why any coherent definition of a plant will either exclude Pluto or include a huge bunch of stuff we don’t currently count as planets.


    • Yeah. The basic problem here is that orbiting “stuff” exists along a continuum of size and composition. Defining a planet on the basis of size just seems too arbitrary, even if you functionally define the size. I mean… wouldn’t the composition of a body influence how big it had to be to be spherical?


      • Yes, although it basically runs along the whole gas/liquid/solid lines (i.e. gas planets are almost always massive, liquid planets are also quite big, rocky planets are smaller). A planet of almost ‘pure’ Uranium could be smaller than a planet of ‘pure’ Iron, but such pure planets are rare birds (‘pure’ asteroids are more common).

        ‘Pure’ is in quotes because there is no such thing as a pure asteroid formed by natural processes. A ‘pure’ asteroid might be mostly Iron, but it won’t be 100% Iron.


        • I’m thinking about stuff in that middling range of largish asteroid/comet/moon territory. Where you might have two objects of the (roughly) same size/mass and one is spherical and the other not due to the deformation/flow characteristics of the materials. And how round counts as spherical for that matter? What about something like that newly discovered moon of Saturn with the accretion ring on a mostly spherical core?

          It’s a good thing none of this really matters.


          • Pan was discovered in 1990, what’s new is we just got a good look at it and realized it looks like a dumpling.

            enough gravitational heft to retain a roughly round shape

            This is a calculable value, especially if we have a good idea of the body composition. Enough mass means that the material will not flow or deform into a not-round shape absent collisions or strong exterior gravitational forces.


  5. Eastern Washington is a cool place to visit. Very interesting geology. I’d love to go back with more time to hike. I read a book about the guy who figured out what happened there. Great story.


    • Actually the story of the discovery of what happened is a perfect example of a scientific revolution.
      J Harlan Bretz came up with the idea in the 1920s but did not have an idea where the water would have come from, and got hooted at by the geological powers that were. Interestingly at the same time work went on in Montana that showed that Glacial Lake Missoula rose and fell because of the failure and return of ice dams. Eventually the idea was accepted and Bretz had the satisfaction of still being alive when the concept became generally approved, having outlived his detractors.

      Interestingly part of the objection was that catastrophies did not happen in geology that geologic processes had to be visible in todays world. Studies since have shown that some processes are episodic with long time periods. (One example near the floods is the Yellowstone Caldera, which if you observed it today only would not appear to be a large caldera, but looking back in geologic history clearly was.


  6. Sunlight and nanoparticles turn plant matter into hydrogen gas. That’s it, no additional energy inputs needed.

    Mere sunlight, nothing else. Just a trifle. Is not as it sunlight provides much energy for anything

    Planet Earth. Sunlight . That’s it, no additional energy inputs needed.

    Ends sarcasm, and congratulates the author on the interesting tidbits

    (And yes, I know that natural fission and radioactive decay occurs independently of sunlight, but come on, really?)


    • As they say, we get sunlight for free, don’t have to extract it out of the ground.

      The larger interesting point to think about is that we are getting much better at harnessing sunlight to do more work than just heat water or excite some electrons in a PV cell. Every process we have where the solar energy can be used directly, rather than being converted, is a defeat for entropy.


  7. toring solar energy in chemical bonds. Good idea, but I balk at the conversion rate. I mean, a 100+% increase is awesome, but you are still only converting 1.1% of the solar energy into a chemical bond. That’s something that is not quite ready for prime time.

    What’s the conversion rate from solar energy into glucose? I really have no idea but it must be very low, and yet it’s the most successful idea in the planet


  8. The first thing I thought when I saw the VAWT was “This would be perfect for a cell tower,” only it looks like the manufacturer thought of that before I did.

    …And then I fantasize about a future in which VAWT’s are on every cell tower and PV panels on every roof in Southern California and needs to recalibrate his geographic resource calculus because the area becomes a net electricity exporter.

    …And then I say to myself, “Get real, and get back to work.”


  9. Rooftop solar — I get 1,788 hours of usable sunlight but have only 88 square feet available, covering only about 25% of my electric demand. Insignificant annual savings. (boo)


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