Exploding Glass Never Disappoints

Few people experience science with as much joy and love and enthusiasm as Destin Sandlin. His Smarter Every Day YouTube channel is a medley of head-scratching, “huh”-inducing, brain rattling videos about science, all of which he presents with delightful ease and clarity. He’s a rocket scientist who makes rocket science, among other things, as easily digestible as algebra (and infinitely more fun).

Now all that being said, this video still confounds me. I understand how it works, but each repeated viewing boggles my mind in equal measure. That’s the great thing about Destin’s videos and maybe about science more generally: the wonder doesn’t stop once you know the trick. So take that, magic. This round goes to physics.

When the Universe Plays Detective, the Wrong Guys Pay the Price

Men have mistreated women every step of the way in human history: from raping conquered women to burning them at the stake for witchcraft to paying women less for equal work—women drew the short stick in the cosmic gamble (or perhaps more aptly, they drew an equally sized stick and men snatched it, snapped it in half, and swallowed the evidence).

So who’s paying for this injustice? Men are. Well…males are. Male anglerfish. Continue reading

ROYCB? Why the Rainbow isn’t What We Think It Is

We all know the rainbow. We see it all the time: the reds, the oranges, the yellows, the greens—you get the picture. Or do you? MinutePhysics’ Henry Reich would argue that many of us, in fact, don’t. The way he sees it (and the way physics sees it), that warm, velvety purple that underlines every rainbow like the Achilles of arcs, well, isn’t really there. So he denies us our sweet, satisfying, grape-flavored conclusion, and then he gives it back, sort of.

Unfortunately, the jury’s still out on that pot of gold.

Note: What he said about violet being just another name for deep blue isn’t exactly true. Some red cones in the eye do fire in response to seeing blue-violet light, thus violet is more purplish than a pure blue. You can read more about that here.

Ancient Greeks, Mathematicians, and Romantic Idealism: How to Find the Perfect Match.

I recently re-listened to an old Radiolab episode whose beginning filled me with a warm, fluttery excitement for love. Give a listen to this 2,400-year-old story that comes from Plato by way of Aristophanes (it’s transcribed below in case you can’t listen, though the cello and Robert Krulwich’s voice give it something, more):

(0:53 – 3:17) Are You My Brain Double

My first reaction was predictable: “Ain’t love grand?” I grow up, I read, I write, I Continue reading

Sometimes Black Holes Bump Into Each Other, and They Want Us to Know About It.

A dance—a cosmological one, that is.

Two black holes waltzing through the cosmos, swirls of light flaring outward from our dancers like skirt and coattail, gravity the matchmaker. Closer and closer they inch, easing into a delicate embrace until…BOOM! A flash of light and rock and an explosion with the intensity of 100 million supernovas rips into existence, obliterating nearby solar systems in a seething, gaseous cloud and sending gravitational waves hurdling through space in every direction. Continue reading

Rest Easy, the Free Will You Never Thought You Didn’t Have, You Might Actually Have After All.

Consider this: you have epilepsy. You suffer from epileptic seizures. You get brain surgery to remove the part of your brain causing the seizures and all goes as planned—no more seizures. A few weeks later, you begin to notice a change in appetite, and then an increased libido. Still no seizures, though, and more food and sex feel like good problems to have. But then an odd and unusual desire grips you, one you know is wrong, but that’s there nonetheless. For some reason you want to search for child porn. Now I’ll stop the hypothetical here to avoid getting too grotesque, but this is the actual case of a man we’ll call Arthur. Arthur is on probation now after serving a reduced sentence for possession of child pornography—reduced because of testimony from his neurosurgeon that his disease directly stems from alterations made during his surgery and is easily treatable. Continue reading

Aside

I have a backlog of movies, music, TV, and books to review, most of which were recommended to me by close friends and family under the assumption that I’d love said movie, song, show, book, etc. I loved said movies, songs, shows, books, etc., and so not only do I have a backlog of reviews, but a backlog of positive reviews—many, soaring positive reviews in which I fumble around in clumsy excitement to express how profound or heartbreaking or beautiful or important said movie, song, show, book, etc. is. So what I’m beating around the bush to say is that many of these reviews early on are going to be very positive because they’re coming from a list tailored to my interests. I do not love everything; in fact, I dislike a great many things, and I look forward to sharing my disgust and disdain with you as soon as I get to the things I disgust and disdain.