Physics

Physics is the science of matter, energy, space and time. It looks both inward and outward, from the smallest subatomic particle to the vastness of the universe—and yet it is also intensely practical. Physics begins with the everyday physical world around us—the blue of the sky, the colors of the rainbow, the fall of an apple, the motions of the moon. What's happening here? Why do things work this way?

Here's what an Antarctic ice shelf sounds like

Winds blowing across snow dunes on Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf cause the massive ice slab's surface to vibrate, producing a near-constant drumroll of seismic "tones" scientists could potentially use to monitor changes in the ice shelf from afar, according to new research

Using frequency combs to search for planets

The hunt for Earth-like planets, and perhaps extraterrestrial life, just got more precise, thanks to record-setting starlight measurements made possible by a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "astrocomb"

Event Horizon Telescope's monumental discovery, explained

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. On April 10, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow

What is a black hole?

What is a black hole? Hans Krimm, an observational astronomer at the National Science Foundation, answers the question on this edition of "Ask a Scientist."

How the seeds of planets take shape

In theoretical research that could explain everything from planet formation to outflows from stars to even the settling of volcanic ash, Caltech researchers have discovered a new mechanism to explain how the act of dust moving through gas leads to clumps of dust

Polymer coating cools down buildings

Columbia engineers have made white paint whiter -- and cooler -- by removing white pigment and inventing a polymer coating, with nano- to microscale air voids, that acts as a spontaneous air cooler and can be fabricated, dyed and applied like paint

Mechanical adaptations of bee swarms

A team of Harvard University researchers spent months shaking and rattling swarms of thousands of honeybees to better understand how bees collectively collaborate to stabilize structures in the presence of external loads such as wind and rain

Printing with sound

Harvard University researchers have developed a new printing method that uses soundwaves to generate droplets from liquids with an unprecedented range of composition and viscosity. This technique could finally enable the manufacturing of many new biopharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food and expand the possibilities of optical and conductive materials.

Advancing the science of electron microscopy

Carnegie Mellon University professor Yoosuf Picard's research group develops and applies methods for using energetic beams -- electron, ion and photon beams -- in order to process and characterize materials at small length scales

NSF Science Now: Episode 55

In this week's episode, we learn how infants retain information; how loud noise can affect birds; the underpinnings of snake locomotion and, finally, the existence of a hitherto unknown ancient Native American population

3-D printing wirelessly connected objects

With computer-aided design models that a team of researchers is making available to the public, 3-D printing enthusiasts will be able to create objects out of commercially available plastics that can wirelessly communicate with other smart devices

Building a quantum computer with atomic ions

Two independent teams of scientists, including one from the Joint Quantum Institute, have used more than 50 interacting atomic qubits to mimic magnetic quantum matter, surpassing the complexity of previous demonstrations

How mosquitoes get away

Scientists have found the key to mosquitoes' stealth takeoffs: They barely push off when making a fast getaway, but instead rely on strong and rapid wing beats to quickly get aloft without anyone noticing

NSF Science Now: Episode 53

In this week's episode, we discover a new species of titanosaurian dinosaur and how airline boarding procedures might be making you sick; we explore a compact mass spectrometer for use in the field; and finally, we learn how vertebrate tails actually provide greater speed

Ripples of gravity, flashes of light

On Aug. 17, 2017, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo detected, for the first time, gravitational waves from the collision of two neutron stars

Electromagnets unwire the framework of small, foldable robots

A team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University has created battery-free folding robots that are capable of complex, repeatable movements powered and controlled through a wireless magnetic field

Sonic cyberattacks on MEMS accelerometers

New research at the University of Michigan calls into question the longstanding computer science tenet that software can automatically trust hardware sensors, which feed autonomous systems with fundamental data they need to make decisions

Humanexus

This multiple award-winning semi-documentary animation visualizes human communication from the Stone Age to today and beyond

What's the difference between fermions and bosons?

In particle physics, there are many different types of particles, mostly ending with the phrase "-on." Don Lincoln a senior physicist at Fermilab talks about fermions and bosons and what is the key difference between these two particles.

Supercomputers solve case of missing galaxies

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) associate professor of theoretical astrophysics Phil Hopkins and Carnegie-Caltech Research Fellow Andrew Wetzel use massive supercomputers to build the most detailed and realistic simulation of galaxy formation ever created.

The nature of matter

If there's one thing that we think we understand, it's matter. After all, matter makes up everything around us; it even makes up you. However, all is not as it seems.

Why does time advance? Richard Muller's new theory

A simple question from his wife -- Does physics really allow people to travel back in time? -- propelled physicist Richard Muller on a quest to resolve a fundamental problem that had puzzled him throughout his 45-year career: Why does the arrow of time flow inexorably toward the future, constantly creating new "nows"?

Meet a geophysicist

Postdoctoral Research Fellow from Arizona State University, Harmony Colella, talks about how experiencing an earthquake as a child in Southern California inspired her to become a geophysicist.

Meet a geophysicist: Danielle Sumy

When she was very young, Danielle Sumy's experience on the Earthquake ride at Universal Studios launched her quest to understand how earthquakes happen. Here she describes how this encounter and her early love of science motivated her to become a geophysicist.

Volcano research: Emily Hooft

Emilie describes her work as a geophysicist, the physics she uses to better understand the forces that make volcanoes work, and how seismic data can help image the magma structures beneath them

A brief intro to quantum computing

Harvard professor Amir Yacoby explains the emergence of quantum computing as an outcome of two 20th century innovations -- quantum mechanics and computer science -- and shows why it has the potential to tackle hard problems that would take today's computers billions of years to solve.

The nanostructure problem

In order to see inside nanomaterials and learn how nanoparticles evolve, Simon Billinge applies the world's newest and brightest synchrotron light source -- the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. at Brookhaven

When protons collide

A proton collision is like a car accident--except when it isn't. Boston University physicist Kevin Black explains why. (Watch out for the kitchen sink!)

Quantum field theory

The subatomic world has long been known to be truly mind-bending, with particles that are waves and vice versa. Cats are alive and dead and everything is governed by probability.

Are invisibility cloaks possible?

Have you ever wished you could hide under an invisibility cloak like Harry Potter or conceal your car with a Klingon cloaking device like in "Star Trek"?

Einstein's clocks

In this video, Fermilab's Don Lincoln shows that every single day particle physicists prove that moving clocks tick more slowly than stationary ones.

Large scale graphene production

Draw a line with a pencil and it's likely that somewhere along that black smudge is a material that earned two scientists the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Dancing droplets (audio only)

Watch as coalescing droplets dance themselves off of hydrophobic thin fibers, a new phenomenon first witnessed at Duke University

GUTs and TOEs

Albert Einstein said that what he wanted to know was "God's thoughts," which is a metaphor for the ultimate and most basic rules of the universe.

Big mysteries: dark energy

Scientists were shocked in 1998 when the expansion of the universe wasn't slowing down as expected by our best understanding of gravity at the time; the expansion was speeding up!

The pentaquark

In episode 20, Charlie and Jordan chat about rising sea levels, biodegradable "smart" implants and the existence of the pentaquark.

What is a semiconductor?

Semiconductors are in everything from your cell phone to rockets. But what exactly are they, and what makes them so special? Find out from Jamie, a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

Is the Higgs boson really the Higgs boson?

The deputy physics coordinator for CERN's CMS experiment Darin Acosta explains what we know about the Higgs boson and what remains to be discovered. NSF funds the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment, which is investigating a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter.

The LHC: A stronger machine

Watch CERN engineers explain the work during the laboratory's long shutdown to prepare the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to run at a higher collision energy of 13 TeV. Teams are working hard for the upcoming restart. The first circulating beams of protons in the LHC are planned for the week beginning 23 March, and first 13 TeV collisions are expected in late May to early June.

The search for the origin of dark energy

Members of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration explain what they hope to learn by studying the southern sky with the world's most advanced digital camera, mounted on a telescope in Chile.

Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation

The Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation at the Rochester Institute of Technology is dedicated to research the frontiers of numerical relativity and astrophysics and gravitational wave physics. The Center is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and integrates state-of-the-art science, performance computing and scientific visualization.

A glass conducter

A light bulb has the glass carefully removed, leaving the glass base and filament intact. The bulb is connected to AC electricity, and the filament quickly and dramatically burns out. This leaves the two wires that originally supported the filament separated by the glass in the base. Take a propane torch and heat the glass base (the bulb remnants are still connected to the electricity), a point is reached where the heated glass is no longer isolating the two wires from each other, but has become a conductor of electricity. As the electricity flows, the heat generated lights up the glass, the propane torch can be removed, and the glass continues to glow very brightly.

Reflecting in the bath

An internally frosted, large light bulb is dipped into a fish tank of water, and the total internal reflection effect produces 'other-worldly' consequences to how the bulb looks in the water. The bulb goes from white to a silvery orb. Turning the bulb on, produces a similar, but more alluring effect.

Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

Using X-ray equipment that allowed them to watch the animals move through a bed of dry sand, Georgia Tech researchers have studied how the shovel-nosed snake and sandfish lizard use their unique body plans to swim through sand. Information provided by the research could help explain how evolutionary pressures have affected body shape in sand-dwelling animals.

Quantum knots animated

"The mysteries are just piling up." You can't split an electron, right? Wrong. Physicists Gil Refael and Jason Alicea explain the unique properties of electrons constrained to a 2-D world, and how they can be used to make noise-proof quantum computers.

Quantum foam

The laws of quantum mechanics and relativity are quite perplexing. However, it is when the two theories are merged that things get really confusing. This combined theory predicts that empty space isn't empty at all - it's a seething and bubbling cauldron of matter and antimatter particles springing into existence before disappearing back into nothingness. Scientists call this complicated state of affairs "quantum foam." In this video, Fermilab's Don Lincoln discusses this mind-bending idea and sketches some of the experiments that have convinced scientists that this crazy prediction is actually true.

Big questions: Dark matter

Carl Sagan's statement that there are "billions and billions" of stars in the cosmos gives an idea of just how much "stuff" there is in the universe. However scientists now believe that in addition to the type of matter with which we are familiar, there is another kind of matter out there. This new kind of matter is called "dark matter" and there seems to be five times as much as ordinary matter. Dark matter interacts only with gravity, therefore light simply zips right by it. Fermilab's Don Lincoln tells us why we think this seemingly-crazy idea might not be so crazy after all.

Quantum entanglement

How do you make something that has never existed before? Physicists Jeff Kimble and Chen-Lung Hung take us on an exhilarating adventure of exploration.

Doing the impossible

Physicists Amir Safavi-Naeini and Oskar Painter describe how they were able to measure quantum motions of 1 femtometer (0.000000000000001 meters) in a micro-scale object.

The big bang theory

In this video, Fermilab's Don Lincoln tells about the big bang theory and sketches some speculative ideas about what caused the universe to come into existence.

Is the Higgs boson really the Higgs boson?

The deputy physics coordinator for CERN's CMS experiment Darin Acosta explains what we know about the Higgs boson and what remains to be discovered. NSF funds the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment, which is investigating a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter.

The Higgs Boson explained

We visit particle physicist Daniel Whiteson at CERN, where he talks to us about what the mysterious Higgs Boson is and how the LHC Is going to find it.

A quantum entanglement

How do you make something that has never existed before? Physicists Jeff Kimble and Chen-Lung Hung take us on an exhilarating adventure of exploration.

Quantum computers animated

Theoretical physicists describe how things are different in the Quantum World and how that can lead to powerful quantum computers

A quantum experiment

Physicists Amir Safavi-Naeini and Oskar Painter describe how they were able to measure quantum motions of 1 femtometer (0.000000000000001 meters) in a micro-scale object.

The quantum inverted pendulum

In an experiment that could have implications for quantum computers and quantum simulators, researchers have used microwave pulses to control a quantum system composed of a cloud of approximately 40,000 rubidium atoms cooled nearly to absolute zero.

Why Science? Experimental Physics

Arthur Hebard, a University of Florida professor and experimental physicist, explains how his love for building and disassembling things influenced his interest in physics.

A Giant Magnet’s 3200-Mile Voyage

Muon g-2, the world's largest electromagnetic ring, is travelling in one piece from Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York's Long Island to Fermilab outside Chicago. Its arrival may lead scientists to the next big discoveries in particle physics.

From The Higgs To The Realm Of The Unknown

Professor Joe Incandela gives an overview of the decades-long, worldwide effort to construct and operate the LHC accelerator and the ATLAS and CMS experiments that together represent the largest, most complex systems ever built for physics research.

Engineering Fire

Fire is one of humankind's first technologies. We have been staring into the proverbial campfire for thousands of years. Yet, surprisingly there seems to be much more to learn. And now it's becoming even more important to our collective future that we know as much as we can about fire.

Vortex Loops Could Untie Knotty Physics Problem

Physicists have succeeded in creating a vortex knot -- a feat akin to tying a smoke ring into a knot. Linked and knotted vortex loops have existed in theory for more than a century, but creating them in the laboratory had previously eluded scientists.

Science Of Innovation: Smart Concrete

By adding carbon fiber to concrete mixture, a slab of concrete is able to conduct electricity. "Smart concrete" has many potential applications, including helping structural engineers to identify trouble spots in a concrete structure long before stress or cracking is visible to the human eye.

How A Quartz Watch Works

Bill takes apart a cheap watch to show how it works. He describes how a tiny quartz tuning fork keeps the time.

NSF Science Now 2

In this week's episode of NSF Science Now we explore Hawaiian volcanoes, smart homes, robot locomotion and finally novel engineering ideas on the tiny wings of butterflies.

Vectors

Hockey is a game of chaos, but vectors are behind the scenes making sense of that chaos through mathematics

The Science Of Riding A Bicycle

Their basic design hasn't changed much, but scientists still don't fully understand the forces that allow humans to balance atop a bicycle.

Heading Due South

Scripps researchers gather geomagnetic signs to determine if Earth's magnetic field is currently headed toward a complete reversal.

Science Behind The News: Extrasolar Planets

Extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, are planets that orbit stars other than our sun. Astronomers like Dr. William Welsh at San Diego State University primarily use two methods to detect these distant planets: Doppler and Transit methods.

Kinematics

Kinematics helps describe a player's movement across the ice by defining his position, velocity and acceleration

Introducing Cloaking

There are currently several different techniques to cloak the visibility of an object, but this video explores one of the most unique and innovative methods to date.

Physics Circus

The National Science Foundation's Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, Marc "Zeke" Kossover, performs a series of physics feats and explains the science behind them.

Work, Energy & Power

In hockey, the slapshot is one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the transference of force and energy

Force, Impulse & Collisions

During a game, every movement of the puck follows the laws of physics and illustrates the concepts of force, impulse and collisions

Physics Of Animation

Why would a physics professor be consulting animators at DreamWorks? They'll tell you that It takes a little science to make the fantasy worlds they create look believable.

Science It Up! Crush It!

Colorado State University Little Shop of Physics: See all of the cool experiments and demos we can cram into just a few minutes!

Science of the Winter Olympics: Snowboarding

To get "max air" off the half-pipe without losing their balance, snowboarders might want to check out this experiment that Paul Doherty, a senior scientist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, cooked up, using a skateboard and a glass of water.

Science of the Winter Olympics: Air Lift

U.S. hopefuls Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong, along with NSF-funded scientists Paul Doherty, and physicist George Tuthill explain the principles of physics that are used to get high scores in the long jumps.