Latest news from those kinky scientists who live out on the edge. Damn heretics.

Relativity Rollercoaster

While the bizarre mysteries of the quantum world often get all the headlines, Einstein's special theory of relativity has its fair share of strange as well. Take a ride on the relativity rollercoaster (created by physicist Michael Hush from the Australian National University), in which the speed of light is reduced to 5m/s in order to show some of the odd effects on space and time that occur when traveling near the speed of light:

From New Scientist:

As the ride begins, you experience colour shifting caused by the Doppler effect. Your surroundings also appear distorted as objects are seen at different points in time because of the finite speed of light. Due to the extreme velocity and the effect of angular compression, you start to see objects you've already passed by.

As the rollercoaster passes over a series of bumps, colour-shifting and distortion increase and decrease. At this point, the animators ignore changes in colour to accentuate the bending and twisting of objects. As the ride descends towards a big loop, angular compression affects the horizon, which first looks like a ball, then later seems to wrap around you.

In the final segment of the ride, a column looks stretched as part of it is seen at an earlier time. "The rollercoaster is travelling at about 90 per cent of light speed," says Savage. "The viewer's position changes a lot during the time it takes light to reach the viewer from the object.

If you don't have a broadband connection, try a heavy dose of LSD for the same effect...

Online Psi Experiment

Ever wanted to be tested by parapsychologists for a hidden psi ability? Here's your chance, and all from the comfort of your chair: the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) have launched a beta-version of their online double-slit experiment. Dean Radin explains:

This experiment tests the role of consciousness in the "collapse" of the quantum wavefunction.

This test sends live data from the double-slit system in our lab directly into a Flash client in your web browser. As a result only one person can take the test at any given time. If you login for the test you may find that the server is already in use, but a message should inform you when the test will be available again.

It takes about 15 minutes to go through the written and video instructions, another few minutes to fill out a survey, and then the test itself lasts about 12 minutes.

IONS have made a short 'promo' trailer for the research which I've included below - more detailed information is available in the other videos at the IONS research page.

How the Hippies Saved Physics

This is a fascinating talk from David Kaiser on the the history of the counter-culture's involvement with the 'new physics' during the 1970s:

MIT Professor David Kaiser describes the field of physic's bumpy transition from New Age to cutting edge.

In recent years, the field of quantum information science has catapulted to the cutting edge of physics. Long before the big budgets and dedicated teams, however, the field smoldered on the scientific sidelines within the hazy, bong-filled excesses of the 1970s New Age movement. Many of the ideas that now occupy the core of quantum information science once found their home amid an anything-goes counterculture frenzy, a mishmash of spoon-bending psychics, Eastern mysticism, LSD trips, CIA spooks chasing mind-reading dreams, and comparable "Age of Aquarius" enthusiasts.

Kaiser's book How the Hippies Saved Physics is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK, sounds like it would be a great read and touch on many areas that we discuss here at TDG.

Travelers Time

Wednesday marked the 11th anniversary of the first appearance of supposed time traveler John Titor back in the year 2000. While Titor's prophecy failures have diminished his semi-mythical status somewhat, it remains a great storyline that deals with a fascinating topic. So this short documentary that looks at both the Titor myth and the possibility of time travel, and features the likes of Michio Kaku, is well worth a watch:

Hoping the copyright notice dated to 1960 is an in-joke...

(h/t @DavidBMetcalfe)

Cuttlefish Conundrums

Cuttlefish, how do they work?

Two things stand out for me from that intriguing short video. Firstly, the thought that they disguise themselves by "consciously manipulat[ing] their skin". Secondly, that they mimic different environments, despite being color blind. Crazy.

Spooky Cloud Behaviour

Now this would have had me wondering had I seen it with my own eyes - a small cloud moves in strange ways, jumping from one position to another:

The explanation, provided by a meteorologist, has to do with the electric fields present within clouds (responsible for, most obviously, lightning):

The answer lies in this: ice crystals, especially long needles, tend to become aligned with the ambient electric field.

So what you are seeing is sunlight reflecting off ice crystal faces that are constantly being oriented by the developing electric field just above the [cumulonimbus] top. Then there is a discharge in the cloud, and the field collapses momentarily, and the crystals begin to realign again. Then this just keeps happening over and over.

Read more over at Bad Astronomy.

EdgeScience #9

Issue 9 of the free PDF magazine EdgeScience is now available to download from the website of the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE). In the new issue:EdgeScience 9

  • Robert McLuhan on anecdotal evidence.
  • David Talbott on "The Plasma Universe of Hannes Alfvén".
  • Bernard d. Beitman on coincidence studies.
  • Patrick Hugyhe writes in memory of William Corliss.

More content as well as that listed above, plus all eight previous issues remain available to download from the website, and there is an iPad app for viewing the PDF release as well.

Don't forget also: if you enjoy the mag, send a bit of love via the PayPal button to help ensure the future of this excellent free e-zine (or alternatively pick up a paper copy for $4.95). According to a recent email from the organisation, the SSE "is in serious financial trouble", and so the future of EdgeScience, and the Journal of Scientific Exploration, may well be in doubt. If you value researchers willing to go out on a limb and investigate the fringes of science, then please do support both EdgeScience with a donation, and the SSE with membership/subscription to JSE.

Déjà Vu and Parallel Universes

Dr Michio Kaku explores the question of whether the experience of déjà vu could possibly be related to parallel universes...

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F**king Quantum Magnets, How Do They Work?

Witch, witch, burn him!!! Tel-Aviv University demonstrates quantum superconductors locked and levitating in a magnetic field.

I just want to know when I can have one to play with.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

There's an interesting story over at Universe Today, asking if a recent comet hit caused an explosion on the Sun:

This amazing video from the SOHO mission (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) shows a sun-diving comet hitting the solar surface on October 1, 2011 and unexpectedly a huge explosion occurs shortly after. Are the two events related? Probably not, but solar scientists don’t know for sure. The region where the CME originated was on the opposite side of the Sun from the comet hit, so that is very great distance. Scientists say there is no known mechanism for comets to trigger a CME.

Seeing this video I was immediately reminded of a blog entry that Jameske posted many years ago here at TDG, titled "Comet Vomit", in which he linked to a number of videos showing possible interaction between comets and the Sun:

According to Fred Whipple, from whom the dirty snowball comet theory originated, comets are composed of a nucleus usually around 5 to 10 Km in diameter, irregular in shape, and made of a loose agglomeration of ice, rock and hydrocarbons. The nucleus is surrounded by a diffuse atmosphere of material called a coma that can expand to up to 250000 km in diameter on close approach to the sun to form little more than vacuum, and they have highly elliptical orbits.

...Given the above it follows that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun, and this comet and the sun.

Finding patterns in coincidences, or is this some genuine, as yet unknown interaction between comets and our star? I look forward to seeing future scientific research into this fascinating little mystery...

Update: Some critical comments about the possibility of a connection from Phil 'Bad Astronomy' Plait and at the Sungrazing Comets website. Also this video from the Bad Astronomer: