Wednesday, January 31, 2024

First Experimental Test of Process that Might Have Created Universe

One of the most disturbing ideas in physics, or maybe *the most disturbing idea, is that space can fall apart. That’s because it could be what’s called “false” vacuum. A false vacuum can remain in this innocent reliable looking form for billions of years, but eventually a quantum fluctuation could be enough to cause it to decay. This would release enormous amounts of energy and kill all of us. Yes, cheerful thought.

So far, this has all been theory. But a new experiment has now for the first time observed that quantum fluctuations can actually trigger a transition like that, luckily not for the entire universe, but for a small and safe test-setting in the laboratory with ultracold gases.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

AI makes stunning progress in logical reasoning

Google has unveiled a new artificially intelligent system, AlphaGeometry, that can solve problems of mathematical geometry. It’s the first computer program to surpass the average performance of participants at the International Mathematical Olympiad. That might sound like an incremental improvement, just one more thing that AI is really good at, but mathematics isn’t just one more thing, it’s everywhere. This makes Google’s recent development a significant step forward. Let’s have a look.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Brian Cox debunked the Big Bang! Wait what?

I was rather surprised when I recently learned that the British science communicator and ex-particle physicist Brian Cox supposedly debunked the Big Bang with a creation story, no less than in a BBC documentary. I had a look at the clip and I think I know what happened.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Dark matter is not "Bunk Science"... But it has problems

Physicists say that 80 percent of the mass in the universe is dark matter, and not only this, dark matter is supposedly all around us, we just can’t see it. Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it. Indeed, every time I mention dark matter, I get flooded with comments about how silly the idea is. “Fantasy folly.” “bunk science,” “epicycles,” “a mirage”, “unscientific,” and on and on it goes. I really feel for astrophysicists, but those complaints are not totally wrong.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

I used to not worry about climate change. Now I do.

In this video I explain what climate sensitivity is and why it is important. Climate sensitivity is a number that roughly speaking tells us how fast climate change will get worse. A few years ago, after various software improvements, a bunch of climate models began having a much higher climate sensitivity than previously. Climate scientists have come up with reasons for why to ignore this. I think it's a bad idea to ignore this.

The quiz for this video is here.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Clever New Experiment Looks for Quantum Jumps of Big Things

I got a lot of questions about an article which said that physicists have designed “a Way to Detect Quantum Behaviour in Large Objects, Like Us”. I had a look at the paper. It’s about what I consider without exaggeration the most important question in physics today, that is, why do we not observe quantum effects in everyday life. They want to figure out if macroscopic objects still make quantum jumps and have come up with a clever idea for that.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

How do we know that climate change is caused by humans?

n this video I summarize the main pieces of evidence that we have which show that climate change is caused by humans. This is most important that we know in which frequency range carbon dioxide absorbs light, we know that the carbon dioxide ratio in the atmosphere has been increasing, we know that the Ph-value of the oceans has been decreasing, the ratio of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere has been changing, and the stratosphere has been cooling, which was one of the key predictions of climate models from the 1960s.

This video comes with a quiz that lets you check how much you remember.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Fearless Icelanders to Drill Into Magma Chamber

I don’t like places where hot stuff bubbles out of the ground, but Icelanders have no such issues. They’re now almost ready to start a new experiment that will drill right into a magma chamber. How do they know that this will not accidentally create a volcano? Let’s have a look.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Extreme Weather Becomes Worse Faster Than Predicted

Floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, storm surges. Extreme weather events receive a lot of media coverage. In recent years, these events have frequently been attributed to climate change. This “extreme event attribution” how it’s called is a way to quantify how climate change supposedly increased the likelihood of a specific weather event by so and so much. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that these numbers are underestimates. Yep, that’s right, reality is worse than they told us it would be. A new paper confirmed this problem for extreme rainfall events.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Another Famous Quantum Mystery Was Just Debunked (it wasn't me)

The quantum Cheshire Cat is a famous experiment that’s attracted a lot of attention in the past decade. In this experiment, a particle is supposedly separated from one of its properties, for example its spin or polarization. It’s called the Cheshire cat because that particle is kind of like the cat and its disembodied property is kind of like the grin of the cat.

But maybe I should better say there was this famous experiment, because it was just debunked in a new paper. Let’s have a look.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Crack Down On New Climate Denial! Nonprofit tells YouTube

The Center for Countering Digital Hate put out a new report a few days ago, in which they warn that climate misinformation continuous to flourish on YouTube. They want YouTube to take more action. I had a look and I don't like what I read.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Astrophysicists Find Big Ring of Galaxies that Should Not Exist

A group of astrophysicists have found another megastructure in the universe. They’ve called it the “Big Ring” and it’s a whopping 1 point 3 billion light-years in diameter. The thing isn’t just huge, it’s also a huge problem for our understanding of how the universe works. Because it shouldn’t exist. I’m somewhat afraid that all other astrophysicists will try to ignore this, which is why I thought we should talk about it. Let’s have a look.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Sugar Alcohols Ruined My Health: Learn From My Mistakes

I was told that I have irritable bowel syndrome. I then learned by shear coincidence that most of my symptoms were instead caused by food additives collectively known as "sugar alcohols". Since I have cut sugar alcohols out of my diet, my symptoms have almost entirely disappeared. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (or have been told you have it), I suggest you try cutting out sugar alcohols. You will know within two days or so whether that was the cause of the problem.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

New Cancer Therapy with Particle Beam Flashes goes to Trial

Flash proton therapy is a new cancer treatment that’s just out of the laboratory and now being tested on patients in the first trials. In this video I explain how it works and why it is so promising.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

This New Nuclear Battery Could Soon Go on the Market

A Chinese company has announced they’re planning to mass-produce tiny nuclear batteries that can last up to 50 years, possibly beating both a British and an American company who have tried to put those on the market for several years. What does that mean? Will we soon all power our phones with nuclear power? Let’s have a look.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Our Universe Will Probably Not Rip Apart, Phew!

The Dark Energy Survey has surveyed dark energy and found that our universe is unlikely to rip into pieces. I think that’s good news for the cosmos. Let’s have a look.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Can Quantum Fluctuations Create a New Universe?

Quantum fluctuations happen everywhere, all the time, and in principle they can become arbitrarily large. So if we wait long enough at the end of the universe, brains can spontaneously assemble. Those are the so-called "Boltzmann Brains". And eventually, even an entire universe might be born. Seriously? Well, it depends on exactly how the laws of nature work.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

New Computer Will Mimic Human Brain -- And I'm Kinda Scared

A lab in Australia is building a new supercomputer that will for the first time both physically resemble a human brain, and perform as many operations as possible, about 228 trillion per second. It will be the biggest neuromorphic computer ever and the scary bit is how few operations this are. Yes, how few. Let me explain.

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Runaway Greenhouse Effect is Very Unlikely on Earth

When I was just about to log off for the holiday break, I saw these headlines popping up, saying that it doesn’t take much to turn Earth into Venus with a runaway greenhouse effect which would, quote, literally boil earth alive. I thought it’d be best to ignore this. But then I saw that some people on social media got first worried about it, and then confused because no one was addressing this. So I decided to, well, you know, give you all the boring context because that’s what I do. And here we go.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

It looks like AI will kill Quantum Computing

Yann LeCun, the AI chief of Meta, has a surprisingly sane attitude to quantum computing. This deserves celebration and also investigation because he’s making a very good point.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Space debris could start conducting electricity, disturb electric field

We’ve heard that space debris is bad and the problem’s getting worse, but here’s a new thing to worry about. It could interfere with the earth’s magnetic field, which is our major protection from the highly energetic particles of the solar wind.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

This new semiconductor could revolutionize computing

Researchers at the Georgia Institute for Technology have found a new semiconductor that’s a really good candidate for making computers faster and smaller than ever. Amazingly enough, it works by combining graphene with silicon carbide, to give a material with a sensible band gap that still has a high thermal conductivity.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Solar arrays better than trees for climate, study says

What is better, planting trees or covering the same area of land with solar panels? A group of geoscientists from Israel just looked at this, and they say that solar panels come out way ahead. Let's have a look at what the paper says.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Will the world end? A physicist's reply

How do we know that the laws of nature will continue to do what they have been doing so far? We don't. It's called the "Problem of Induction" and means that ultimately science is also based on faith, faith that the laws of nature will not fail us tomorrow. So, well, enjoy the world while it lasts.

They predicted a Nobel prize-winning discovery. And no one cared.

Imagine you make a prediction for a discovery that wins the Nobel Prize. Your prediction turns out to be correct, and no one cares. This is what happened to these two physicists who correctly predicted the mass of Higgs-Boson with a theory that is no less than one of the most promising candidates for quantum gravity.

This video comes with a quiz which you can take here.