Death by fan

Apparently, I’m immortal. Because I, for many hundreds of nights, have slept in a room with a fan on. And survived. True story. You might now be wondering if I have gone completely insane (which is not too unlikely). Of course, why would I not have survived. Millions, if not billions, of people sleep with the fan on every night without much consequence. When I was living in a tropical country having those giant ceiling fans on was a basic requirement for being able to get a decent night’s sleep. But, the thing is, in South Korea it is widely …

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The World’s Longest Running Experiment

Do you know what a pitch is? If you’re a sports fan, the first thing that comes to mind is perhaps the field football is played on or the throw a batter tries to hit. Or maybe since this is a science blog and maybe you’re also musically minded, you think of the frequency of a tone. What I am referring to here though, is the name given to the most viscoelastic solid polymers known, such as Bitumen. All that means is that it’s a plastic that exhibits viscous (like honey) and elastic (like a rubber band) characteristics when under …

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Walking on custard – Non-newtonian fluids

Finally. Lunchtime. Your hamburger is waiting patiently on the plate, the french fries sit next to it, glistening. Perfect, except for one thing. Ketchup. You grab a new bottle, twist off the cap and turn the bottle upside down. Nothing happens. The ketchup just sits there in a big lump, defying gravity. You shake it. Nothing. You shake it again more violently. Nothing. You shake it really hard this time, like a very enthusiastic polaroid photographer and then, disaster. The ketchup starts flowing into your plate and before you have time to stop the flow, what was once supposed to …

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What’s up with Dark Matter?

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation around the interweb regarding dark matter. Much of it sounds like pseudo-scientific borderline-religious arguments, both from strong ‘believers’ (sorry to use that term but I have heard it used so often in this context) and people who don’t like the idea of dark matter and cling to older/other theories. It is after all I suppose a little like a religious argument, not being able to see it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there.

Balanced on a Blade of Grass – The World’s Lightest Material

A research team led by Professor Gao Chao of the Department of Polymer Science of China’s Zhejiang University in Hangzhou used a freeze-drying technique to create an aerogel – a “carbon sponge” – from a mix of graphene and carbon nanotubes. It is the world’s lightest material and it  can be balanced on a blade of grass. It weighs just 0.16 kilograms per metre cubed. For comparison, a metre cubed of water weighs 1000 kg and a metre cubed of styrofoam weighs 75 kg. It is also less dense than air (less mass per volume). A metre cubed of air …

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The coldest place in the universe is on… earth

The Boomerang Nebula is located approximately 5000 light years from earth. It was formed by the outflow of gas from the core of a star. This gas is flowing at incredible speeds, up to 500 thousand kilometres per hour (300,000 miles/hr). As gas expands, it cools down, which has caused the nebula to be the coldest point of the universe that we have ever measured, with a temperature of just 1 Kelvin (−272.15 °C; −457.87 °F ), very close to absolute zero. The average temperature of the universe is 2.73 K, as measured using the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. (Read our …

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GPS and Relativity

You were trying to drive to Melbourne, Australia, yet you ended up in Melbourne, Florida. Apart from somehow being able to drive over water, you also probably mindlessly followed the instructions of a GPS device. Practically ubiquitous these days, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is responsible for the ever decreasing ability of people to use maps and their own orientation.