I’ve always been a keen observer of weights and measures, so this interested me. Digital Trends writes: “On Friday, November 16, a 129-year-old tradition will likely come to an end. Nearly all the world’s weighted measurements have relied on a single standard since 1889 — the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK), a block of metal made of platinum and iridium locked in a subterranean vault in Paris.
“Rather than defined by a block of metal, weights will be expressed in terms of the Planck constant (h). The stated goal is to shift the standard toward a more reliable form, one that won’t be damaged or corrupted by environmental factors that cause it to slightly and inexplicably lose weight.”
In 2005, scientists confirmed that dry spaghetti noodles never break cleanly in half. Instead they tend to split into three or more pieces. If you’ve ever cooked spaghetti you’re probably familiar with having little bits explode all over the kitchen. But it turns out that there is a way to break spaghetti cleanly in half. Famous physicist Richard Feynman once spent a night with a friend snapping pasta to figure out what was happening. He never solved it, but it inspired French researchers to try, which earned them a 2006 igNobel prize. The secret? Twist the noodles hard like you’re wringing out a washcloth. To understand why, they used a high speed camera that recorded the shattering pasta at a million frames per second. The twist prevented the two bent strands flexing back quite as forcefully as an untwisted strand, and the untwisting motion released some of the stored energy in the spaghetti, further reducing the likelihood of a second fracture.
This video isn’t conventional computer tech. And yet’s immensely technical, invoking a principle of physics. Gotta love that. And so, if you’re camping, don’t have matches, can’t find a flinty rock and can’t get your campfire started for a cold night to come, here’s a really cool demo. What you need is some pulverized wood, a clear plastic sandwich bag, and some water from a nearby stream. Or your cooler. Sound impossible, Mr. MacGyver? Check it out.
Jennifer Ouellette is a freelance science writer, editor and book author. Her work has appeared in Physics World, Discover, New Scientist, Physics Today, Salon and Nature. In 2010, she published the book “The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.” With a degree in English literature, Jennifer didn’t start out intending to be a science writer. But thanks to serendipity, she landed her first job with the American Physical Society who discovered she could write really well. The thinking was that it would be easier to teach her physics than teach physicists how to write! It opened her eyes to the field. So how does one become a famous science writer? Jennifer tells a great story.
Apple is a real company, producing real products and there are quantifiable facts about the company. How well we create a picture of Apple as a company depends on how we assess the reliability of our understanding. That means looking at certain facts with keen understanding and, more importantly, updating our estimations based on new facts. John, as you might expect, gets into physics and Bayesian logic. But don’t worry. It’s a fun ride.