The 'show why science is awesome' thread:


I was trying to explain the double slit experiment to the wife. And I had to do some research, just to be sure. That’s when I realized that I didn’t really understand it either. It’s too much like particles have intelligence. But still…


It isn’t intelligence so much as nondeterminism. The photons don’t decide to go different places, they just have a coin flip as part of their photon-nature.

Which I find weirder, to be honest.


I still maintain that quantum mechanics is the closest thing to proof of a Higher Power. It’s like someone is just fucking with us.



Indeed. A ‘Trickster’ God, what fun!?


Levitating objects with sound.

“All previous levitators had to surround the particle with acoustic elements, which was cumbersome for some kind of manipulations,” says study leader Asier Marzo at Public University of Navarre in Spain. “Our technique, however, only requires sound waves from one side. It’s like a laser—you can levitate particles, but with a single beam.”

Like a laser…or a tractor beam! Admittedly, a tractor beam only for small Styrofoam beads, and it would likely be a bad idea to scale it up too high.

Under normal gravity, “the power required to lift a human would probably be lethal,” says Marzo. “If you apply too much ultrasound power to a liquid, you will create microbubbles.” In other words, too much sound power can make your blood boil.

But very cool nonetheless. The medical aspects particularly.

“One application of scaling down is in vivo manipulation—meaning levitating and manipulating particles inside the body,” says Marzo. “And these particles could be kidney stones, clots, tumors and even capsules for targeted drug delivery.” Ultrasonic levitation does not interfere with magnetic resonance imaging, so doctors could instantaneously image the action during in vivo manipulation.


Scientists have developed a working prototype of a lithium oxygen battery.

Ten times the energy density of current lithium ion batteries, which puts then on par with gasoline.

This is a pretty big deal.


It is a big deal, but the story says a practical version is still at least a decade away. So I think I’m still putting off that electric car purchase for a while. ;)


yeah, still 300 miles per (£2 off peak) charge is enough for my needs, on the soon to be released improved batteries (Nissan and others in 2017 iirc), that i might still be tempted. The current average 120 miles is a little thin for sure, but these new batteries sound pretty amazing.


Using graphene plus cobalt to extract hydrogen from the water vapor in the air:


I saw an earlier report on that, and it’s fascinating stuff. I should have followed my uncle’s advice when I graduated:
“I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Graphene.”


for the ‘Not Awesome’ category of this thread :)

‘Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality’:

A “robot revolution” will transform the global economy over the next 20 years, cutting the costs of doing business but exacerbating social inequality, as machines take over everything from caring for the elderly to flipping burgers, according to a new study.

As well as robots performing manual jobs, such as hoovering the living room or assembling machine parts, the development of artificial intelligence means computers are increasingly able to “think”, performing analytical tasks once seen as requiring human judgment.

In a 300-page report, revealed exclusively to the Guardian, analysts from investment bank Bank of America Merrill Lynch draw on the latest research to outline the impact of what they regard as a fourth industrial revolution, after steam, mass production and electronics.

“We are facing a paradigm shift which will change the way we live and work,” the authors say. “The pace of disruptive technological innovation has gone from linear to parabolic in recent years. Penetration of robots and artificial intelligence has hit every industry sector, and has become an integral part of our daily lives.”

However, this revolution could leave up to 35% of all workers in the UK, and 47% of those in the US, at risk of being displaced by technology over the next 20 years, according to Oxford University research cited in the report, with job losses likely to be concentrated at the bottom of the income scale.

“The trend is worrisome in markets like the US because many of the jobs created in recent years are low-paying, manual or services jobs which are generally considered ‘high risk’ for replacement,” the bank says.

“One major risk off the back of the take-up of robots and artificial intelligence is the potential for increasing labour polarisation, particularly for low-paying jobs such as service occupations, and a hollowing-out of middle income manual labour jobs.”

We should probably revolt before they get sophisticated enough to be used against us to keep us in our places?


I’m pretty sure that article was originally printed in 1970.


Well the concerns go all the way back to the industrial revolution (and probably also was up for discussion in the switch from stone tools to copper!) ;) But this data is in that article is completely current.


Well, the article does say certain things I’ve been reading around a lot, so I think it’s relevant and not necessarily a rehash of previous concerns (there’s new data, and big industries that had been resilient to mechanization being not that resilient anymore -Specially textile and transportation-). It seems there’s a bunch of (credible) people that do think we are in the middle of a new industrial revolution, with all the job destruction that entails. And yes, industrial revolutions do destroy jobs, despite myths to the contrary, but they also improve the quality of life of people, so they are on the whole incredibly positive.

The problem is not machines substituting us in many jobs. That’s awesome! Go science!

The problem might be what to do with all those newly unemployed, in social terms, since some kind of big restructuring/rethinking of labor and what it means might be necessary. Or you could just cut maximum work hours per day by 50% and be done with it.


Are those cuts in numbers of hours only for those unemployed? But yet since I’m a robot programmer, I have to work 200% of the hours to keep up with all the added work? Where’s my lucky break?

The problem is that it’s often hard to retrain people who’s jobs can be removed by mechanization to do new work - it can happen in certain instances, and I know some of the automotive industry actually has paths for people to move from welder on the floor to programming robots to weld for them, but it takes a lot of work and skill to climb up to that new position.


Oh, I was talking I jest saying that’s the easiest solution.

It was, though, the long term solution adopted in the previous industrial revolutions, after much, much discord, of course. Eventually you either create the structures so that 40% unemployment is sustainable (going by the numbers people are throwing out) or you force people to work less hours so there’s still work for everybody, create a retirement age and a minimum working age and limit the work pool in different ways… (Or you create fake -subsidized- jobs, as it’s happening now in some places, but that’s basically doing the former without actually saying you are doing it).


‘Strong forces make antimatter stick’:

Physicists have shed new light on one of the greatest mysteries in science: Why the Universe consists primarily of matter and not antimatter. Antimatter is a shadowy mirror image of the ordinary matter we are familiar with.

For the first time, scientists have measured the forces that make certain antimatter particles stick together. The findings, published in Nature, may yield clues to what led to the scarcity of antimatter in the cosmos today.

The forces between antimatter particles - in this case antiprotons - had not been measured before. If antiprotons were found to behave in a different way to their “mirror images” (the ordinary proton particles that are found in atoms) it might provide a potential explanation for what is known as “matter/antimatter asymmetry”.

At the beginning of the Universe, the Big Bang produced matter and antimatter in equal amounts. But that’s not the world we see today: instead antimatter is extremely rare.

Some phenomenon must have led to the overwhelming dominance of matter; scientists have their theories, but the evidence remains elusive.

“Although this puzzle has been known for decades and little clues have emerged, it remains one of the big challenges of science,” said co-author Aihong Tang, from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, US.

“Anything we learn about the nature of antimatter can potentially contribute to solving this puzzle.”


Science is awesome…until the antimatter generators go out of control!


‘Quantum computers a step closer to reality after silicon coding breakthrough’:

Australian researchers have demonstrated that a quantum version of computer code can be written on a silicon microchip with the highest level of accuracy ever recorded.

A quantum computer uses atoms rather than transistors as its processing unit, allowing it to conduct multiple complex calculations at once and at high speed. In the race to build the first functional quantum computer scientists around the world have been trying to write quantum code in a range of materials such as caesium, aluminium, niobium titanium nitride and diamond.

But researchers at the University of NSW have long been basing their research around silicon, because silicon is the building block of all modern electronic devices, which would make quantum code in a silicon microchip easier, more cost-effective and highly scalable.

For the first time they managed to entangle a pair of quantum bits – units of quantum information also known as qubits – in silicon. Qubits allow computers to access code vastly richer than the digital codes used in normal computers which gives quantum computers their superior power.

By “entangling” the two qubits, in this case an electron and the nucleus of a single phosphorus atom, the researchers showed that the particles remained connected even when separated so that actions performed on one still affected the other.