Google Adds Quantum Physics To Minecraft (PopSci.com)

This is the climax of nerdgasms everywhere: Minecraft + Google + Quantum Physics.


It’s as trippy as you suspect.

Minecraft,” the Lego-style, build-your-own-game game, has been the canvas for some awesome projects. (For just one example: this gigantic scientific graphing calculator.) Now Google’s Quantum A.I. Lab is taking it in an even weirder direction: quantum physics.

The team created a modified version of the game, called qCraft, that lets players explore the fundamentals of the field by playing in a world based on quantum principles. From a post on Google+ announcing the game:

We talked to our friends at MinecraftEdu and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter and came up with a fun idea: a Minecraft modpack called qCraft. It lets players experiment with quantum behaviors inside Minecraft’s world, with new blocks that exhibit quantum entanglement, superposition, and observer dependency.

Is it a true simulacrum of a blocky quantum universe? Ha, no. But considering just how strange the field is, that probably wouldn’t make for a fun game. Instead, it’s just a way of teaching the basics, and Google admits as much:

Of course, qCraft isn’t a perfect scientific simulation, but it’s a fun way for players to experience a few parts of quantum mechanics outside of thought experiments or dense textbook examples.

You can download the game here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson + 13-Part Mini-Series = YES! (PopSci.com)

Every single time I see Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Daily Show or PBS or I stumble upon new vids of him on YouTube, I smile, I often laugh, and I learn a helluva lot. The man should be in charge of everything. The man is brilliant and I cannot wait to see him in this upcoming TV show. It sucks we have to wait until 2014 though.

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Check Out The First Trailer For Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’

Oh, man. Oh, man. (Please be amazing.)

It’s awesome on its own that Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting a new mini-series. It’s doubly awesome that the astrophysicist/science educator/Jon Stewart-corrector is hosting the next generation of Carl Sagan’s beloved 13-part science series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Now the trailer for deGrasse Tyson’s (also 13-part) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey just premiered at Comic-Con, and we can say: it looks pretty neat! There’s Sagan’s voice, then deGrasse Tyson takes over for him (SYMBOLISM), and there’s a levitating baby and a spaceship and some explosions and other stuff. Check it out!

Lost City of Atlantis Found? (PopSci.com)

This report is well over two years old, but it’s something that I never heard. Lucky for you, I stumbled upon it this morning. Why wasn’t this more prominent? (Or maybe I’ve just been living under a rock or something.) I did forward this link to a couple friends and none of them had heard of this report. So, yeah.

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Scientists Say They May Have Found Lost City of Atlantis Near Spain


Donaña National Park, Spain Scientists believe the lost city of Atlantis is buried in the mudflats of Spain’s Donaña National Park. Harres via Flickr.

All the news about devastating tsunamis is drawing greater attention to a new claim that researchers have found the lost city of Atlantis — buried in mud on the southern tip of Spain. Scientists say they have found proof of a 4,000-year-old civilization that was buried by a tsunami.

The research was unveiled Sunday in a new TV special.

This effort to find Atlantis began in 2004, when German physicist Rainer Kuhne identified some strange features on satellite photos. Swamps at the mouth of Spain’s Guadalquivir River, northwest of Cadiz, held strange geometric shadows that some thought resembled the remains of a ringed city.

To follow up on the findings, teams of researchers from three countries used ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistivity tomography, magnetometers and spectrometers to map the ground and sniff out evidence of human-built objects buried in the mud. They say they found a communal oven and evidence of canal systems buried in Spain’s Donaña National Park.Richard Freund, an archaeologist from Hartford University in Connecticut, said a tsunami flooded the ancient community, located 60 miles inland.

“This is the power of tsunamis,” he said,according to Reuters.

The team also found artifacts from farther north that suggest refugees may have settled a second city, where they built memorial artworks to commemorate the one they lost.

Other researchers criticized the results, however, including members of a Spanish team who have been studying the site since 2005.

Archaeologists have been looking for Atlantis since Plato first described it about 2,600 years ago in one of his late dialogues. He said the city was located near the “pillars of Hercules,” which classical scholars say is the Strait of Gibraltar. (The mudflats are just north of the strait.) Plato said Atlantis “in a single day and night… disappeared into the depths of the sea.”

Previous attempts to find it have looked on the ocean floor; on various Mediterranean and Aegean islands; the Bermuda Triangle; Bolivia; and even Antarctica. Historians have said Atlantis was inspired by the 1600 BCE volcanic explosion at Santorini, one of the largest in recorded history. Others maintain it’s simply a myth.

The Spanish team said they will present their own findings later this year.

New DIY Kit Turns Household Items Into Drones (PopSci.com)

Your own evil empire is just within your grasp! Even as 3-D printing is working with liquid metals at room temp, you can now turn your old motherboards, keyboards, mice, and more into the unmanned vehicles you’ve always wanted thanks to Jasper van Loenen’s Vimeo video.

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This 3-D printing kit lets you transform any sufficiently light object into a flying quadrotor.

DIY Keyboard Drone
DIY Keyboard Drone Jasper van Loenen, via Vimeo

Really, why shouldn’t keyboards fly? A new suitcase-size kit by Dutch artist Jasper van Loenen lets you attach four rotors to almost any object so that you can fly it like a drone.

The kit includes instructions for 3-D printing four clamps that screw into the object and hold the mounts for propellers. You also need to 3-D print a body to house the electronics, which include a radio receiver, flight controller, bluetooth module, and four motors, each with an electronic speed controller.

The software for piloting the drone comes from OpenPilot, an open source autopilot and stabilization project. A full parts list can be found here, and the DIY drone even has an Instructables page.

In the video below, van Loenen drone-ifies a bicycle tire, a keyboard, a boogie board, a book, and an old landline phone. The possibilites are constrained almost entirely by physics—too heavy an object and the motors can’t lift it, too weirdly shaped and it won’t be able to fly straight. For now, there’s no camera included in the plans, so the pilot has to remain in sight of the drone.

DIY (Drone It Yourself) v1.0 from Jasper van Loenen on Vimeo.

Antimatter Particles Detected Erupting From Solar Flares (PopSci.com)

It no longer requires a science fiction movie to see antimatter. Here’s a photo from NASA showing antimatter particles streaming away from the sun back in May of this year.

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2013 Solar Flare

2013 Solar Flare This image shows a mid-size solar flare that peaked May 3, 2013. It’s been colorized teal. NASA/SDO/AIA

In the surge of energy of solar flares, physicists have now detected antimatter particles streaming away from the sun.

Researchers already knew that the reactions that fuel the sun create antimatter particles called positrons, among other particles. However, this is the first time the sun’s positrons have been detected in this way, according to the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The lead scientist in the discovery, Gregory Fleishman, is a professor at the institute.

Fleishman and his colleagues’ new measurements could help scientists better understand solar flares and the basic structure of matter. The techniques they worked out could also make it easier for other scientists to detect positrons coming from other objects in space. In a summary of their research, Fleishman and his colleagues sounded optimistic, saying that their discovery could soon make it routine to detect positrons in solar flares, which are brief, bright eruptions of energy on the sun’s surface. (Large solar flares may cause radio blackouts on Earth.)

Positrons are the antimatter counterparts to electrons. They have the same mass as electrons, but have a positive, instead of a negative, charge. They also emit microwave radiation of the opposite polarization as electrons do. So Fleishman and his colleagues used data from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Nobeyama Radioheliograph in Japan to find instances of polarized radiation that matched positrons.

They’re presenting their work this week at a meeting hosted by the American Astronomical Society.

Original PopSci Article

The Difference Between A Geek And A Nerd (PopSci.com)

If ever there was an article perfect for this blog….

Also, this is our 100th post! Ta da!

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They’re not the same. A data-geek (or nerd?) explains.

Geeks v. Nerds

Geeks v. Nerds Burr Settles

Are you a geek or a nerd? Because they’re not quite the same. (It’s okay to admit which one you are, by the way! Popular Science is a safe place.)

Burr Settles at SlackPropagation broke down the difference by using data. The methodology here is a little on the nerdy side (or is it geeky side???) but, more or less, Settles mined Twitter for the words most likely to appear near “geeky” or “nerdy.” The higher along the y axis, the geekier the words; the farther along the x axis, the nerdier.

Academic words show up frequently on the nerdy side of the graph: “Harvard,” “#studymode,” “biochemistry.” (Also, inexplicably, “goths.”) On the geeky side, it’s more about tangible objects: “iPod,” [Joss] Whedon,” #appletv.” Star Wars falls on the geeky side, but only barely, because, hey, everybody likes Star Wars.

So what did we learn? Settles writes:

In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.

An awesomely nerdy project. Although “infographic” does fall onto the geeky side of the spectrum.

Original PopSci.com Article

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