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Blog

Cruise-ship physics, the many ways to tie a tie, shaken-up carbon dating and more

By Tushna Commissariat

If you like piña coladas and quantum mechanics, then we hope you are currently on the two-week “Bright Horizons 19” Southeast Asia cruise, as on board is physicist and writer Sean Carroll. He will be giving multiple lectures over the next 15 days on everything from the Higgs boson to dark matter and other fundamentals of quantum mechanics. Also floating along with Carroll are other lecturers who will cover topics from natural history to genetics to military strategy. If, like us, you are stuck at home, you can take a look at Carroll’s slides on his blog, maybe have a cocktail while you are at it.

If you have ever wondered just how many ways there are to tie a necktie, then thanks to Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson, a mathematician at the Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) in Stockholm, we now know it’s 177,147. He is not the first to have pondered this important question though – in 1999 physicists Thomas Fink and Yong Mao of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge wrote a book called 85 Ways to Tie a Tie. Vejdemo-Johansson was inspired by a YouTube tutorial that showed how to tie the fiendishly complex knot sported by the villain from the Matrix films who is known as “The Merovingian”. So how did he come up with so many more ways than the earlier duo? Take a look at the stories (and watch the video above) on the New Scientist and Popular Science websites to find out.

Another rather interesting story that caught our attention this week was about a famous religious relic – the Turin Shroud – and how a possible earthquake could have caused enough neutron radiation to alter the outcome of radiocarbon dating of it. “We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the Shroud’s linen fibres, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused wrong radiocarbon dating,” says Alberto Carpinteri, one of the researchers from the Politecnico di Torino in Italy. You can read more about the story on the Telegraph and Huffington Post websites.

In other news this week, read about chemist Dan Shectman’s (who won the 2011 chemistry Nobel prize) presidential bid, take a look at these geeky science valentines, find out how Jorge Cham, the creator of the popular online comic “PHD Comics creates each strip and find out why Venus looks bigger than Jupiter when viewed with the naked eye.

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