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Comedy at CERN, physics in a Buridanian universe and separating sugar from sand

Curtain call at CERN: last year's comedy show was a great success (Courtesy: Comedy Collider)

Curtain call at CERN: last year’s comedy show was a great success. (Courtesy: Comedy Collider)

By Hamish Johnston

Bad Boy of Science” Sam Gregson and colleagues are organizing an evening of physics-related comedy at CERN in Geneva on Friday 13 June. “LHComedy: No Cause for ConCERN” will kick off in the CERN Globe at 19:30 and is billed as “a fantastic and innovative new way of presenting the work going on at CERN and engaging with the public”. The line-up from CERN includes Canadian PhD student Nazim “License to Thrill” Hussain, quantum diarist Aidan “The Mole” Randle-Conde and Cat “Schrödinger” Demetriades. You can watch last year’s comedy extravaganza from CERN here. Others involved in the project are Clara Nellis, Alex Brown, Hugo Day, Claire Lee and Rob Knoops.

If that’s not your idea of a fun Friday night, you could stay in and watch this video of a mixture of sugar and sand cascading down a slope. It might sound dull, but amazingly the sand and sugar separate out into alternating stripes. Any ideas why? I’ll give you a hint: the answer involves the “Brazil nut effect”.

If separating sugar from sand sounds like a picnic at the beach gone horribly wrong, how about exploring a virtual universe with alternative laws of physics? That’s the theme of an article in MIT Technology Review entitled “Experiments in Second Life reveal alternative laws of physics”. It describes how the Brazilian physicist Renato dos Santos used the scripting language of the online world Second Life to create worlds with alternative laws of physics. In one case, dos Santos creates a world that obeys the “theory of impetus” that was popularized by the 14th century priest and scientist Jean Buridan. Dos Santos has also made several videos that show how reality unfolds in these worlds, including how a cannonball flies in a Buridanian universe.

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