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Music for aliens, Doctor Strange’s science adviser, the physics of Bob Dylan

Sounds of Earth: An original golden record (Courtesy: NASA)

Sounds of Earth: An original golden record. (Courtesy: NASA)

By Hamish Johnston

An online initiative to reissue Carl Sagan’s golden record, which was attached to NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 craft, has so far raised a whopping $1.1m, smashing its $198,000 goal. The campaign was created in September by David Pescovitz, editor and managing partner at the technology news site Boing Boing, after teaming up with Timothy Daly from Amoeba Music in the US, who was the original producer of the record, as well as US graphic designer Lawrence Azerrad. The original LP, which was created in 1977, contains sounds of the Earth along with recorded greetings and a mix of music, and has been unobtainable for decades, having been available only on CD-ROM in the early 1990s. Now that the cash has been raised, the golden record will be released next year as an LP to mark the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches. So how much will it set you back? It’s yours for only $98, what a bargain.

What would it be like to be science adviser to a superhero? That’s the job (well, sort of) of the physicist Adam Frank, who is based at the University of Rochester in the US. Frank’s day job is the astrophysics of stars, but in his spare time he has been making sure that the physics of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is adhered to in the new film Doctor Strange. In this interview, Frank explains how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has built up a self-consistent set of physics rules that allow for superpowers while maintaining some plausibility.

Bob Dylan’s surprise win of the Nobel Prize for Literature has got the Internet buzzing again about a quintet of scientists in Sweden who have spent the past two decades trying to sneak bits of Dylan’s lyrics into their research papers. Sadly none of the scientists are physicists, but they have produced a few gems such as the titles “Nitric oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind” and “Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era”.

Here’s a physics-related title that I just dreamt up: “You ain’t goin’ nowhere: measuring the coefficient of static friction”. My colleague James Dacey has done one better with “En-tangled up in blue”.

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