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Exoplanet christening, physics on the catwalk, ultrasonic wine

Whiskey aging barrels

Quick spirit: ultrasonic waves speed up the ageing process. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Bbadgett)

By Sarah Tesh

Last week NASA announced the major find of seven Earth-like exoplanets orbiting a nearby dwarf star. The news that at least three of the seven could possibly support life was reported far and wide. Yet, as with most astronomical finds, the planets do not have the most imaginative names. Simply named after the star they orbit, they are currently called TRAPPIST-1a to TRAPPIST-1h. So NASA took to Twitter with the request #7NamesFor7NewPlanets and the public delivered. Suggestions have included the names of lost astronauts, famous composers and ancient deities. But naturally, there were also some less sensible contributions, including the seven dwarfs, many Harry Potter references, dedications to Pluto and, obviously, Planet McPlanetface 1 to 7.

Physics collided with fashion at the Saint Laurent Fall 2017 show this week. One of the talking points of the catwalk was a pair of heeled shoes without a traditional heel. Instead, the vertical component of the shoe was missing and the angled shank (part of the supportive structure between the insole and outsole) was only supported by a flat heel along the ground. In an attempt to understand exactly how the model did not fall over, Vogue writer Liana Satenstein contacted Michael Tuts of Columbia University. The article on the “physics-defying” shoes was one of Vogue’s most read this week.

Scientists in Spain have used ultrasound waves to speed up the wine ageing process that makes brandy. In doing so, they have managed to cut the timescales down from years to mere days. The ultrasound waves encourage the usually slow chemical reactions between the spirits and their wood casks. The finding could lead to a range of novel spirits and help lead to better aged wines.

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