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‘Wizzing’ physics, fundamental prizes, galactic paradoxes and more

By Tushna Commissariat

“Wizzing” to the top of the Red Folder this week is a group of physicists at the “Splash Lab” at Brigham Young University who have studied the physics of “splashback” that occurs when people urinate. Using high-speed cameras the researchers filmed jets of liquid from a “synthetic urethra” striking toilet walls. They found that the stream of liquid breaks up into droplets when it is about 15 cm from the urethra exit. “Wizz kids” Tadd Truscott and Randy Hurd suggest that apart from sitting down on the toilet (and risk being called Sitzpinklers by their German friends), men should get nice and close when doing their business to eliminate splashback. Take a look at their video about “Urinal dynamics” above.

Also this week, the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation announced their 2014 laureates for their Physics Frontiers Prizes and New Horizons in Physics Prizes. The foundation is funded by the Russian investor Yuri Milner, who himself has a degree in physics from Moscow State University, before he began investing in start-up companies such as Facebook and Twitter. The Frontiers prizes “recognize transformative achievements in the field of fundamental physics and aim to provide recipients with more freedom and opportunity to pursue future accomplishments”.  Even those shortlisted who do not win the actual prize will each receive $300,000 (the winner gets a cool $3 million) and will automatically be re-nominated for the next 5 years. The three New Horizons prize winners are “promising researchers” who each receive $100,000.

Both the Quantum Frontiers blog and Peter Woit’s Not Even Wrong blog have some interesting things to say about the prize and this year’s nominees.

Earlier this week, we blogged about the rather startling news that nearly 22% of Sun-like stars could have an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone – meaning that the nearest such planet could be a mere 12 light-years away. Erik Petigura and Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley and Andrew Howard of the University of Hawaii used data from the Kepler mission and found evidence for 10 planets that are about 1–2 times the mass of Earth and receive comparable amounts of stellar energy. They then did some clever work to extrapolate this to obtain their 22% estimate. Following on from that, physicist and author Sean Carroll has written an interesting blog that talks about the Fermi paradox and asks the age-old question “Where is everybody?”

And for some light weekend reading, take a look at the Sochi Olympic torch being taken into space and read about a Canadian family that seems to have a special flair for finding supernovae.

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  1. John Duffield

    Woit gets it right with “The Fundamental Physics Prize” being hijacked by string-theorists. There was a bit about it in Bankrupting Physics by Alexander Unzicker and Sheilla Jones: “Milner’s decision to let the nine theorists who won the first awards select the future winners was a real masterpiece”. I had a laugh at that. Only it isn’t funny. This sort of thing does physics no good at all.

  2. Matin Durrani

    The thing is, it’s Milner’s prize so he can basically do what he likes. John, if you don’t like it, then I suggest you set up your own prize.

  3. John Duffield

    Yes, it’s up to him, Matin. Just as it’s up to me to call it out. That’s no fundamental physics prize. That’s a bestowal for busted-flush string-theory pseudoscience propaganda that will get in the way of scientific progress.

    • M. Asghar

      The Milner’s prize will make no difference, because the string theory or any other theory like the SUSY will be/is being “rubbed” down to the ground of checking and testing and they cannot sustain themselve just as “cobwebs” hanging in the air. As the same time, the unbridled and merely subjective crticism thrown around serves no purpose either.


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