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Cat-chy quantum song, science TV resurrected, $800,000 textbook, desk traffic lights


By Sarah Tesh 

I never realized it until now, but my life was missing a song about Schrödinger’s cat. Well, theoretical physicist, science writer and now singer/song writer Sabine Hossenfelder  has come to the rescue with a song about quantum states. This is her second music video done in collaboration artists Apostolos Vasilidis and Timo Alho. The rather cat-chy tune not only includes lyrics about quantum entanglement, Boltzmann brains and the multiverse, but also fits in references to Star Trek and The Matrix. In her BackReaction blog, Hossenfelder says, “If you think this one’s heavy on the nerdism, wait for the next.” We’re looking forward to it!

There was once a TV series on the BBC called Tomorrow’s World. It ran from 1965 to 2003, covering developments in science and technology including the rise of home computers and the invention of cordless phones. Now, the BBC is bringing it back (kind of). Joining forces with the Royal Society, Open University, London’s Science Museum and the Wellcome Trust, the BBC is launching a year-long series of the classic show. “Our aim is to make science personal with the biggest scientific partnership we have ever convened to answer the big questions relevant to everyone,” says the BBC. The revived Tomorrow’s World will feature famous scientists including Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox and Hannah Fry, as well as science enthusiasts such as comedian Robert Llewellyn. As well as more than 40 hours of TV, there will be a range of online products such as podcasts, articles and debates. My only hope is that the final product has a better female to male ratio than this press release picture.

Physics textbooks are not always the cheapest read. But the dedication copy of Galileo Galilei’s last great work takes the cake, having just been sold for €727,919 ($791,190). Considered to be the “first modern textbook in physics”, Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica & i movimenti locali (which for those of us that don’t speak Italian means Discourses and mathematical demonstrations relating to Two New Sciences) was published in 1638 and covers much of Galileo’s work from the preceding 30 years. While this particular copy is one of the 50 most valuable scientific documents of all time, an English version can be found online for free.

Productivity in the work place can sometimes be elusive when you are just too popular with your colleagues. To solve the problem, scientists in the US and Switzerland have developed a desk traffic light, dubbed FlowLight, that goes from green to red when you are “in the zone”. The do-not-disturb signal automatically turns on when it measures a certain level of activity on your mouse and keyboard. It is designed to increase productivity by stopping interruptions while you are focused on a task, and a large-scale test with 450 employees around the world showed positive results. Of course, mouse and keyboard activity isn’t necessarily a sign someone is working hard — you could be reading a long document online which means little mouse movement, or have lots of keyboard activity because you are   writing a long personal email. The researchers are therefore developing a more advanced version that could use biometric sensors that detect heart rate, pupil dilation or even brainwave activity.

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