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Physics graduate is just 14, high drama at the LHC, the physics of number two


By Hamish Johnston and Michael Banks

Carson Huey-You was just 11 years old when he arrived at Texas Christian University to study physics. Now, at the ripe old age of 14, he is about to graduate, according to an article in the Huffington Post. “I knew I wanted to do physics when I was in high school, but then quantum physics was the one that stood out to me, because it was abstract,” says Huey-You. Most American children start high school at age 14, but Huey-You was learning calculus by the time he was three – a subject usually reserved for high school seniors. And precociousness runs in the family because his younger brother Cannan is starting university in September aged 11. The siblings are delightful and interviewed in the above video.

Fancy watching a play that features the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Peter Higgs as characters? The Earthworks opens at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon on 24 May. According to this preview in the Guardian, the play is “a human story based around the interaction between a scientist working at CERN and a journalist reporting on the historic moment” when the LHC is first switched on. In one scene, the two heroes rush to a hotel where they try to wake Peter Higgs so that he can explain the science of the collider. The play is by Tom Morton-Smith who also wrote Oppenheimer – which charts the life of J Robert Oppenheimer and was an unexpected hit for the RSC in 2015. Physics World’s Margaret Harris described Oppenheimer as a “stunning drama”. Will The Earthworks garner similar praise from our discerning critics?

Four years ago David Hu and colleagues at Georgia Tech derived the “law of urination” by painstakingly analysing videos of animals relieving themselves. They found that mammals ranging in size from a cat to an elephant all take around 21 s (give or take 13 s) to empty their bladders. Now, the researchers are back for more IgNobel-prize-worthy research with a study of the physics of animal defecation. By watching videos of various mammals doing their business at Atlanta Zoo, Hu’s team has found that they all take around 12 s to defecate. This is despite the fact that the length of the rectum in the animals ranged from 4 cm in cats to 40 cm in elephants. Although larger animals have more faeces – elephants can produce a volume of 20 litres – the team speculates that big animals have a thicker layer of mucus in the large intestine than smaller mammals, and this aids ejection. While this number-two study focuses on cylindrical faeces, the team is now planning to work on pellet-like poo from rodents as well as cubical droppings, which wombats apparently produce. So any guess in which journal the research was published? Soft Matter, of course.

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