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A particle physics love song, NASA’s space Olympics, wobbling suitcases


By Sarah Tesh

If any physicist couples out there are struggling to find a first-dance song for their wedding, CERN has just come up with the perfect solution. US communications manager Sarah Charley teamed up with grad students Jess Heilman and Tom Perry to produce a particle-physics parody of Howie Day’s song “Collide”. Day came across their music video on Twitter and asked to visit CERN – “I figured it was a long shot, but why not?” The project spiralled from there, leading to Day re-recording the song and filming a new video that features him playing guitar in the LHC tunnel and CERN scientists dancing in their labs.

In another rather unusual combination, NASA presents the AstrOlympics. “What do Olympic athletes and objects in space have in common?” they ask on the website. “The answer is matter in motion, often in extreme examples.” The project looks at how the science behind the feats of elite athletes relates to phenomena throughout the universe. It’s not a competition between the two though – while Usain Bolt may be able to run faster than a car moving at 20 mph, no human stands a chance of moving as fast as the matter ejected from a supernova.

Back on Earth, Olympian or not, most people have probably experienced when a two-wheeled suitcase rocks from side-to-side and ends up overturning. Obviously having had enough of these annoying oscillations, a team of physicists from Paris Diderot University in France has investigated the physics behind it by putting a toy model of a suitcase on a treadmill. Turns out the best way to deal with the problem is not to slow down, but to  pivot the handle as close to the ground as possible or just speed up.

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