Force & Motion
The Fluid Physics of Flocks
December 09, 2015
This week's PhysicsCentral podcast dives into the fluid dynamics that govern collective motion, like schools of fish and flocks of birds.
Science and Entertainment
June 24, 2015
From the physics behind Thor's Hammer to the beautiful black hole renderings of Interstellar, science has a lot to offer the film industry and vice versa. What does it take to pull off a successful collaboration?
May 06, 2015
New satellite tracks Earth's changing climate from variations in its gravity.
April 08, 2015
California may not be at risk of sliding into the ocean, but how realistic are disaster movie earthquakes? Geologists gave us the scoop on Hollywood earthquakes in anticipation for this summer's disaster flick: San Andreas.
How Robocats Land on Their Feet
March 25, 2015
How do falling cats always land on their feet? Physicists have been uncovering the answer with some help from a robocat.
The Science of Shakespeare (Repost)
January 21, 2015
Shakespeare grew up during the scientific revolution, and it may have directly influenced his works. Some even argue that his plays served as allegories for scientific debates. (Originally published on April 23, 2014).
Listening for Black Holes & Neutron Stars
November 19, 2014
Scientists around the world are trying to catch some waves, some gravitational waves. Find out what these warps in space-time are, the ways to find them and how we could use them to "listen" to the movements of black holes and neutron stars.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
November 12, 2014
How do scientists study the Earth's core without directly accessing it? And how does the Earth's formation influence a potential flip in its magnetic field?
42 Yoctonewtons: The Smallest Recorded Force
July 09, 2014
Physicists have recorded the smallest force yet, and they're barreling toward the theoretical limit of how sensitive measurements can be.
June News Roundup
June 18, 2014
An asteroid nicknamed "The Beast," Earth's most abundant material, bridgmanite, and the surprisingly strong sight of frogs' eyes roundup this month in physics news.
Fresnel and the Lighthouse
June 04, 2014
Shipwrecks abounded in the early 1800's; in fact, over 100 ships wrecked in the English Channel in 1816 alone. So a physicist developed a new type of lens that dramatically increased the range of lighthouses - and the safety of sailors. This is his story.
Phase Transitions and Bull Sperm
March 12, 2014
New research found a striking resemblance between bull sperm behavior and phase transitions found in physics, and this may lead to applications in contraception and infertility treatments.
Olympic Snowboard Physics
February 19, 2014
Our resident snowboarding expert James Riordon explains the physics behind one of the most exciting Olympic sports.
Weather Physics 101
January 08, 2014
Predicting the U.S.'s recent, extreme cold snap helped millions prepare and reminds us of the closely intertwined history of both forecasting and physics.
Weightlessness in Movies
October 16, 2013
Alfonso Cuaron, the director of the new movie Gravity, had to re-create weightlessness for his sci-fi thriller. So how do filmmakers simulate weightlessness, and how close is their movie magic to reality?
Clapping Wet Hands
September 11, 2013
Clapping wet hands together can make a fun and messy game, but it's also a physics experiment. Physicist Sunny Jung discusses how does the thin film of fluid transform into droplets, and what can physicists do with that information.
August 28, 2013
Myths abound in the world of bicycle materials, so Mike has untangled what truly makes for a smooth ride. Is it the material or the design?
June 19, 2013
A new study shows that while cheetahs are still the fastest land
animal on Earth, it's not their speed that makes the great hunters;
it's their acceleration. What's the difference? For that we turn to
Read more on this podcast's blog post
June 05, 2013
Calla investigates the physics tornadoes and how scientists aim to better predict when, where and how twisters form.
Read more on this podcast's blog post
May 22, 2013
See how NASCAR teams use physics to boost speed while keeping their drivers safe on the track.
Read more on this podcast's blog post
Super Sticky Gecko Adhesive
May 01, 2013
A material inspired by gecko toe pads might be the ideal household adhesive: it can support hundreds of pounds but peels off
Destructive Domino Effect
January 31, 2013
Did you know that with the right set-up you could knock down a
building with nothing but a breath of air? Find out how on this week's podcast.
Let's go ride a bike
November 28, 2012
Between 1860 and 1885, cyclists who wanted both efficiency and speed
rode what we now call "penny farthings," or bicycles with front wheels
as large at five feet in diameter. Why the big wheels? And why don't
we have bikes like those anymore? The answer, as you might suspect,
Dance your PhD
October 31, 2012
Today on the physics buzz podcast we talk with Diana Davis, winner of the Dance Your PhD contest in the physics division. Check out Davis' winning entry on our blog, then listen to Davis address misconceptions about math research, and the shape of our universe.
Ig Nobel Prizes
September 26, 2012
The physics of ponytails, the fluid dynamics of coffee cups and zombie fish are just some of the highlights from this year's annual Ig Nobel Prizes, celebrating science that makes you laugh, then makes you think.
July 25, 2012
Even though Hollywood films aren't known for being completely scientifically accurate all of the time, the writers of some of the biggest films and TV shows have been relying on their science advisors to make the science in science fiction all the more believable.
Who is Enrico Fermi?
July 18, 2012
Physicist Enrico Fermi has his name attached to a number of monumental physics items, like Fermilab, fermions and fermium. Who was Fermi, what did he do to earn so much notoriety and the title of "universal physicist"? We'll try to find out in today's podcast.
How the Hippies Saved Physics
July 04, 2012
Dr. David Kaiser, author of the book "How the Hippies Saved Physics"
talks about how the culture of the 1970's influenced physics, and
brought the philosophical exploration of quantum mechanics back into
June 13, 2012
A single sheet of paper is easy to tear, but why, then, do crumpled balls of newspaper work as cushioning in packing boxes? Physicists are studying this unique architecture that maximizes the inherent strength of paper.
Snakes and Bombs
March 14, 2012
Calla and Mike pay a visit to the APS March Meeting to learn about scientists studying slithering snakes and to discuss how magnetic fields are leading to better bomb detection.
December 07, 2011
Over billions of years, living creatures have evolved elegant solutions to complex engineering problems that humans are just starting to figure out. Fish and whales have developed ways to swim efficiently in the ocean, which researchers are now hoping to adapt for power generating wind turbines.
September 14, 2011
10 years after the towers fell the reflecting pools are about to open to commemorate this tragic event. Join Calla Cofield as she reflects on the physics of the falling towers and lessons for future presidents.
September 07, 2011
The Physics Central team recently got some first-hand experience with the physics of earthquakes.
April 20, 2011
Inventor and former rodeo rider Stephen Wharton uses physics to measure the power of bucking bulls.
March 23, 2011
The carnivorous bladderwort is the fastest carnivorous plant known to
man. It achieves this awesome title with the power of physics.
The Cat Lap
February 03, 2011
After watching his own cat lapping up its breakfast one morning, MIT Engineer Roman Stocker wanted to know just how the cat moved liquid from the bowl to its mouth. The answer is unexpected, and it involves some interesting physics.
Whale Flipper Bumps
October 02, 2008
Why are humpback whales more agile in the water than other whales? Scientists discovered that the bumps on humpback flippers decrease water turbulence. This allows the humpback whales to tilt their flippers up and achieve greater lift over other whales and hence gives more maneuverability.
Back Flip Limit
September 04, 2008
Scientists have calculated that 4 back flips is the upper limit for a dare devil motorcyclist. The energy required for the height and rotation of 4 back flips is the maximum amount of energy that the motorcycle can produce.
Force & Motion
Frozen Powder Drops
November 19, 2012
Water Droplets "freeze" into unique shapes when impacting a special powder at high velocities.
October 15, 2012
When falling onto another liquid layer, water droplets typically bounce then coalesce. If the surface is vibrating, however, the droplets will continue bouncing, as seen in this video.
September 21, 2012
First-ever study aims to help in developing improved child helmets.
August 31, 2012
Newly detected particle could supply missing piece of cosmic puzzle.
Robots and snakes
June 27, 2012
Mechanical engineers mimic snakes to build better robots.
Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls
April 23, 2012
Biomechanics researchers are using a special slip simulator to study ways to reduce worker injures associated with tripping and falling.
January 02, 2012
Atmospheric Scientists Find that Planes Can Cause Rain and Snow Inadvertently
November 28, 2011
Physical Therapists Use Simulation Technology to Identify Areas of Concern in Injured Athletes
Inside the NIH
November 21, 2011
Therapists Use New Therapy Systems to Help Disabled Get Most Effective Treatment
Fly Fishing Physics
July 18, 2011
Biologists and fly fishing experts explain the physics of the sport and the trick to the ideal cast.
Perfection on Ice
June 20, 2011
Biomechanists are helping ice skaters improve their performances, using motion capture technology to study skaters' movements.
Engineering For Earthquakes
May 16, 2011
Structural engineers designed a building foundation that can help to minimize damage when an earthquake strikes.
April 04, 2011
Engineers found that in certain areas of the basketball court, bank shots- which hit the backboard and fall into the net- can improve success by up to 20 percent, by using just a couple laws of physics.
New Approach to ACL Repair
March 07, 2011
Orthopedic surgeons are revolutionizing a traditional surgery that restores a vital component of the knee that helps keeps us stable on our feet, the anterior cruciate ligament. Traditional surgery can restore front-to-back stability in the knee, but the new surgery adds additional stability by creating a better fit for the repair- creating rotational stability and minimizing failure.
Girls Changing Science
February 14, 2011
Earth scientists, oceanographers and engineers worked with the youngest of scientists on real research contributing to real issues in today's world. Claire, only 9 years old, studied water runoff in her home town's grass soccer fields and compared it with runoff on turf fields. She found chemicals in both fields that sometimes exceeded levels set by the Government. In another project, a fourth grader named Olivia helped with a bio-inspired design for dropping emergency packs from great heights.
Forecasting Floods in 3D
October 25, 2010
Hydrologists at the USGS created a map that turns the weather forecast into a flood forecast in one hour. By adding the amount of approaching rain to the local geography and using physics equations, the flood map can show when and where a flood will occur and how deep the water will be to better prepare when storms hit.
New and Improved Wind Power
December 04, 2009
Mechanical engineers create wind turbine that responds to the wind, maximizes power generation.
Inside the Wind
November 20, 2009
Aerospace engineers use wind tunnel to study hurricane-strength winds.
Smart Bridge Keeping Drivers Safe
November 06, 2009
Civil engineers installed approximately 400 sensors in a bridge to monitor how corrosion, temperature and traffic loans impact the structure.
Science Behind Strikeouts
July 10, 2009
Kinesiologists use the principles of physics to explain why a fastball pitch in baseball is hard to hit and how a curveball gets its motion.
NASA Saving Lives
September 12, 2008
Earth Scientists and Meteorologists Create Historically-Based, Realistic Weather Animations
September 10, 2008
Electrical Engineers and Meteorologists Devise Method to Measure Strength of Lightning Strikes on Tall Buildings
Knowing Where Tornadoes Will Strike
August 01, 2008
Meteorologists recently studied the effect of gravity waves on tornado formation. They found that when gravity waves push down on rotating thunderstorms the storm compresses and spins faster. Being able to recognize and track gravity waves before they reach thunderclouds allows meteorologists to better predict tornadoes, increasing both the accuracy of their predictions and the amount of warning time that they can provide.
A Better Golf Game
January 01, 2005
Researchers have designed a golf ball that tends to fly straighter even when a putter unintentionally "slices" it which ordinarily causes it to curve to one side. The new ball has a hollow, metal core that shifts the ball's mass -- or weight -- to the outside. This helps the ball spin less and fly straighter as it sails through the air.
Surviving Hard Hits
January 01, 2005
Engineers have developed more protective padding for football players. Unlike traditional padding, the new putty-like material can be molded into protective gear to fit a player's body and better guard against injury. The squashy material redistributes the force from a hit evenly through the material to lessen the impact on a player's body.