Light & Optics
July News Roundup
July 23, 2014
The blackest material ever invented, solar-powered spacecraft, and the crushing environments inside gas giants round up this month in physics news.
Dark Stars and Cosmic Cocktails
July 02, 2014
Supermassive black holes and mysterious dark matter may share a common source: dark stars.
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.
The Science of Shakespeare
April 23, 2014
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.
Earth: The Lucky Planet?
April 10, 2014
Despite estimates that there are trillions of planets in the universe, one scientist argues that we are effectively alone.
Truth from the Skies
March 19, 2014
Learn how one non-profit uses satellite imagery to uncover potential environmental challenges and facilitate the general public direct participation in scientific research.
Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn
February 12, 2014
What is nothing? Science writer Amanda Gefter explores that question and more in her latest book: Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn.
Chris Hadfield Interview
January 29, 2014
Astronaut and Youtube star Chris Hadfield shares his perspective on space, science, and sparking the public's imagination.
Women in Physics
January 22, 2014
How can a degree in physics benefit young women, and how can educators shrink the gender gap in physics? Some answers to these questions have emerged at a recent conference for women in physics.
The Mystery of Massive Star Formation
January 15, 2014
With the aid of enormous telescopes, scientists are beginning to unravel the nebulous births of stellar behemoths.
December 18, 2013
Mike and Calla wrap up the year with their favorite physics stories from 2013.
Apollo's Mystery Flashes
December 11, 2013
After seeing mysterious flashes of light in space, Apollo astronauts started one of NASA's strangest experiments.
No Sign of Primordial Black Holes
November 13, 2013
Black holes that formed in the first few minutes after the big bang could be responsible for dark matter, but new results suggest they must also be extremely small.
Life on Mars?
October 09, 2013
The Curiosity Rover has found water on Mars, but no methane in the atmosphere. What does this mean for potential life on Mars?
Physics for the Blind
August 21, 2013
After losing his sight midway through his physics career, John Gardner developed a technology to help other blind persons in the sciences; but the technology goes far beyond the blind community.
May 29, 2013
A new particle accelerator project is bringing together enemy nations in the Middle East.
Read more on this podcast's blog post
Dating Ancient Water
April 24, 2013
Zheng-Tian Lu and physicists at Argonne National Laboratory can determine the age of water samples from underground sources, pockets of ocean water and glaciers.
You Tube Physics Stars
March 13, 2013
Calla goes behind the scenes of You Tube's most popular physics videos including Minute Physics and Veritasium.
Picasso's Mysterious Paint
February 13, 2013
An art historian and physicist recently teamed up to unravel a mystery surrounding one of Picasso's avant-garde painting methods.
Magic in Science with Steve Spangler
January 16, 2013
Non-traditional science educator Steve Spangler talks about his efforts to instill a sense of wonder in his science demos and experiments.
Winter Physics Roundup
December 12, 2012
Snow is falling, northern lights are glowing, and physics is everywhere this season.
Hiding in the Light
November 09, 2012
New research reveals how tiny crystals fish skin help silvery swimmers hide from predators by reflecting more light. The structures responsible for this creative camouflage could be put to use in man-made reflectors as well.
The Electromagnetic Universe
October 04, 2012
What if we could see beyond visible light? How would we perceive the universe? Calla takes you on a tour of the electromagnetic universe.
Room Temperature Maser
September 12, 2012
A breakthrough 60 years in the making: room temperature masers! Masers can be used as sensors and measuring devices, or as part of an inter-planetary communication system. Today Calla talks with Dr. Mark Oxborrow of Great Britain's National Physical Laboratory about building a room temperature maser, and why physicists are good at sewing.
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
Music and Fractals
May 23, 2012
Using visual imagery to describe sound can help us learn about music.
NASA's Super Black Material
May 09, 2012
Light noise can make it difficult for Astronomers to see the objects they want to study. To help this, engineers have created a material that absorbs 99.8% of incoming light.
Butterlfly IR sensors
February 22, 2012
The Morpho Sulkowsky butterfly uses its flashy iridescent wings to
attract attention, but humans could use those wings in applications
ranging from homeland security to medical imaging. Researchers at the
General Electric Global Research Center attached carbon nanotubes to
real Morpho butterfly wings, and used the resulting structures as
infrared (IR) light sensors, which have applications in medicine,
science, environmental sustainability and the military, to name a few.
Lasers Put Pricks in Past
November 16, 2011
A new laser-based technology may one day make it possible for diabetic patients to monitor their blood-sugar levels non-invasively, without drawing a drop of blood. Hear how scientists are using rather simple laser technology, and a few clever tricks, to solve this medical puzzle.
Faster than Light
September 28, 2011
Last week, a group of physicists announced that they had detected neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. Whether the results are accurate or not will have to wait for results from other experiments. In the mean time Calla Cofield gives a little background on just how much nature is willing to bend the "faster than light" rule.
August 03, 2011
Scientists have created the first "living laser," using a human cell. Calla Cofield explains the basic physics behind traditional lasers, and how the living laser uses the same principles.
Gamma Ray Vision
March 16, 2011
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope lets us look at the universe in gamma ray vision: the highest energy, shortest wavelength form of light there is. But what we see in the gamma ray sky presents some big questions. Calla Cofield talks with Keith Bechtol, a researcher with the FGST Collaboration.
Glowing Snail Shells
January 12, 2011
These shells glow! Learn what makes these snails glow and why they glow in this podcast.
December 08, 2010
Most of the colors we see everyday arise from chemicals like dyes. Unlike these colors, iridescence arises from structure. Iridescent objects change color depending on the angle that light hits the object. Scientists have been able to create this iridescent structure in glass.
USA Celebrates Science
November 03, 2010
Mike Lucibella takes us on a journey through the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall.
New Years Physics Resolutions Part 2
January 23, 2009
In this podcast we describe some of the major experiments and concepts that physicists hope to resolve this year. This is part 2 of 3.
August 21, 2008
A certain bug has a material on its back that reflects light similar to crystal structure of diamonds.