It’s Sunday and, as always, let’s look at what’s been going on in the world of physics. Here is a summary of the top 3 physics news with some additional links added below. If you would like to receive these news, as well as free physics books, videos and articles straight to your email box, register for our email newsletter here.
Under certain conditions water can bounce like a ball and roll down a ramp. This phenomenon occurs because Julie Crockett and her colleague Dan Maynes at BYU have created a sloped channel that is super-hydrophobic, or a surface that is extremely difficult to wet. Their recent study on the subject, published in academic journal Physics of Fluids, finds surfaces with a pattern of microscopic ridges or posts, combined with a hydrophobic coating, produces a high level of water resistance—depending on how the water hits the surface.
“Our research is geared toward helping to create the ideal super-hydrophobic surface,” Crockett said. “By characterizing the specific properties of these different surfaces, we can better pinpoint which types of surfaces are most advantageous for each application.” The super-hydrophobic surfaces can be applied in solar panels, showers, airplanes, ships and so on.
A fascinating paper has been recently published on arXiv by University of Cambridge physicist Luke Butcher. The paper suggests that there might exist a certain type of wormhole that is capable of staying open long enough for a photon to pass through—which of course suggests the possibility of sending messages back in time, among other exotic possibilities. The research, of course, is only at the initial stages and is purely theoretical. However, Butcher hopes that the paper will shine some light on certain features of wormholes and will inspire further research. To read the abstract and the full paper use the link above.
The unified theory of active, supermassive black holes, first developed in the late 1970s, was created to explain why black holes, though similar in nature, can look completely different. Some appear to be shrouded in dust, while others are exposed and easy to see. Now a survey of more than 170,000 supermassive black holes, using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), has astronomers reexamining a decades-old theory about the varying appearances of these interstellar objects.
The unified model proposes that every black hole is surrounded by a dusty, doughnut-shaped structure called a torus. Depending on how these “doughnuts” are oriented in space, the black holes will take on various appearances. The new WISE results, however, do not corroborate this theory. The scientists found evidence that something other than a doughnut structure may, in some circumstances, determine whether a black hole is visible or hidden. The team has not yet determined what this may be, but the results suggest the unified, or doughnut, model does not have all the answers. To find out more, use the link above.