Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Acme Klein Bottle

Klein bottles are kind of like the three-dimensional equivalents of Moebius strips. Actually, they are three-dimensional representations of four-dimensional objects, which do not have an inside or an outside. Rather, those objects have one continuous surface. And now, a company exists that creates Klein bottles made out of glass! Also, buy a Klein bottle wool hat. Fantastic.

Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider -- a huge machine in Switzerland and France that smashes subatomic particles together -- has begun operating. According to an article in the, protons "were whipped to more than 99 percent of the speed of light and to record-high energy levels of 3.5 trillion electron volts apiece raced around a 17-mile underground magnetic track outside Geneva a little after 1 p.m. local time. They crashed together inside apartment-building-size detectors designed to capture every evanescent flash and fragment from microscopic fireballs thought to hold insights into the beginning of the universe."

(The photograph is from the CERN website.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Poincare Conjecture

Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman has won the Millennium Prize for solving the Poincare Conjecture, but he is not yet sure whether he will accept the $1 million prize. The prize is awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Poincare Conjecture is the first problem on a list of seven that the Institute thought were noteworthy. This guy already, in 2004, skipped the ceremony in Spain when he was supposed to receive the Fields Medal, one of the highest awards in theoretical mathematics. Fascinating...

(The photograph shows Perelman giving the Simons lectures at MIT, and was taken by Tom Mrowka.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life Underground

A recent story from Robert Boyd, at the McClatchy news service, reports that scientists now believe that "nearly half the living material on our planet is hidden in or beneath the ocean or in rocks, soil, tree roots, mines, oil wells, lakes and aquifers on the continents." Wow. Apparently, at the December 2009 gathering of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Katrina Edwards -- a microbiologist at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles -- claimed that "The organisms that live in this environment may collectively have a mass equivalent to that of all of Earth's surface dwellers and may provide keys to solving major environmental, agricultural and industrial problems." And, marine geologists are preparing to drill in six locations under the world's oceans to install "observatories" that will be linked to on-land research stations. Fantastic!