Category: physics

Black Holes, Quantum Information, and the Stru…

Black Holes, Quantum Information, and the Structure of Spacetime:


The Genius of Marie Curie



Growing up in Warsaw in Russian-occupied Poland, the young Marie Curie, originally named Maria Sklodowska, was a brilliant student, but she faced some challenging barriers. As a woman, she was barred from pursuing higher education, so in an act of defiance, Marie enrolled in the Floating University, a secret institution that provided clandestine education to Polish youth. By saving money and working as a governess and tutor, she eventually was able to move to Paris to study at the reputed Sorbonne. here, Marie earned both a physics and mathematics degree surviving largely on bread and tea, and sometimes fainting from near starvation. 


In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium spontaneously emitted a mysterious X-ray-like radiation that could interact with photographic film. Curie soon found that the element thorium emitted similar radiation. Most importantly, the strength of the radiation depended solely on the element’s quantity, and was not affected by physical or chemical changes. This led her to conclude that radiation was coming from something fundamental within the atoms of each element. The idea was radical and helped to disprove the long-standing model of atoms as indivisible objects. Next, by focusing on a super radioactive ore called pitchblende, the Curies realized that uranium alone couldn’t be creating all the radiation. So, were there other radioactive elements that might be responsible?


In 1898, they reported two new elements, polonium, named for Marie’s native Poland, and radium, the Latin word for ray. They also coined the term radioactivity along the way. By 1902, the Curies had extracted a tenth of a gram of pure radium chloride salt from several tons of pitchblende, an incredible feat at the time. Later that year, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel were nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics, but Marie was overlooked. Pierre took a stand in support of his wife’s well-earned recognition. And so both of the Curies and Becquerel shared the 1903 Nobel Prize, making Marie Curie the first female Nobel Laureate.


In 1911, she won yet another Nobel, this time in chemistry for her earlier discovery of radium and polonium, and her extraction and analysis of pure radium and its compounds. This made her the first, and to this date, only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. Professor Curie put her discoveries to work, changing the landscape of medical research and treatments. She opened mobile radiology units during World War I, and investigated radiation’s effects on tumors.


However, these benefits to humanity may have come at a high personal cost. Curie died in 1934 of a bone marrow disease, which many today think was caused by her radiation exposure. Marie Curie’s revolutionary research laid the groundwork for our understanding of physics and chemistry, blazing trails in oncology, technology, medicine, and nuclear physics, to name a few. For good or ill, her discoveries in radiation launched a new era, unearthing some of science’s greatest secrets.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The genius of Marie Curie – Shohini Ghose

Animation by Anna Nowakowska

Happy Birthday to Marie Curie!

Quantum to Cosmos

Quantum to Cosmos:

Worth a visit, no doubt.

A fluid-to-solid “jamming” transition, seen in…

A fluid-to-solid “jamming” transition, seen in materials like glass and foams, has been observed in the developing tissues of zebrafish embryos. Cells in the elongating tail (yellow) “melt apart” to become more pliable but stay packed like a solid further up the body to fix changes in place.

Credit: Brian Long, UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering

Via Quanta Magazine‘Traffic Jams’ of Cells Help to Sculpt Embryos – By measuring mechanical forces inside an embryo for the first time, researchers have shown how a physical “jamming” mechanism assists development.

Congratulations to the winners!!

Well, after three years of Nobel Prizes in Physics to (mostly) theoretical physicists, this year it goes to Applied Physics (Optics, specifically, Laser physics), and the winners are:


Press release

– Popular Science Background: Tools made of light

Congratulations to the winners!!

2018 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition

2018 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition

Above my favorite (second place):

Laser propagating inside a soap membrane. Technique: Reflected Light Epi-Illumination. Dr. Miguel Bandres – Anatoly Patsyk. Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

I recommend take a look both winning videos and honorable mentions.

Of course the winner is awesome too:

Zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system (visualized over 16 hours of development). Technique: Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM). Dr. Elizabeth Haynes – Jiaye “Henry” He. University of Wisconsin – Madison

Is our universe one of many? Stanford-news fiv…

Is our universe one of many?

Stanford-news five-part series on the String Theory Landscape, by Ker Than (illustrations by Eric Nyquist).

Sun’s three-dimensional magnetic field during …

Sun’s three-dimensional magnetic field during one full solar rotation (top), and 

composite image generated from

photographs taken on the day of the total eclipse (bottom left) vs. the model’s predictions (bottom right).

Credits: Predictive Science Inc./Miloslav Druckmüller, Peter Aniol, Shadia Habbal/NASA Goddard, Joy Ng


I do not know, neither do you.

I do not know, neither do you.

Long and Winding Road: A Conversation with Str…

Long and Winding Road: A Conversation with String Theory Pioneer | Caltech:

Cool interview with John Schwarz pioneer and co-father of the first superstring revolution.

“After the 1984 to 1985 breakthroughs in our understanding of superstring theory, the subject no longer could be ignored. At that time it acquired some prominent critics, including Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking. Feynman’s skepticism of superstring theory was based mostly on the concern that it could not be tested experimentally. This was a valid concern, which my collaborators and I shared. However, Feynman did want to learn more, so I spent several hours explaining the essential ideas to him. Thirty years later, it is still true that there is no smoking-gun experimental confirmation of superstring theory, though it has proved its value in other ways. The most likely possibility for experimental support in the foreseeable future would be the discovery of supersymmetry particles. So far, they have not shown up.”