Bird migration, new research

This video says about itself:

Physics of Bird Migration

29 April 2013

It is spring and we went to check out the migratory birds returning from their winter grounds. It is pretty incredible to think that some of them have crossed deserts and oceans on their journeys, and they still manage to find their way back to the same locations every year.

For example, did you know that the Arctic Tern is the World Record holder when it comes to migration amongst birds? It spends Northern Hemisphere summers in the Arctic and then for winter it flies all the way to the Antarctic! Absolutely crazy to think that in one year it has seen more of the world than most of us will in a lifetime. In this week’s video we take a look at the physics behind a few of the adaptations that the birds have evolved to be able to perform these annual migrations. Enjoy!

Produced by: Jonas Stenstrom

Filming help by: Louise Fornander & John-Mehdi Ghaddas

From the Annual Review of Physiology (2015):

The Neural Basis of Long-Distance Navigation in Birds


Migratory birds can navigate over tens of thousands of kilometers with an accuracy unobtainable for human navigators. To do so, they use their brains. In this review, we address how birds sense navigation- and orientation-relevant cues and where in their brains each individual cue is processed. When little is currently known, we make educated predictions as to which brain regions could be involved.

We ask where and how multisensory navigational information is integrated and suggest that the hippocampus could interact with structures that represent maps and compass information to compute and constantly control navigational goals and directions. We also suggest that the caudolateral nidopallium could be involved in weighing conflicting pieces of information against each other, making decisions, and helping the animal respond to unexpected situations. Considering the gaps in current knowledge, some of our suggestions may be wrong. However, our main aim is to stimulate further research in this fascinating field. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Physiology Volume 78 is February 10, 2016. Please see for revised estimates.

Einstein and light, new film

This video says about itself:

22 January 2015

Official trailer for the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL2015), by Nickolas Barris.

This trailer kicked off the official United Nations/UNESCO opening ceremony of the IYL2015 in Paris on January 19, 2015.

The concept of this video ‘propagated light from the cosmos activating life on earth’, is based on Barris’ documentary film Einstein’s Light, which is in production and will be released in September 2015.

‘Einstein was wrong’, new research claims

This video says about itself:

Dutch Physicists Teleport Quantum Information

3 June 2014

For the first time, physicists from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have reportedly been able to teleport information between a pair of quantum bits that are about ten feet apart. The ability to do this pokes a hole in Einstein’s theory about entanglement or connection of particles that are light years apart, and how the state of a particle instantly affects the state of another particle.

For the first time with 100 percent accuracy, physicists from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft, at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have reportedly been able to teleport information between a pair of quantum bits that are about ten feet apart.

The ability to do this pokes a hole in Einstein’s disbelief in entanglement where particles remain connected with the state of one particle instantly affecting the state of another despite being light years apart.

There are several groups of scientists working on similar projects, and the Dutch researchers have been able to reliably teleport the information by trapping electrons in diamonds at extremely low temperatures, and observing their electron spins.

Ronald Hanson, a physicist who leads the group at Delft University of Technology is quoted as saying: “There is a big race going on between five or six groups to prove Einstein wrong. There is one very big fish.”

Now that they have been able to repeatedly teleport the information from ten feet away, the researchers want to see if they can send the information between even further distances.

This development might make it possible to have a faster generation of computer systems that also operate on completely secure communication networks.

From The Economist in Britain:

Hidden no more

One of the weirdest bits of physics is proved beyond doubt (almost)

Oct 24th 2015

IN THE 1930s Albert Einstein was greatly troubled by a phenomenon that emerged from quantum theory. Entanglement, as it is called, forever intertwines the fates of objects such as subatomic particles, regardless of their separation. If you measure, say, “up” for the spin of one photon from an entangled pair, the theory suggests that the spin of the other, measured an instant later, will surely be “down”—even if the two are on opposite sides of the galaxy. This was anathema to Einstein and others: it looked as if information was travelling faster than light, a no-no in the special theory of relativity. Einstein was quotably derisive, calling the idea “spooky action at a distance”. But after 80 years of physicists’ fretting, a cunning experiment reported this week proves that such action is in fact how the world works.

To save physics from the spooky, Einstein invoked what he called hidden variables (though others might describe them as fiddle factors) that would convey information without breaking the universal speed limit. It took until 1964, though, to tame this woolly idea into testable equations. John Bell, a British physicist, worked out the maximum effect hidden variables could have on a given test. Any influence beyond that, his equations suggested, must be down to spooky action. The Bell inequality, as it became known, sparked decades of clever experiments—sending entangled photons or atoms hither and thither with detectors triggered by this or that—each designed to catch nature out, to banish hidden variables once and for all.

Yet a number of loopholes remained—ways that hidden variables might exert some influence, though the purported mechanisms became increasingly contrived as years and experimental finesse advanced. One was the detection loophole. Reliably catching a single photon, for example, is tricky; lots of them go amiss in a given experiment. But if an experiment does not capture all of its participants, the loophole idea goes, perhaps hidden variables convey information through the missing ones. Another was the communication loophole. If the two measurements happen near enough to one another, some invisible hidden-variable signal might be passing between them (as long as that signal does not go faster than light).

Plenty of experiments have closed one or the other of these loopholes, for example by detecting particles that are more reliably caught than photons, or by sending photons so far apart that no slower-than-light signal could flit between them in time to have an effect. By now, most physicists reckon the hidden-variable idea is flawed. But no test had closed both loopholes simultaneously—until this week, that is.

Ronald Hanson of the University of Delft and his colleagues, writing in Nature, describe an experiment that starts with two electrons in laboratories separated by more than a kilometre. Each emits a photon that travels down a fibre to a third lab, where the two photons are entangled. That, in turn, entangles the electrons that generated the photons. The consequence is easily measured particles (the electrons) separated by a distance that precludes any shifty hidden-variable signalling.

Over 18 days, the team measured how correlated the electron measurements were. Perhaps expectedly, yet also oddly, they were far more so than chance would allow—proving quantum mechanics is as weird as Einstein had feared.

Though this experiment marks an end to hidden variables, Dr Hanson says it is also a beginning: that of unassailably secure, quantum-enabled cryptography. It was shown in 1991 that the very Bell tests used to probe hidden variables could also serve as a check on quantum cryptography. A loophole-free Bell test, then, could unfailingly reveal if a hacker had interfered with the fundamentally random, quantum business of generating a cryptographic key. So-called device-independent quantum ciphers would, Dr Hanson says, be secure from hackers “even if you don’t trust your own equipment—even if it’s been given to you by the NSA”.

There remains, alas, one hitch that could explain all these counterintuitive findings. Just maybe, every single event that will ever be, from experimenters’ choices of the means of measurement to the choice of article you will read next, were all predetermined at the universe’s birth, and all these experiments are playing out just as predetermined. That, however, is one for the metaphysicists.

See also here.

Ferguson, USA and Albert Einstein

This video from the USA says about itself:

Arise America: Einstein’s Stance on Racism

16 December 2014

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein is well known for his contributions to science, but not so publicized are his efforts to speak out against racism in the United States, as evidenced by papers written by Einstein recently made public. Ze’ev Rosenkranz, assistant director and senior editor of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology, joins Arise America to discuss this little known side of Einstein.

From the classical music blog Slipped Disc in Britain, by Norman Lebrecht:

Albert Einstein’s message to Ferguson, Missouri

August 11, 2015

The immortal physicist, moral philosopher and fervent violinist was so disturbed by the state of racial relations in his American homeland that in 1946 he published an agonised denunciation of ‘this deeply entrenched evil.’

The [American] sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

His message went, and still goes, unheard.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

Read the full article here.

Armed white men from Oath Keepers arrive in Ferguson, stoking tension: here.

Black Lives Matter protesters commemorate Michael Brown in New York City: here.

15-year-old schoolboy discovers new planet

This video from England is called Schoolboy finds new planet… while on work experience: Teenager spotted Jupiter-sized globe 1,000 light-years away.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Schoolboy on work experience discovers planet

Newcastle-under-Lyme pupil Tom Wagg spotted dip in light which revealed existence of a planet while on placement at Keele University two years ago

Jessica Elgot

Thursday 11 June 2015 17.12 BST

A schoolboy doing work experience with an astrophysics professor has discovered a new planet 1,000 light years from Earth.

Newcastle-under-Lyme school pupil Tom Wagg was 15 when he went for his work placement at Keele University, where he spotted a minuscule dip in the light from a faraway star that he knew could be caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Wagg kept in touch with the university’s Prof Coel Hellier while the potential planet was analysed by scientists from the universities of Geneva and Liege.

Two years later, the 17-year-old got the call confirming his discovery was indeed a new planet – a large gas planet with similar properties to Jupiter in the southern constellation of Hydra. Its characteristics mean it is very unlikely to support any form of life.

Although credited with the discovery, Wagg has not been allowed to name the planet he discovered, which will be decided by competition entries co-ordinated by the International Astronomical Union.

The new planet has been temporarily termed WASP-142b, because it is 142nd discovery by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project, whose data Wagg had been searching through.

“I had no idea what kind of work I’d be doing on the placement, let alone what I’d discover,” Wagg said. “When I realised what it could be I was astonished, it’s been a real boost to me to carry on with science.”

Hellier said he had been impressed by his “bright” work experience pupil and said that good observation skills had been key to spotting the small dip which revealed the planet’s existence.

“Humans are far better at doing this than a computer algorithm,” he said. “It’s not that rare to discover a planet – we’ve probably discovered 1000 in the last 10 years – but I’m not aware of any others being discovered on work experience.”

Wagg admitted he was a little sad he would not necessarily have the planet named after him. “In a way I am sad, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be, I understand why it’s a competition,” he said. “I do hope it encourages other people to know that anyone can find a planet, if they get access to the data and they know what to look for.”

Wagg, who is studying physics, maths, further maths and latin for A-level next year, plans to continue with physics at university. But he has not quite decided whether he will be pursing planets.

“I’m torn between particle physics and astrophysics, which seem on the face of it pretty different because one deals with the smallest things in the universe, and the other with the biggest,” the young scientist said.

“But actually, there are real similarities because if you study one, you can understand both, because the laws of physics apply to everything. That’s the beauty of science.”

Albert Einstein visual arts exhibition

This is a video about a 2008 exhibition in the Lakenhal and Boerhaave museums in Leiden, the Netherlands about the Kamerlingh Onnes family. Some people in that family were physicists (with a special interest in cold temperatures), some were visual artists.

Albert Einstein, 1920 drawing by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Albert Einstein in Leiden museum

Today, 19:23

Leiden artist Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (1893-1985) has portrayed twenty renowned scholars in the years when they visited his uncle, the Nobel Prize winner Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. Among them was Albert Einstein. Boerhaave Museum in Leiden has now acquired these sketches and drawings. The majority was not known until now.

Harm was in 1920 and 1921 also regularly found in the laboratory of his uncle Heike, who was doing research on absolute zero temperature (-273 ° C). He made portraits and recorded how his uncle and staff were busy with their experiments.


The physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes received the Nobel Prize in 1913. In his Leiden home, Huize ter Wetering at the Galgewater, at that time many foreign guests visited.

The house was a meeting place for scholars and artists, including Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. They met there Dutch artists like Jan Toorop, Albert Verwey and Carel Lion Cachet.


The collection of drawings is from the estate of a son of Harm Kamerlingh Onnes. A selection will be on show from 21 February until 26 April at the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden. About the family of scientists and artists an accompanying booklet has been published with the title Koude, kunst, Kamerlingh Onnes [Cold, art, Kamerlingh Onnes], written by Dirk van Delft.

See also here. And here.