Monday, June 20, 2016

Of matters strange and (some of them, anyway) wondrous

It's the things you don't anticipate that get you -- as the folks at the LHC learned yet again. See "Weasel Apparently Shuts Down World's Most Powerful Particle Collider." You can consider this an instance of not being dis-CERN-ing. (The weasel couldn't have been too happy about it either.)

Optical meta-material
It's long been a basic tenet of optics that the resolution limit of a lens or mirror stems from its size relative to the wavelength of incident light. Well, that tenet arose in an era before meta-materials. See "Meta-lens works in the visible spectrum, sees smaller than a wavelength of light." Among other implications, the lenses in future smart phones won't need to be as bulky as today. And, those new lenses may be flat. All in all, cool stuff.

But wait! There's more!

Atomium Monument (Brussels)
Ever encounter Tom Lehrer breathlessly singing the periodic table, in a patter Gilbert & Sullivan would have admired?  He'd have a harder time of it were he to try that feat today. In part, obviously, that's because more elements are now known.(*) The bigger factor, methinks, is that some of those new names are real tongue twisters. See "Four Names for Four New Elements: Nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson will join 116 others on the periodic table."

(*) As Lehrer anticipated. The patter song's closing lines:

     These are the only ones of which the news has come to ha'vard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard.

Anyone out there looking to make a living as a mathematician? This guy shows how it's done. "Professor Who Solved Fermat's Last Theorem Wins Math's Abel Prize." Just last month, he collected the ~$715K award.

A little the worse for 2100 years' wear
At the intersection of astronomy, technology, and archeology, consider "The world’s oldest computer is still revealing its secrets." That "computer" is better known as the Antikythera Mechanism ... and it's beyond fascinating.

To wrap up this very eclectic (that's polite for all over the place) post, consider that machine learning -- a currently hot subset of AI R&D -- is being turned against phishing attacks. See "Fighting Today’s Targeted Email Scams."

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