What could possibly be more awesome than a TORNADO MADE OF FIRE?!? Not much. This is a spectacular natural phenomenon that occurs in wildfires. It’s the same atmospheric process that causes dust devils- the difference here is that the strong updraft is from the heat of the fire, so it’s much more intense than a normal dust devil. The hot air rises rapidly and the surrounding winds happen to be flowing into the updraft at just the right angles so that the rising column of air gets a twist. From there the law of conservation of angular momentum takes over and the vortex becomes self-sustaining. This one was captured recently in Australia.

Also from the department of TOTALLY AWESOME: Warp Drives (like the ones they used in Star Trek) may actually be much closer to reality than ever thought. NASA physicist Dr. Harold White has recently done some tweaking of the theoretical design of the famous Alcubierre Warp Drive, originally proposed in 1994 by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. The original design, while theoretically possible, was completely impractical because it required more energy than a human mind can comprehend. But with Dr. White’s tweaks, the amount of energy required to run this thing suddenly became more plausible. Essentially the ship would be able to travel much faster than light, without actually traveling faster than light. It does this by literally compressing a region of space-time ahead of it and expanding a region behind it. The ship itself is in a bubble in which it never breaks the speed of light relative to the space-time it’s in. Think of it like surfing a wave of space-time. Granted, the amount of energy require to run the Warp Drive is still roughly equivalent to 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs, but with a little antimatter (about 500 kilograms) that number is not out of reach. The problem is that the idea hasn’t been tested in real life. So Dr. White and his team are currently attempting to actually warp space-time on a microscopic scale in their lab. Take a moment to digest that. Right now, we are attempting to warp space-time in a lab. It doesn’t get much more awesome than that. For more info on how the drive actually works check out this article on Extreme Tech or this article on Discovery News.


Click to enlarge. Trust me- you want to do this!

Before the newsy stuff I had to give you that eye-gasm of a photo of our nearest star a.k.a. the Sun, blowing off millions of tons of hot gas into space a couple weeks ago. This image combines two spectrums of light that we can’t see with our eyes, both of which are in the ultraviolet range and show the magnetic activity better. Both were taken with NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). We should be glad this enormous eruption wasn’t aimed directly at Earth, else we could have had serious satellite and power disruptions.

Now for the headlines:

  • The teams of physicists at the Large Hadron Collider have officially published their findings on the Higgs boson in a legit, peer-reviewed journal- Physics Letters B. This is the same journal in which Peter Higgs first published his revolutionary paper that began the hunt for the boson to begin with. Once a discovery passes this level of scrutiny, it’s DONE. That means we did it! Scientists have been a little hesitant to actually call this discovered particle the Higgs boson, however, since all the properties and attributes of the particle are yet to be nailed down. Over the next few years we’ll start to get a better picture of just what this particle looks and feels like, so to speak, and I’m sure there will be many more questions raised than answered. (Via NewScientist)
  • Star Trek is starting to look a bit more like reality than science fiction thanks to new research being done into anitmatter and fusion propulsion. That’s right- antimatter, as in the stuff they used to run the Enterprise‘s Warp Drive. NASA teamed up with consulting firm the Tauri Group for a presentation that included a prediction that human technology will have advanced to the point that antimatter and fusion propulsion will be possible for spaceships by around 2060. The technology will not, however be capable of faster-than-light travel. According to the 2010 report the presentation was based upon, it would take about 4 months to get a ship to Jupiter with this technology. That’s significantly faster than current technology, but still a very VERY far cry from Warp speed. (Via Space.com)

Tennessee, meet Dogwood Winter. Let’s face it, people, every year we get 1 or 2 cold snaps in April, and southerners usually name these “winters” based on whatever is in bloom at the time. Usually Dogwoods are in bloom when it happens so I usually call it Dogwood Winter. But seriously… SNOW tonight?

A somewhat surprise reunion happened at Radio City Music Hall over the weekend- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr came together on stage for the first time since 2002. I don’t know how I missed hearing about this lineup until now… but it was a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation called “Change Begins Within.” Brooklyn Vegan has several video clips posted.

In other reunion-related news, Simon & Garfunkel are going to reunite for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, Billboard.com reports.

Photo via io9.

Photo via io9.

Nerd alert!

io9 reports that Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver) will make a few appearances in the opening episodes of the latest installment of the Stargate franchise, Stargate: Universe. Not only will RDA make an appearance, but several other veterans of the older series SG-1 and Atlantis are supposedly making appearances. This makes me very happy because I’ll miss those older characters. The Stargate series has easily challenged Star Trek as the most successful science-fiction television franchise in history. SG-1 alone outlasted any of the Star Trek series by reaching an impressive 10 seasons. I guess it depends on who you ask, but that figure alone is unheard of for a sci-fi series.

Speaking of Star Trek, physicist Michael Alcubierre from the University of New Mexico is known for coming up with the idea of a real-life warp drive. Yes, you heard me, a warp drive, as in the thing that allows the Enterprise to go faster than light. But unfortunately quantum physics has put a serious damper on this theory. Universe Today reports on a new set of research that concludes that Hawking Radiation would be present within the space-time “bubble,” and this radiation would literally fry anything inside the bubble. Of course, this whole thing was pretty impossible to begin with because according to U.T., the energy such a device would require is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter if it were converted to energy. Whoa…

I read today on Clusterflock that the Xerox Corporation is working on a special type of paper that erases itself, making it reusable. This is truly revolutionary, and I hope it gets off the ground sooner rather than later, though the article warns that it could be many years before this technology could be made commercially viable.

The “a-ha” moment came from developing compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear. In its present version, the paper self-erases in about 16-24 hours and can be used multiple times.