A bearing on magnetic north growing farther away all the time

Tom James @ 17-09-2009

compassScience writer Quinn Norton tests a new sense, that of always knowing what direction North is via an ankle-attached bracelet that indicates true north using vibrations from eight internal buzzers:

The Northpaw is based on the Feelspace, a project organized by the Cognitive Psychology department of Universität Osnabrück in Germany. The principle is simple and elegant. The buzzers signal north to the wearer. The wearer gets used to it, often forgetting it’s there. They just start getting a better idea of where they are through a kind of subconscious dead reckoning.

Quinn has written about similar direction-sensing enabling technologies before.

I recall something like this in Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. PTerry gifts his elves with “poise” – the ability always to know where they are.

[via Slashdot, from h+ Magazine][image from ★lex on flickr]


Magnetic monopoles spotted for the first time

Tom James @ 07-09-2009

1-magneticmonoThat staple of Larry Niven‘s Known Space series – magnetic monopoles – have finally been isolated in the laboratory:

Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical particles proposed by physicists that carry a single magnetic pole, either a magnetic North pole or South pole. In the material world this is quite exceptional because magnetic particles are usually observed as dipoles, north and south combined. However there are several theories that predict the existence of monopoles. Among others, in 1931 the physicist Paul Dirac was led by his calculations to the conclusion that magnetic monopoles can exist at the end of tubes – called Dirac strings – that carry magnetic field. Until now they have remained undetected.

[from Physorg][image from Physorg]


I CAN HAZ MANNED MARTIAN EXPEDITIONZZ??!1

Tom James @ 04-11-2008

Yes. As the title brilliantly puts it, there have been developments in the area of protecting astronauts from deadly solar radiation. This radiation has been seen as one of the big obstacles to transporting astronauts over interplanetary distances:

Large numbers of these energetic particles occur intermittently as “storms” with little warning and are already known to pose the greatest threat to man. Nature helps protect the Earth by having a giant “magnetic bubble” around the planet called the magnetosphere.

Space craft visiting the Moon or Mars could maintain some of this protection by taking along their very own portable “mini”-magnetosphere. The idea has been around since the 1960’s but it was thought impractical because it was believed that only a very large (more than 100km wide) magnetic bubble could possibly work.

Computer simulations done by a team in Lisbon with scientists at Rutherford Appleton last year showed that theoretically a very much smaller “magnetic bubble” of only several hundred meters across would be enough to protect a spacecraft.

Now this has been confirmed in the laboratory in the UK using apparatus originally built to work on fusion. By recreating in miniature a tiny piece of the Solar Wind, scientists working in the laboratory were able to confirm that a small “hole” in the Solar Wind is all that would be needed to keep the astronauts safe on their journey to our nearest neighbours.

All in all good news – and since our Glorious Leaders were able to drop five huge into our bust financial system at short notice I am no longer concerned over the cost of long range manned space exploration.

[image from the Physorg story]


Magnetic currents and efficient memory

Tom James @ 10-10-2008

Japanese physicists have found something called the Spin Seebeck Effect that could lead to practical magnetic batteries:

Essentially, this spin-segregated rod now has two electrodes and serves as the basis for a new kind of battery that produces “spin voltage,” or magnetic currents, which have been difficult to produce. With this tool, physicists can work toward developing more kinds of spintronics devices that store information magnetically.

Magnetic information storage is inherently more efficient than storing information electronically because there is no waste heat.

This is an interesting development. There seems to be a lot going on in the world of practical applications for quantum dots, quantum cryptography and spintronics. I suspect it will be one of those areas that heralds a lot of unexpected innovation over the next few years and decades.

[image from Ella’s Dad on flickr]


Visible Magnetic Fields

Tom James @ 05-06-2008

Magnetic fields are weird, something that’s invisible in and of itself, but nevertheless acts on the other objects. By way of visualising magnetic fields, some boffins from Semiconductor working at NASA Space Laboratory as “artists in residence” – Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt – have created this incredible movie depicting magnetic fields:

There isn’t much explanation as to what this is – how abstract is the representation? From Semiconductor Films:

In Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor have taken the magnificent scientific visualisations of the sun and solar winds conducted at the Space Sciences Laboratory and Semiconducted them. Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt of Semiconductor were artists-in-residence at SSL. Combining their in-house lab culture experience with formidable artistic instincts in sound, animation and programming, they have created a magnetic magnum opus in nuce, a tour de force of a massive invisible force brought down to human scale, and a “very most beautiful thing.”

Well it sure is pretty, but it would be nice if there were some details as to how the effect was created. It reminds me of the “fields” of the drones from Iain M Bank’s billiant Culture series, which use coloured “fields” to convey emotion and also as manipulators.

[story via technovelgy]


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