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This wonderful headline showed up in my Facebook feed: U.S. ‘planned to blow up Moon’ with nuke during Cold War era to show Soviets might. This was a bit eyebrow-raising. Dr. Strangelove was a slightly unfair caricature, but the Cold War really did have a better-than-average share of nuttiness. Still – blowing up the moon?…

How to keep a laser beam small.

My post about seeing a laser from the moon mentioned  the fact that the beam from a laser spreads as it propagates. We’re used to seeing this from a flashlight – the beam from a flashlight across a room is much smaller than the beam from a flashlight across an open field. Lasers spread too,…

If you’re one of the probably four people who haven’t heard about Nate Silver, you’ve missed out. He’s a statistics guy who runs the always interesting 538 Blog at the New York Times. He made his name in baseball statistics, Moneyball style, and moved into politics where he made state-by-state statistical forecasts of the last…

Seeing a laser from the moon

There was an xkcd feature a while back which asked the question “If everyone in the world shined a laser pointer at the moon at the same time, would we be able to see it?” The answer was no. A laser pointer doesn’t put out much light, and even seven billion of them doesn’t represent…

By now everyone’s heard of Felix Baumgartner and his record-breaking leap out of a balloon some 24 miles over the New Mexico desert. While the “official” definition of outer space is generally considered to start at either 60 miles or 100 kilometers, Felix’s leap of some 39,045 meters is in many respect a drop from…

A Raman Rainbow

Hey, how about that! Three people in our optics group here at Texas A&M (Professor Alexei Sokolov, postdoc Miaochan Zhi, and grad student Kai Wang) had a photograph from one of their optics experiments make the Optics and Photonics News Image of the Week: The crystal in the foreground is being hit by two pulses…

Magneto and Momentum

There’s this grim and affecting scene in both X-Men and X-Men: First Class – a young Erik Lehnsherr watches his family hauled away by Nazis through the gates of a concentration camp. He’s being dragged away by the Nazi guards, and he uses his magnetic powers for the first time to grab the gates with…

How Single-Colored Is A Laser?

In most books or articles that talk about lasers, you’ll see a definition of laser light in terms of “coherence”. But coherence is sort of a term of art, and the books will go on to explain coherence in terms of the waves being in sync with each other, or the emitted light being very…

Some Cute Math

Back before my now-ended blogging hiatus, the server machinery that keeps ScienceBlogs running was not so snazzy as it is now. Now it’s running a WordPress implementation that includes LaTeX support. LaTeX is a free environment for (among other things) typesetting mathematics. Let’s give it a test run: I actually came across the above expression…

Armstrong in Orbit

If you’ve been reading ScienceBlogs for a while, you might remember this little physics blog I used to write. It and I sort of vanished off the internet for a long while. More than a year, I’m sad to say. Long story short, being a grad student takes up a huge amount of time. While…