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Mathematician Shankar Venkataramani’s research group recently discovered a lot of new, powerful geometries involved in frilly surfaces, which he will describe at the 2019 APS March Meeting. For mathematicians, frilly is plain language for an inflected nonsmooth surface -- one that changes the direction in which it bends, such as with kale or coral. Venkataramani’s group developed the mathematics to describe these surfaces, and the combination of new geometry insights and age-old slugs might just be the right combination for a new generation of flexible, energy-efficient soft-bodied robots.
A new APS report, “The Impact of Industrial Physics on the U.S. Economy,” shows the significant role of physics, which contributed an estimated $2.3 trillion (12.6 percent of U.S. GDP) in 2016 alone. Industrial physics encompasses the application of physics knowledge and principles to the design and manufacture of products and services. Many people working within this field have job titles other than physicist, so this report includes all aspects of industrial physics contributions.
Researchers have created tiny functional, remote-powered, walking robots, developing a multistep nanofabrication technique that turns a 4-inch specialized silicon wafer into a million microscopic robots in just weeks. Each one of a robot’s four legs is just under 100-atoms-thick, but powered by laser light hitting the robots’ solar panels, they propel the tiny robots. The researchers are now working on smart versions of the robots that could potentially make incredible journeys in the human body.
The latest data from the giant planets has sent researchers back to the drawing board. Cassini orbited Saturn for 13 years before its dramatic final dive into the planet’s interior, while Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for two and a half years; the data collected has been “invaluable but also confounding,” said David Stevenson from Caltech, who will present an update of both missions at the 2019 APS March Meeting in Boston. Innovative design that protected the instruments from fierce radiation and powered the mission on solar energy alone has reaped plenty of surprises.
Solar cells offer a clean source of energy, but the efficiency of a fixed solar system is limited: The sun moves, but solar cells do not. Beth Parks has devised an astonishingly simple way to overcome this limitation -- a bucket of water. As she will describe at the 2019 APS March Meeting, she developed a frame that holds the solar cell with a bucket suspended on either end. By controlling the leak of water from one of the buckets, the solar cell shifts, tracking the arc of the sun throughout the day.
Knitting may be an ancient manufacturing method, but Elisabetta Matsumoto believes that understanding how different stitch types determine shape and mechanical strength will be invaluable for designing materials for future technologies, and a more detailed understanding of the knitting “code” could benefit manufacturers around the world. Members of the Matsumoto group are delving through the surprisingly complex mathematics that underlies tangles of yarn -- work Matsumoto will describe at the 2019 APS March Meeting.
Humans have a knack for finding patterns in the world around them. Researchers are building a model that shows how this ability might work, which they will describe at the 2019 APS March Meeting. The brain does more than just process incoming information, the researchers say. It constantly tries to predict what’s coming next. The new model attempts to explain how people can make such predictions.
A new study by Johns Hopkins Carey Business School researcher Erik Helzer found Introverts’ expectations of social interactions are more pessimistic than what they ultimately experience.
Incorporating the arts—rapping, dancing, drawing—into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning, finds a new study by Johns Hopkins University.