In a windowless room some 20 miles outside Chicago, five scientists in jeans and shirtsleeves are preparing to glimpse something that until now has been hidden from human view: the nearly instantaneous, atomic-level transformation of a material under intense pressure. Since the dawn of time, such changes have gone hand in hand with some of the most extreme of moments: the creation of the universe, the heat and pressure in the Earth’s core, the failures of bridges and buildings, and the business end of a bullet.
When physicist Mark Kuzyk throws a science soiree he doesn’t mess around. Out come the lasers, high-tech origami, ornate wire sculptures, and sticky-stretchy gel that’s fun to throw at the wall. But it’s all for a greater purpose.
The Washington State University Regents professor is developing a shape-changing, laser-guided electrode for the treatment of pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression.
The ultra-thin electrode is designed for use in deep brain stimulation (DBS) and relies on optics and photomechanical materials to improve the precision and delicacy of the procedure. Sometimes known as the “brain pacemaker,” DBS holds promise for a wide range of conditions and may … » More …
WSU adjunct professor and origami master Robert Lang is known for his complex and elegant designs. He has studied the mathematics and theory of origami and is a leading expert in computational origami. He has developed a highly evolved system of crease pattern diagramming—here are a few examples:
The silence is unnerving. Not another car in sight as I drive through the desolate Hanford nuclear area. The road unfolds in an eerie lacework of tarred concrete until finally I see it gleaming in the distance—the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO.)
LIGO is home to Earth’s most sensitive optical instrument, uniquely designed to intercept gravity waves. These elusive cosmic waves—or ripples in space-time—are so miniscule that Einstein thought them impossible to view and measure. And so far, he’s been right. Yet if detected, gravitational waves could transform our fundamental understanding of the universe.
They also, incidentally, play a starring role in the hit … » More …
Capt. James T. Kirk: You left spacedock without a tractor beam?
Capt. John Harriman: It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday.
—from Star Trek: Generations
Phil Marston is not a Trekkie, nor has he given much thought to the Star Trek tractor beam that can use focused beams of energy to attract and repel derelict spacecraft or, in one case, USS Enterprise Capt. James T. Kirk.
He was just intrigued by something, in this case, the way an acoustic beam is scattered by a sphere.
“Basically, it goes into the category of a problem you solve because it would be curious to see what … » More …
An insect’s small size gives it the gift of relatively greater strength. The newly discovered South African cockroach Saltoblattella montistabularis takes advantage of this fact plus several other features, as Washington State University entomologist Carol Anelli describes here:
This is very cool for several reasons.
It is a wingless cockroach, described for the first time only two years ago, and the first existing roach known to jump. It achieves this feat with modified hind legs that possess long femurs invested with enlarged muscles. These long femurs—akin to the longest bone in the human body—help give grasshoppers their great jumping ability.
I want to walk on water, climb walls, and dance on the ceiling. If insects can do it, it’s only fair that I should, too.
But this thing called physics has decreed otherwise. Carol Anelli, a WSU entomologist, can tell you why, having a lifelong fascination with ways insects can at times make us seem relatively slow, earthbound, and weak.
Carol Anelli (Photo Shelly Hanks)
Anelli first came upon the wonders of insects as a child among the woods and fields of a suburbanizing central Connecticut. She would pull caterpillars from her … » More …
George E. Duval, 82, a pioneer of shock physics research and professor emeritus at Washington State University, died January 3, 2003 in Vancouver. He was internationally recognized as a founder and leader in studies related to shock wave propagation in solids and liquids. Many colleagues regarded him as the dean of U.S. shock wave science.
The Louisiana native spent his youth in Oregon. His studies at Oregon State University were interrupted in 1941 when he joined the University of California’s Division of War Research to work on underwater acoustics problems. He returned to OSU in 1945 to finish his bachelor’s degree and completed a doctorate … » More …
Lai-Sheng Wang places a tinker-toyish thing onto a visitor’s palm. Many such toys line the Washington State University physics professor’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory office in Richland. The object at hand—12 steel balls hinged to red plastic tubes twisted this way and that—form a perfectly symmetrical, 20-sided icosahedron.
Wang also displays a daughter-fashioned Father’s Day card that testifies to his paternal greatness. He spends time with the family, washes dishes, cooks, and is always kind. Mixed in there is a gilded item that truly separates Wang from all other pops on earth: he fathered the gold buckyball.
The word “buckyball” derives from “Buckminsterfullerene,” a hollow … » More …