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Txch This Week: Internet Chatter Spots An Epidemic

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we watched MIT engineers move tiny metallic hairs using magnetic fields. The microhairs are made out of nickel mounted on stretchy silicone. Potential applications for the hairs include tunable waterproof coating, anti-glare applications and smart window coating that can control sun allowed into buildings.

Australian National University researchers manipulated wave frequencies and amplitudes to control the movement of particles on the surface of water. The researchers discovered ways to move objects against the direction of a wave. This research could help contain oil spills and even move small boats.

Japanese chemist Yosuke Okamura and his team have created a flexible, sticky coating called nanosheets that is similar to plastic wrap and, when applied to burns, creates a barrier against potentially fatal bacterial infections. The nanosheets can stick without adhesive and are made with a biodegradable polyester called poly(L-lactic acid), or PLLA.

Finally, using nanoscopic pillars of a polyurethane and adhesive mix, researchers at the University of Michigan have created a watermark only visible when a person breathes on it. Soon we’ll be fighting counterfeiting one breath at a time.

Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Quantum Math Could Explain Irrational Reasoning

by Gabriel Popkin, Inside Science

Quantum theory, developed about a century ago to explain the puzzling behavior of elementary particles, could also help explain seemingly irrational aspects of human reasoning.

The mathematics behind this highly successful physics theory has now provided a way to explain why people respond differently to survey questions depending on the questions’ ordering, scientists report June 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Human reasoning is notoriously fickle, inconsistent and full of seemingly obvious fallacies. A prime example of such apparently irrational decision-making is the “order effect”: Researchers routinely find that the sequence in which they ask survey questions affects how people respond to them. In a 1997 Gallup poll, for instance, when surveyors asked people if they thought Bill Clinton was honest and trustworthy, roughly seven percent more respondents answered “yes” if they were first asked whether Al Gore was honest and trustworthy.

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A Thought-Provoking Toy

by Michael Keller

The spinning top above illustrates an unusual asymmetry where it flips over if spun in a clockwise motion and stays upright when spun counterclockwise. This behavior is a result of chirality, a property in which something displays handedness. When an object or system is chiral, its mirror images can’t be exactly mapped to each other—like your right and left hands. 

Tadashi Tokieda, director of studies in mathematics at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, investigates and invents toys like the one above that exhibit interesting behaviors. He’s also a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where he presented what he calls the world’s first chiral tippy top. See the video with this and other toys that display chirality below.

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generalelectric:

Happy Pi Day! Archimedes’ constant and our modern world meet in this GIF by Tyler DiBiasio with photography by Chris Talbot. 

Don’t forget about Pi Day today! At Txchnologist, we’re taking the period of a pendulum (at the standard acceleration of gravity on the Earth’s surface, and where pendulum length equals 894.3 meters and initial angle equals 90 degrees) to think about whether we’ll have a slice of apple or pepperoni to celebrate our beloved constants.  #PiDay

generalelectric:

Happy Pi Day! Archimedes’ constant and our modern world meet in this GIF by Tyler DiBiasio with photography by Chris Talbot

Don’t forget about Pi Day today! At Txchnologist, we’re taking the period of a pendulum (at the standard acceleration of gravity on the Earth’s surface, and where pendulum length equals 894.3 meters and initial angle equals 90 degrees) to think about whether we’ll have a slice of apple or pepperoni to celebrate our beloved constants.  #PiDay

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