Best of Last Week–Variance of gravitational constant, 50 years of Moore’s Law and creating the sensation of invisibility

It was an interesting week in physics as researchers delved into the question of why the measurements of the gravitational constant vary so much. The latest theory suggests that it is not likely attributable to systematic errors, but to “something else.” Also researchers at the University of Rochester found a way to generate broadband terahertz radiation from a microplasma in the air—they report that they exploited the underlying physics to lower the laser power necessary for plasma generation. —> Read More

Why be creative on social media?

There are five motivators for creating novel content online, whether blog posts, shared news stories, images, photos, songs, videos or any of the other digital artifacts users of social media and social networking sites share endlessly. Research just published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising suggests that these five factors are: entertainment, self-expression, social-belonging, communication, and social-cognition. —> Read More

Grad Students Create Device That Could Detect Marijuana Use Among Drivers

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Two Ohio graduate students have invented a device that would allow law enforcement officers to determine how much THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – is in a motorist’s system during traffic stops.

The Plain Dealer reports (http://bit.ly/1E8IUUn ) that two biomedical engineering graduate students at the University of Akron hope to market their roadside testing device to states where marijuana use has been legalized.

Mariam Crow and Kathleen Stitzlein’s device tests saliva to determine the concentration of pot’s active chemical in the bloodstream. Police must now wait weeks to get results from blood tests for marijuana use.

The two women recently received a $10,000 inventors’ award. They previously received Ohio Third Frontier funding to develop their device, which they are calling the “Cannibuster.”

Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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Everglades Under Attack

THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES is one of the most unique natural resources in the world, with an abundance of wildlife found nowhere else. It also soaks up carbon dioxide from the air better than major rainforests around the world, researchers say.

But it is slowly disappearing, and has been for more than a century. Today, the Everglades is about the size of New Jersey — half the size it once was.

Much of the damage has been caused by humans through water diversion, population pressures, and agricultural run-off. But there are more subtle forces at work, including the growing effects of climate change.

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Nepal Earthquake Happened Right On Schedule, Scientists Say

A devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal on Saturday was part of a pattern of major temblors that have become so predictable that many seismologists had been expecting this one — and at least one team of researchers warned just weeks ago that a major quake was due in the exact location where this one struck.

Nepal sits right where the Indo-Australian Plate is pushing itself beneath the Eurasian Plate, a collision that gave rise to the Himalayan Mountains. As the plates push, pressure builds, eventually resulting in a quake to relieve that pressure.

And according to Nature, the Indo-Australian Plate is still pushing itself under the Eurasian Plate at a rate of nearly 2 inches per year.

Geologically speaking, that’s very fast,” Lung S. Chan, a geophysicist at the University of Hong Kong, told the Wall Street Journal. “Earthquakes dissipate energy, like lifting the lid off a pot of boiling water… But it builds back up after you put the lid back on.”

That immense and constant pressure has led to an unusually regular pattern of major quakes, making it “one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Major earthquakes in the region are so regular that they occur roughly every 75-80 years. With the last one hitting just east of Kathmandu 81 years ago in 1934, most seismologists believed the area was due for another.

“We knew it was going to happen. We saw it in ’34,” USGS geologist Susan Hough told the Washington Post. “The earthquakes we expect to happen do happen.”

One team of researchers not only expected this earthquake to happen, but even pinpointed the location.

Laurent Bollinger of the CEA research agency in France told the BBC that his team had —> Read More

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