Super Science Friends: how to save Newton

There is a new animated series in the city(1): Super Science Friends. Created by Brett Jubinville of Tinman Creative Studios, it was funded the first short through Kickstarter, while the rest of the episodes can be supported on Patreon.
The series is evidently inspired by Super Friends, produced by Hanna-Barbera for DC Comics, with the place of the heroes of JLA taken by some iconic scientists: Marie Curie, with a radioactive ring similar to Green Lantern’s one; Charles Darwin, able to transform into any animal, like Beast Boy from the Teen Titans; Nikola Tesla, with electromagnetic powers, like Magneto from Marvel universe, historical X-Men enemy; Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis with oversight of lust, to be seen as an alternative to Aquaman with his oversight of aquatic creatures.

Star Trek Network

Using data from tv series and movie, Star Trek Viz relizes some network plots with the connections between the characters of one of the most famous sci-fi serie.

Four all new exotic particles

LHCb has recently observed four new exotic-like particles in the decay of the $B^+$:
he properties of these structures are consistent with their interpretation as four-quark particles, which are considered as "exotic", (hence the "exotic-like" name in the title), although the details of the four quark $c{\bar c}s{\bar s}$ binding mechanism is still under discussion.
Read also paper 1 and paper 2

Juno: Journey into the unknown

The Juno Mission is travelling in space and it'll arrive near Jupiter today. Waiting this new space event, watch the trailer of the mission:

The Newton Medal is (bit) late

I think there is a subtle black humor in the 2016 Isaac Newton Medal, that was awarded by Tom Kibble:
The award is recognition of his contributions to mankind through his insight into the origins of mass and also through establishing astroparticle physics as a new branch of physics.
Kibble died on the 2nd June 2016 and he cannot retire the prize, but in every case we can remember his most important contribution, Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles with Gerald Guralnik and Carl Richard Hagen about the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism:
An intersting reading about the story behind the paper is The History of the Theory of the Spontaneous Breaking by Guralnik:
Shortly thereafter, as we were literally placing the manuscript in the envelope to be sent to PRL, Kibble came into the office bearing two papers by Higgs and the one by Englert and Brout. These had just arrived in the then very slow and unreliable (because of strikes and the peculiarities of Imperial College) mail. We were very surprised and even amazed. We had no idea that there was any competing interest in the problem, particularly outside of the United States. Hagen and I quickly glanced at these papers and thought that, while they aimed at the same point, they did not form a serious chall enge to our work.

G. S. Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, T. W. B. Kibble, 1964, 'Global Conservation Laws and Massless Particles', Physical Review Letters, vol. 13, no. 20, pp. 585-587 (sci-hib)
Gerald S. Guralnik, 2009, The History of the Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble development of the Theory of Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking and Gauge Particles, International Journal of Modern Physics A, vol. 24, no. 14, pp. 2601-2627 (arXiv)

Another bit of gravity

After the first detection of gravitational waves from merged black holes, LIGO detected a new signal:
The two LIGO gravitational wave detectors in Hanford Washington and Livingston Louisiana have caught a second robust signal from two black holes in their final orbits and then their coalescence into a single black hole. This event, dubbed GW151226, was seen on December 26th at 03:38:53 (in Universal Coordinated Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time), near the end of LIGO's first observing period ("O1"), and was immediately nicknamed "the Boxing Day event".
A paper (pdf) about this observation was published on Physical Review Letters:
The inferred component masses are consistent with values dynamically measured in x-ray binaries, but are obtained through the independent measurement process of gravitational-wave detection. Although it is challenging to constrain the spins of the initial black holes, we can conclude that at least one black hole had spin greater than 0.2. These recent detections in Advanced LIGO's first observing period have revealed a population of binary black holes that heralds the opening of the field of gravitational-wave astronomy.
About the first observation, GW150914, you can read Binary Black Hole Mergers in the first Advanced LIGO Observing Run and Dynamical formation of the GW150914 binary black hole (sci-hub) (or Black hole pairs spat out of mosh pits make gravitational waves).

How to produce stationary wave fields

A cylindrical surface of stationary light from
Zamboni-Rached, M., Recami, E., & Hernández-Figueroa, H. (2005). Theory of "frozen waves": modeling the shape of stationary wave fields Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 22 (11) DOI: 10.1364/JOSAA.22.002465 (arXiv)
On the 15th december, 2005, was published an interesting patent (I found it via Research Gate), Method and apparatus for producing stationary intense wave fields of arbitrary shape by Erasmo Recami, Michel Rached Zamboni, Hugo Enrique Ernandez Figueros, Valerio Abate, Cesar Augusto Dartora, Kleber Suza Nobrega, Marco Mattiuzzi:
Method for producing a stationary wave field of arbitrary shape comprising the steps of defining at least one volume being limited in the direction of the axis of propagation of a beam, of the type $0 \leq z \leq L$; defining an intensity pattern within the said region $0 \leq z \leq L$ by a function $F(z)$, describing the said localized and stationary intensity pattern, which is approximated by means of a Fourier expansion or by a similar expansion in terms of (trigonometric) orthogonal functions; providing a generic superposition of Bessel or other beams highly transversally confined; calculating the maximum number of superimposed Bessel beams the amplitudes, the phase velocities and the relative phases of each Bessel beam of the superposition, and the transverse and longitudinal wavenumbers of each Bessel beam of the superposition.
The invention is based on the following theoretical papers:

Alice underground: the door, the quaternion and the relativity

Alice underground is the first version of Aline in the wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The original manuscript, illustrated by Carroll himself, was given to the little Alice Liddell for Christmas in 1864 and picked up the story that he had told to Alice and her sisters Lorina and Edith during a summer's afternoon, precisely on July the 4th, 1862. This first version of the carrollian fantasy novel is, ultimately, a restricted version of Alice, where various characters and episodes completely absent in Underground are added, such as the Duchess or the team composed by the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse.
The intial, interesting considerations about underground is about the importance of the trees and the doors: following the suggestion by Adele Cammarata(3), we can assume that the tree and the door that Alice cross to enter the garden of the Queen of Hearts, completely absent in Wonderland, is linked with the Celtic tradition. Indeed the oak is one of the sacred trees of the druids, symbolizing a link between heaven and earth(1). In this way the oak, which in Celtic was called duir, is a real door that connects people with the gods, but also ourselves with our inner part. So, from an etymological point of view, a carved door in a tree trunk is a Celtic symbol used to identify the Alice's passage towards a more stable phase after the size's changes of the previous scenes.
These changes in size, alluding both to the transition to adulthood, in perfect connection with the Druidic symbolism, and with the more classic homothetic transformations, i.e. the transformations which, without changing the proportions of a geometric figure, change its size. All these changes remain unchanged in the transition to the second version, including the meeting with the Caterpillar, who continues to ask Alice:
Who are you?

Doubt like a salmon

An happy #towelday to all readers!
If you has ready and appreciate also one book by Douglas Adams, I think that you could have a little idea of what the people who knew him proved after his death. So, Peter Guzzardi composed The Salmond of Doubt with the idea to make an hearthful tribute to the writer of the Hitchhiker's Guide using unpublished articles, interviews and the third unfinished novel of the series of Dirk Gently, which also gives its name to collection.

from the italian cover of the book, by Franco Brambilla

Transit of Mercury

We speak about astronomical transit or simply a transit when an astronomical body move between the observer and the celestial body that he observes. In particular the transit was used by Planck to discover exolpanets, but we can use also to observe some events that occur in our solar system. And between 9th and 10th May it occurs the transit of Mercury between Sun and Earth.
In the figure below (via EclipseWise) you can see the visibility of the transit:
More details on: NASA |

How to become a superhero

from Amazing Fantasy by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
We analyze a collaboration network based on the Marvel Universe comic books. First, we consider the system as a binary network, where two characters are connected if they appear in the same publication. The analysis of degree correlations reveals that, in contrast to most real social networks, the Marvel Universe presents a disassortative mixing on the degree. Then, we use a weight measure to study the system as a weighted network. This allows us to find and characterize well defined communities. Through the analysis of the community structure and the clustering as a function of the degree we show that the network presents a hierarchical structure. Finally, we comment on possible mechanisms responsible for the particular motifs observed.
Gleiser, P. (2007). How to become a superhero Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, 2007 (09) DOI: 10.1088/1742-5468/2007/09/P09020 (arXiv)

A mathematical theory of communication

A mathematical theory of communication is a paper by Claude Shannon published in two part in July and October 1948. The paper posed the basis for the modern information theory and the basi elements of communication:
  • An information source that produces a message
  • A transmitter that operates on the message to create a signal which can be sent through a channel
  • A channel, which is the medium over which the signal, carrying the information that composes the message, is sent
  • A receiver, which transforms the signal back into the message intended for delivery
  • A destination, which can be a person or a machine, for whom or which the message is intended

Shannon, C. (1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication Bell System Technical Journal, 27 (3), 379-423 DOI: 10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x (pdf)
Shannon, C. (1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication Bell System Technical Journal, 27 (4), 623-656 DOI: 10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb00917.x (pdf)

The Marvel Universe as a real social network

Cover of the first number of Marvel Team-Up, comic book dedicated to the collaborations between Marvel heroes
We investigate the structure of the Marvel Universe collaboration network, where two Marvel characters are considered linked if they jointly appear in the same Marvel comic book. We show that this network is clearly not a random network, and that it has most, but not all, characteristics of "real-life" collaboration networks, such as movie actors or scientific collaboration networks. The study of this artificial universe that tries to look like a real one, helps to understand that there are underlying principles that make real-life networks have definite characteristics.
R. Alberich, J. Miro-Julia, & F. Rossello (2002). Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network arXiv arXiv: cond-mat/0202174v1

Postcards from Pluto

The New Horizons mission has provided a lot of observations about Pluto, the farthermost known celestial object in our Solar System. Thanks to these observations, astronomers can now describe some interesting Pluto's characteristics.
The Pluto system is surprisingly complex, comprising six objects that orbit their common center of mass in approximately a single plane and in nearly circular orbits. (...)
All four of Pluto's small moons are highly elongated objects with surprisingly high surface reflectances (albedos) suggestive of a water-ice surface composition. Kerberos appears to have a double-lobed shape, possibly formed by the merger of two smaller bodies. Crater counts for Nix and Hydra imply surface ages of at least 4 billion years. Nix and Hydra have mostly neutral (i.e., gray) colors, but an apparent crater on Nix's surface is redder than the rest of the surface; this finding suggests either that the impacting body had a different composition or that material with a different composition was excavated from below Nix's surface. All four small moons have rotational periods much shorter than their orbital periods, and their rotational poles are clustered nearly orthogonal to the direction of the common rotational poles of Pluto and Charon.

A prize for a theorem

Pierre de Fermat was born in 1601 in Beaumont-de-Lomagne in southwestern France. He was not even a mathematician; he was a civil servant who devoted himself to mathematics as a hobby. He was regarded as one of the most gifted self-taught mathematicians who ever lived.
I think that this quotation from The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larson, the second novel from the series Millennium, was the perfect introduction to a post about the Fermat's Last Theorem and Andrew Wiles, who proofed it in 1993. And he awarded the Abel Prize just some days ago.
Simply a joke?

Pierre de Fermat by Bernarda Bryson
Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos ejusdem nominis fas est dividere: cujus rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.(1)
This is what Pierre de Fermat wrote in the margin of Arithmetica by Diofanto and it establish the impossibility to find solutions in the field of natural numbers for the diophantine equation(2) that generalizes the Pythagorean theorem: \[a^n + b^n = c^n\] Following the Pythagorean theorem, for $n = 2$ the Fermat's equation has solutions in the field of natural numbers, called Pythagorean triples. For $n$ greater than 2 the story, instead, becomes more complicated, so that the same Fermat, while writing what follows, never provided a full demonstration, but only for the special case of $n = 4$:
I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this theorem, which can't be contained in the too narrow page margin.

Ludolph van Ceulen: in searching of pi

One of the most important mathematicians for $\pi$, was Ludolph van Ceulen, German mathematician born 28 January 1540 in Hildesheim. His father, Johannes Van Ceulen, was a small trader who could not afford advanced education for a son who showed some interest in mathematics. The main difficulty for Ludolph studies was the Latin, the language in which they were written the basic texts as well as the more recent ones in mathematics and science at the time. And Latin was a subject to be advanced studies.
Another fundamental challenge was the particular historical period in which Ludolph lived. At that time, in fact, life for Protestants was rather complicated: the Spanish Inquisition was, in fact, powerful enough to extend his long hands even in Germany. The Van Ceulen's, as Protestants, were forced, like many in the same conditions, to migrate to the most welcoming Netherlands of Prince William of Orange.
On the other hand Ludolph himself was a traveler: immediately after his father's death became a little travel first in the region of Livonia (Latvia and Estonia in our age), then to Antwerp to visit his brother Gert and then to Delft in the Netherlands where he settled for a time, since there was born one of his five daughter on May 4th, 1578.
His wife, Mariken Jansen, died in 1590, but Ludolph remarriage on June 17th of that year with Adriana Simondochter, widow of Bartholomew Cloot, accounting and math teacher, with whom he had generated eight children, for a total of 13 mouths to feed. The two families, Cloot and Van Ceulen, were in a close relations of friendship, so it's pretty obvious to imagine that the marriage between Ludolph and Adriana was the best solution to avoid losing a strong relationship.

The tabulating machine

Herman Hollerith, an American inventor, was born on the 29th February 1860. His most famous invention was the electromechanical tabulation of data:
At the urging of John Shaw Billings, Hollerith developed a mechanism using electrical connections to trigger a counter, recording information. A key idea was that data could be encoded by the locations of holes in a card. Hollerith determined that data punched in specified locations on a card, in the now-familiar rows and columns, could be counted or sorted mechanically. A description of this system, An Electric Tabulating System (1889), was submitted by Hollerith to Columbia University as his doctoral thesis, and is reprinted in Randell's book.
In the patent of his invention, we can read:
The herein-described method of compiling statistics, which consists in recording separate statistical items pertaining to the individual by holes or combinations of holes punched in sheets of electrically non-conducting material, and bearing a specific relation to each other and to a standard, and then counting or tallying such statistical items separately or in combination by means of mechanical counters operated by electro-magnets the circuits through which are controlled by the perforated sheets, substantially as and for the purpose set forth.
In 1896 Hollerith founded The Tabulating Machine Company, that in 1911, with four others company, became the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, renamed International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924.

Save research in Italy

About three weeks ago, Nature published a letter by Giorgio Parisi and signed by 69 italian scientists about the state of the research in Italy. This is the text:
We call for the European Union to push governments into keeping their research funding above subsistence level. This will ensure that scientists from across Europe can compete for Horizon 2020 research funding, not just those from the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia.
Europe's research money is divided between the European Commission and national governments. The commission funds large, transnational collaborative networks in mostly applied areas of research, and the governments support small-scale, bottom-up science and their own strategic research programmes.
Some member states are not keeping their part of the bargain. Italy, for example, seriously neglects its research base. The Italian National Research Council has not overseen basic research for decades, being itself starved of resources. University funding has dwindled to a bare minimum. The ministerial initiative known as PRIN (Research Projects of National Interest) has been defunct since 2012, apart from a few limited programmes for young researchers.
This year's PRIN allocation of a euro92-million (US$100-million) funding call to cover all research areas is too little, too late. Compare this with the annual French National Research Agency's allocation of up to euro1 billion, or with Italy's euro900-million annual contribution to the EU Seventh Framework Programme that ran in 2007–13. That resulted in a net annual loss of euro300 million for Italian science.
To prevent distorted development in research among EU countries, national policies must be coherent and guarantee a balanced use of resources.
You can sign the petition on

"We are hearing the universe"

When we describe a geometric space, we need to define a metric, or in other words a way to measure distances: in particular in general relativity we use the tensor metric, $g_{\mu \nu}$. Supposing the existence of gravitational waves, it is possible to calculate their effect on the radiation coming from some cosmic objects like a binary or a couple of merging black holes.
On September 14, 2015, within the first two days of Advanced LIGO's operation, the researchers detected a signal so strong that it could be seen by eye. The most intense portion of the signal lasted for about 0.2 s and was observed in both detectors, with a combined signal-to-noise ratio of 24. Fittingly, this first gravitational wave signal, dubbed GW150914, arrived less than two months before the 100-year anniversary of the publication of Einstein's general relativity theory.(1)

A bit of math behind Ant-Man

cc @sarofsky
I write also for Lo Spazio Bianco (The White Space), a web-zine about comics. Thanks to Carlo Coratelli, that contacted Sarofsky Corp., we can realize an interview with Erin Sarofsky, President, Owner and Executive Creative Director of the company. They realized some titles for Marvel Studios movies, in oparticular Ant-Man, and I proposed two questions about this movie. The questions, with Erin's answers, are the following, but you can read the complete interview here:
We loved the opening animation in Ant-Man. It seems it's inspired by the Power[s] of Ten of the Eames. Is it really like that?
Ab-So-Lutely! We were very inspired by the Eames film. Luckily though, our universe is the Marvel Universe... so being 100% accurate was not necessary.
About Ant-Man, we also loved the work with the mathematical modeling you used to produce the animation and we think it would be quite interesting to elaborate about the actual realization method. How does it work?
We actually worked in reverse. We planned our moves and then did the math after the fact. We used the surface of the grass as our zero; anything above that is positive and anything below is negative.
Andy Zazzera, CG Director on the job, and our wicked smart math guy did all the estimations. (Again, nothing is exact because our world is fake... but the math is legit).
For a while I was tempted to quest something of more detailed about the math developing, but I thought that it could not so interesting for our regular readers. However, I'm convinced that it is not for Field of Science's readers!