Wax models to predict plate movements on the ocean floor

Physicists have developed a way to use wax to help predict tectonic microplate movements on the ocean floor.


“Physicists in the US have proven that wax is an excellent model of the ocean floors. Using a tub of wax, geophysicists at Cornell and Columbia have produced a predictive model of tectonic microplates – one of the most important and poorly understood features of plate tectonics – for the first time. This research is reported today in the New Journal of Physics (www.njp.org) published jointly by the Institute of Physics and the German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft).

This breakthrough gives scientists a clearer understanding of the mechanisms of plate tectonics: how the landmasses of the Earth shift and change over time, how earthquakes are generated, volcanoes erupt, and precious metals are concentrated in rich seams. Tectonic microplates could also help identify whether this process, which many scientists argue was a key factor in triggering the evolution of life on Earth, occurs on other bodies in the Solar System.”

See some footage of the models here.

Song and Dance for a Minimalist

          Srbio               “Steve Reich was sitting in Starbucks: a logical enough place to meet a man who has been described as the most caffeinated individual in New York. Around him, ambient noise recreated the atmosphere of his 1994 piece “City Life,” which incorporated recordings of pile-drivers, snatches of speech and other downtown New York noises. He was talking about his latest piece, “You Are (Variations),” which had its premiere in October in Los Angeles. “


“It’s a time when a person might be expected to wax valedictory. Mr. Reich is being honored with a couple of miniretrospectives this season: a three-concert series at the Metropolitan Museum (the second is tomorrow; the last, on April 2), and a Composer Portrait at the Miller Theater (March 25), which will include a performance of one of his best-known works, “Drumming,” by So Percussion. (A recording of the piece by the group will be released on March 11.)

And all of this is just a warmup for the 70th-birthday festivities. “New York Counterpoint: New York Celebrates Steve Reich” will involve some of the city’s major presenting organizations: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, each relying on its particular strengths. Dance performances by Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker and Akram Khan will open the Next Wave festival at the academy. Carnegie will offer a workshop with Mr. Reich and his ensemble coaching young musicians, and present the Kronos Quartet and other instrumentalists at Zankel Hall. Lincoln Center will focus on the vocal music, including “You Are (Variations)” in its first New York performance. “

Read more here and here about Steve Reich, one of the foremost composers of our time and a pioneer of minimal music.

Reich’s music is also being featured in an upcoming concert of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Nico Muhly’s wonderful Program Notes for this concert give a historical perspective on minimal music. Thank you Nico, for telling me about it!

A giant step closer to molecular electronics

The New York Times reports that Hewlett-Packard has made a major break through.

“A group of Hewlett-Packard researchers will report on Tuesday that they have created a molecular-scale alternative to the transistor. The device could increase the viability of a new generation of ultrasmall electronics that would one day be smaller than what is possible with today’s silicon-based technology.

In an article to be published Tuesday in The Journal of Applied Physics, three researchers at the quantum science research group of Hewlett-Packard Labs, based in Palo Alto, Calif., describe how they have designed a “crossbar latch,” making it possible to perform a type of logic operation that is essential to the functions of a modern computer.”