Fractals and infinite curves, sonified data and farewell to Sir Tom Kibble


Tushna Commissariat

Fractals have always fascinated me and I am sure it’s the same for many of you. What I find most intriguing about them is how the relatively simple base pattern, or “seed”, quickly scales up to form the intricate designs we see in a snowflake or a coastline. In the video above, mathematician and animator Grant Sanderson has created a montage of “space filling curves” – theoretically speaking, such curves can endlessly expand without every crossing its own path to fill an infinite space. Following on from these curves, Sanderson shows you just how a simple seed pattern grows into a fractal and also describes how small changes to a seed property – such as an angle in a V – can alter the final image. The above video follows from a previous one Sanderson created on “Hilbert’s curve, and the usefulness of infinite results in a finite world” so check them both out.

Music and physics are happy bedfellows, as we have seen in the past, and here’s one more example of where the two happily meet. Thanks to this article on the Engadget website, we came across “Quantizer” – a new software that allows you to experience high-energy physics through real-time audio. The real-time data in this case come from the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva and is the brain-child of students Juliana Cherston and Ewan Hill at MIT’s Media Labs. The really fun part is that you can listen to the data in three different musical styles: “cosmic”, house or “suitar samba”. Tell us which one is your favourite.

While we are on the subject of particle physics, could you tell us what exactly a “particle” is? That is the question being pondered over at Symmetry magazine. In an article, science-writer Matthew Francis talks to science writer and physicist Greg Gbur from the University of North Carolina to see if the two of them can come up with a reasonable answer for what actually constitutes a particle. Read the article and tell us if you agree and how you describe it.

Also talking about the LHC and particles is the latest offering from the Science: Disrupt podcast, titled “Science and storytelling collide”. In the podcast, they catch up with Mark Levinson, who directed the documentary film Particle Fever, based at CERN around the discovery of the Higgs boson.

And finally, all of us here at Physics World were sad to hear yesterday that renowned British physicist Sir Tom Kibble died at the age of 83. Kibble worked on everything from cosmology to quantum gravity to high-energy particle physics and string theory. You can read his obituary over on the Imperial Collage website. Colin Adcock from the JPhys+ blog spoke with Kibble last year so head on over to the blog to find out what inspired Kibble to become a scientist.