How Physicists Image Individual Atoms

 

Image: Lee Park/Purdue University
Image: Lee Park/Purdue University
Until 1981, the atom was a sort of imaginary entity. We knew it was there, of course, and we could even measure and observe it via a number of different techniques—including field ion microscopy—but we couldn’t just go and look at an atom in the same way that we could peer into a microscope and look at some biological cells.

By Michael Byrne|MOTHERBOARD

Then, in 1981, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer came along with the scanning tunneling microscope, which allowed scientists to look at surfaces at atomic scales for the first time. The pair won the Nobel Prize for the accomplishment in 1986. Here, in the latest of Physics World’s 100 Second Science series, the physicist Peter Wahl explains how the thing actually works.

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Know Your Language: Brainfucked by Brainfuck

Image: Petit Computer Wiki
Image: Petit Computer Wiki
I’m not so sure Brainfuck is an actual brainfuck so much as it is exhausting. Nor was it meant to be a brainfuck, for that matter.


By Michael Byrne|MOTHERBOARD

By most accounts, the esoteric programming language’s founder, Urban Müller, was interested in creating a Turing-complete language that had the smallest possible compiler, which is the in-between program that coverts high level languages like C to a given computer architecture’s machine-representational assembly instructions. Müller wanted tiny, the complete minimum that a language could be and still be a „real“ language.

The Brainfuck compiler is down to about 171 bytes now, which is about half the capacity of all of the processor registers in a canonical x86 architecture combined. That is, you could imagine running it without using any memory outside of the actual processor cores. That is truly an accomplishment, of sorts.

While Brainfuck is knotty as hell, there’s a satisfying element. For one thing, any other programming language that I can think of takes assembly code and adds more structural and syntactical complexity while also adding new layers of abstraction. Which is the point of high-level languages. Things become simpler as code gets more specific and more abstract, but there’s also a lot of extra stuff that comes with high-level languages and their myriad extensions and outgrowths. Below the surface, things become muddier, more opaque.

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The Misguided Scientific Basis for the Anti-Vaccination Movement

In light of the recent ​outbreak of measles at Disneyland and other states, there’s been a lot of talk about vaccinations.


By Jordan Valinsky|MOTHERBOARD

The discussion is firmly planted into two sides: the antivaxxers and the rest of us. The former group’s rallying cry is that vaccines are believed to be linked to long-term health issues, such as autism, even though there is no scientific evidence of that.

And then there’s everyone else. You know, those who would like to see that infectious diseases remain eradicated here in America so we can be healthy and relatively happy.

However, unlike us, YouTube personality Hank Green isn’t so judgey and is here to explain that there’s actually a methodology behind the antivaxxers’ beliefs.

In this edition of “SciShow,” Green says while it’s proven that vaccinations save millions of lives each year, he sees the anti-vaccination movement “to be a phenomenon to be understood” that’s rooted in science.

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