Philip Ball

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer in London and author of Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything (2012).

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How to Make Soft, Wavy Structures

Published May 25, 2012
A process for making wavy tubes in a controlled way could lead to the predictable fabrication of complex shapes.
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Unexpected Turbulence in a Splash

Published June 29, 2012
Some droplets throw out a fine spray as they hit a liquid surface because of a hidden pattern of fluid flow.
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Some Communities Dependent upon Few Species

Published August 31, 2012
Some ecological communities may be acutely sensitive to the survival of certain key species, thanks to the details of the species’ interdependence, according to simulations.
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How Cytoplasm Generates its Own Smooth Flow

Published October 19, 2012
Orderly flow in fluid extracted from a living cell results from the spontaneous organization of randomly-oriented, microscopic forces.
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DNA Flexibility at the Atomic Scale

Published November 30, 2012
The flexibility of a DNA strand affects its activities in cells and depends on its length. Atomic-scale computer simulations begin to explain why the length matters.
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Leaf Size Fixed by Tree Physics

Published January 4, 2013
The near-uniform leaf size of the tallest trees is set by the requirements of their vascular network.
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Rainbow Pattern May Allow Laser Damage Monitoring

Published March 1, 2013
Intense light pulses that can precisely sculpt solid materials also generate dazzling rainbow patterns that reveal information about the surface.
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Dripping Honey Explained

Published April 1, 2013
New theory and experiments explain why the lengthy strands that dangle from a spoon of honey can get so long without breaking up.
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Wireless Power for Tiny Medical Devices

Published May 17, 2013
A new technique for powering medical implants wirelessly could allow them to shrink to sub-millimeter sizes in the future, according to theory and simulations.
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Published July 19, 2013
A proposed device can act like Maxwell’s famous demon and as a tiny refrigerator “powered” by the entropy contained in information, rather than by an external source of energy.
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How Spinning Coils Swim through Gloopy Liquids

Published August 9, 2013
Navigation of gel-like liquids requires an optimal balance between fluid properties and the geometry of helical propellers.
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Boomerangs Diffuse Differently than Spheres

Published October 18, 2013
Bent particles have a preferred direction of Brownian motion.
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Why Red Paint Darkens over the Centuries

Published November 15, 2013
Experiments and calculations reveal the chemical reactions that cause the brilliant red in ancient paintings to turn dark over time, as well as potential preservation measures.
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Particle Clustering Phenomena Inspire Multiple Explanations

Published December 11, 2013
Tiny particles that actively move through a fluid exhibit various modes of organization that are still not fully understood.
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First Spectrum of Ball Lightning

Published January 17, 2014
Researchers measured a spectrum of light emitted by the rare and elusive ball lightning.
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How Rocks Break

Published February 14, 2014
A new computational model of porous materials like sandstone shows what happens microscopically when the material is stressed to the breaking point.
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The Smallest Shock Wave

Published March 18, 2014
Researchers create shock waves in a nanosized ball of plasma.
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Thermodynamics Confronts Quantum Mechanics

Published April 4, 2014
Heat flow carried by electrons in a thermoelectric device requires a surprisingly wide “pipe”—a rare case where quantum effects have macroscopic consequences.
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Why We Can’t Remember the Future

Published May 2, 2014
The basic laws of physics don’t obviously prohibit it, but the criteria for a genuine “memory” do.
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How Bacteria Keep Track of their Size

Published May 23, 2014
A new theory suggests that bacterial cells regulate their size by directly measuring their increase in volume during growth.
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Universal Formula for Cosmic Voids

Published June 27, 2014
A simple equation can describe the large-scale bubbles that appear in the dark matter distributed throughout the Universe, and it applies to voids of a wide range of sizes and ages.
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What Makes a Droplet Splash?

Published July 11, 2014
Whether a droplet hitting a solid surface flattens smoothly or forms a ragged splash depends on the gas surrounding it.
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High-Precision Measurements Using Lots of Cold Atoms

Published September 5, 2014
A new technique uses up to $30$ Bose-Einstein condensates simultaneously to make ultraprecise measurements.
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Single Molecule Microphone

Published September 26, 2014
A single molecule can work as a vibration sensor that can detect displacements nearly as small as a proton.