The last thing you’ll ever see?
Baseball is a leisurely game—some would say achingly boring—with no ticking clock forcing the players to hurry. But what if you could speed baseball up? Way, way up, up to a relativistic pace: What would happen if the pitcher wound up and released a baseball at 90 percent the speed of light?
Randall Munroe, the mind behind stick-figure comic XKCD, has a background in physics and computer programming, which heavily influences his work. Recently he launched a new weekly feature called “What If?” in which he answers readers’ hypothetical questions. Like how to hit a baseball that is moving so fast, normal mechanics no longer apply and the rules of relativity come into play. The answer is that in relativistic baseball, you don’t hit the ball; the ball—or rather the plasma shockwave that the ball creates—hits you…and everyone else.
This could mean an end to fear and loathing at the dentist’s office. A new (allegedly) painless blowtorch-like device is being developed that uses a thin beam of plasma could kill oral bacteria in cavities. A plasma is an ionized gas—one in which some of the electrons are stripped away from their atoms.
The plasma kept the dentin, the fibrous bonelike material that makes up most of a tooth under the outer enamel layer, intact, while reducing bacteria 10,000-fold. This means that plasma jets could be used to wipe out the tooth-decaying bacteria in cavities–a procedure that normally requires the use of a painful dental drill to grind away the infected portion of tooth.
The plasma being used is a “cool” plasma with a temperature of just 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When it fires, it charges the oxygen gas around it, which creates reactive molecules that break down and destroy the bacteria’s cell walls, killing them in the process.
But here’s the bad news: If you have a gnawing cavity right now, there’s no point putting off a visit to the dentist. Researchers say it will take three to five years for the new plasma drill to make it to the dentist’s office.
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Image: Stefan Rupf
As Stephen mentioned yesterday, 3D HD TV is a big theme here at CES this year: Multiple manufacturers, including Sony, LG, Samsung, and Panasonic are all showing products. Panasonic is using LCD shutter glasses to make it happen–the glasses receive IR signals from the TV and alternately blacken each of the lenses to give each eye a slightly different perspective, and that binocular difference creates the 3D effect.
But perhaps most importantly, the glasses remind me of the classic 80s sci-fi B movie They Live, with super awesome wrestler-turned-actor Rowdy Roddy Piper (and one notoriously, ridiculously long fight scene) . Before The Rock, there was Roddy, God love ‘im.
By the way, there are apparently plans to remake They Live. This could end in disaster.