If you are a fan of the music of the 1960s and 70s you have probably heard the name Tom Dowd. Born in New York City in 1925, Dowd was a recording engineer who worked with some of the biggest names of the era including Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane and Diana Ross. He died in 2002.

Now, the success of the film Oppenheimer has got music fans talking about his participation in the Manhattan Project. Dowd graduated from Stuyvesant High School (which has produced four Nobel laureates) age 16 and enrolled at Columbia University to study physics. At 18, he was drafted into the US army and contributed to the development of the atomic bomb by doing neutron beam research at Columbia.

After the war he was not able to publish his top-secret work so it could not contribute to a PhD. As a result, he gave up on physics and instead took a job at a recording studio. His first hit was “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake”, which was released in 1950 by Eileen Barton and the rest is history. You can read more in this article in JamBase by Andy Kahn.

Pondering Barbenheimer

If like me, you are still puzzled by the Barbenheimer cultural phenomenon, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists offers an explanation. In “What Barbie can teach us about nuclear weapons”, Emily Faux explores why people have been so keen to find connections between two films – Barbie and Oppenheimer – which at first glance appear to have little in common.

Staying on the theme of film icons, perhaps the most famous movie tagline is “In space no one can hear you scream” – which was used to promote Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien. Well, it turns out that under some circumstances, sound can be transmitted in space – or at least across a vacuum standing in for a short distance in space.

Zhuoran Geng and Ilari Maasilta at the Nanoscience Center at Finland’s University of Jyväskylä have shown that if two pieces of piezoelectric materials are separated by a small vacuum gap, sound waves can “tunnel” between the two materials. The secret lies in the fact that a sound vibration in a piezoelectric material creates an electric field, which has no problem reaching across a vacuum. When it interacts with the piezoelectric material on the other side of the gap, it causes the material to vibrate – recreating the sound wave.

You can read more in a paper by the Finnish duo in Communications Physics.

The post Connecting Aretha Franklin to the Manhattan project, <em>Barbie</em> and nuclear weapons, how to hear in space appeared first on Physics World.