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August 12, 2014

Australian physicists generate tractor beam on water

Australian physicists generate tractor beam on water

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Science and technology
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Physicists at the Australian National University have created a tractor beam in water.

A research team from the Australian National University have generated complex surface flows driven by three-dimensional waves. Their results show possibility of remote manipulation of floating objects and were published in Nature Physics this Sunday.

As Dr Horst Punzmann told ABC, “A tractor beam is a popular term which, I think it captures quite well the basic principle. You put an object there and it propagates, it floats backwards to the source of the wave”. Professor Michael Shats clarified that “We found that above a certain height, these complex three-dimensional waves generate flow patterns on the surface of the water. The tractor beam is just one of the patterns, they can be inward flows, outward flows or vortices“.

Professor Michael Shats spoke about the experiments: “First I thought it was impossible and I thought that it was the effect of the boundaries nearby. So the first idea was to build a bigger tank. We did, and it worked”. As Dr Horst Punzmann noted, “The ability to move films on the ocean, like oil films… would be an opportunity”. Professor Michael Shats explained that “The power requirements for the wave maker are relatively small because we generate only the motion in the top layer”.

To visualise the three-dimensional flows and trajectories, Houdini animation software was used and help was provided to the researchers by National Computational Infrastructure. To create a figure of 2D unstationary flow, finite-time Lyapunov exponent analysis was used.

This study was supported by the Australian Research Council, the Minerva Foundation and the Binational Science Foundation (BSF).



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Actor and comic Robin Williams found dead at 63

Actor and comic Robin Williams found dead at 63

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams at the premier of Happy Feet Two in 2011.
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

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The US comedy actor Robin Williams was found dead yesterday by the Marin County, California Sheriff’s Office, apparently by asphyxiation. Williams had been suffering from depression and announced he would re-engage in a twelve-step program.

Williams was the star of a whole series of comedy films winning an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting and Golden Globes for his acting in Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and The Fisher King. As well as films and television, Williams did stand-up comedy and appeared on chat shows; he appeared on the finale of Johnny Carson‘s tenure hosting The Tonight Show.

Williams’ initial claim to national fame was his role in Mork and Mindy where he played an alien who comes to earth, falls in love and gets married to a woman, Mindy McConnell, played by Pam Dawber.

Susan Schneider, Williams’ wife, said: “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

President Barack Obama paid tribute to Williams: “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalised on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”

Comedian Steve Martin tweeted: “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”

Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “I can’t believe the news about Robin Williams. He gave so much to so many people. I’m heartbroken.”

Born in 1951, Williams leaves behind his third wife, and three children: daughter Zelda, 25, and two sons—Zachary, 31, and Cody, 19.



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