A Layman’s Guide to Photonic Crystals

The first time I heard the word “Photonic Crystal” in a seminar, I was stumped. So I decided to read about it, understand and then write about it to make it explain better to me, and you of course. Even though it is a whole graduate level class to explain, it does not hurt to quickly look at how Photonic crystals work. I have not taken the relevant graduate class. However, after reading this amazing answer on Quora, and from a range of other literature out there, I was able to make some good sense out of it. My idea was that at least by doing a little reading you get to throw around a fancy word like “photonic crystal”. Moreover, if someone decides to test you on what it means, you even explain it to them. These kind of examinations, where it is incumbent upon you to perform well, happen all the time, everywhere. That’s why it is important to learn. And well, then there’s that whole argument of expanding your mind to exercise your creative muscle by reading and listening carefully to things and people that are out of what you do.

Featured image credit: Flickr, Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz (Picture)

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Estimating the Distance of a Lightning Strike

By Anupum Pant

Everyone who’s studied basic science at school knows that light travels much much faster than sound. Light can travel about 300,000 km in a single second. Sound, in the same time would cover about 0.3 km. That’s a huge difference.

Considering that, it is fairly easy to calculate how far a lightning strike happens by measuring the time it takes the sound to reach you after you see the lightning. In that case, taking into account the enormous speed of light, you assume that the light instantly reaches you and you just count the seconds it takes for the sound to be heard at the place you are.

Then multiplying the seconds with 0.3 would give you, in kilometres, how far it happened – an estimation of, course.

So, if there isn’t a mess of lightning strikes happening somewhere, which usually isn’t the case, and if you can clearly tell which sound came from which lightning strike, which you can’t in most cases, you can actually estimate the distance of a strike very easily.

If you think that’s great. You might be interested in:
How to estimate the temperature.
and How to estimate the time to sunset.

A Scientist’s Way of Making Super-Strong iPhone Cases

By Anupum Pant

Bulk Metallic Glasses (BMGs) A.K.A Amorphous metals, give you the goodness of both metals and glasses. They literally are glasses made out of metal. Unlike the most crystalline metals, BMGs are made by cooling certain liquid metals very quickly to lock the disordered glassy structure in place. They aren’t crystalline like your everyday metals and instead have a structure like that of glasses – disordered.

Some of these BMGs have amazing properties. Like super high hardness, about 3 times the hardness of steel is one of the most alluring properties they have.

They’ve been around since the 60s, and mass producing them has always been tough. Until now, BMGs were never used for something as ordinary as a smartphone case. But the recent innovation in manufacturing coming from a Materials scientist at Yale will probably soon bring to the market these new iPhone covers that’d be 50 times harder than plastic, or 10 times harder than Aluminium, and almost three times the hardness of steel.