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Scientists Created a Water Tractor Beam

Tractor beams have long been a science fiction fantasy—a magical force that attracts objects from a distance, like an alien’s spaceship sucking up its earthling specimens. We’re not quite that advanced, but physicists at The Australian National University have created a “tractor beam on water” that makes floating objects move wherever they are directed.

The group, led by Professor Michael Shats, started with a ping pong ball. Placing it in a small pool, they created waves using a thin, cylindrical device with suction cups on the bottom. When the device vibrates up and down, these cups come in contact with the water, creating waves. Different wave frequencies and sizes, along with different cup shapes, create different kinds of currents. Some pulled the ball inward, some pushed it outward.

Dr. Horst Punzmann, from the Research School of Physics and Engineering, said the team even found a way of “creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave.”

This doesn’t sound like rocket science. It seems quite obvious that waves make floating objects move, right? But actually, what propels floating objects aren’t the waves themselves, it’s the currents they create. Never before have we identified the precise wave patterns that make an object go one way or another, or how to replicate them. “It’s one of the great unresolved problems, yet anyone in the bathtub can reproduce it,” Punzmann said. Interestingly, there’s still no mathematical theory to explain why these experiments work. That said, this new knowledge could help us clean up oil spills and ocean trash, or retrieve drifting boats.

"The applications could be numerous," Shats said. A paper documenting the findings is featured in the journal Nature Physics.

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The Biggest Thing to Happen in the East Room of the White House
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The East Room of the White House has been the location of many important events, but nothing will ever be as big as this one.

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Doctor Who Is About to Get Its First Female Doctor
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BBC America

BBC America

Nearly six months after current Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi announced that he'd be hanging up his Crombie coat at the end of this year, fans have been speculating about who would be taking over the TARDIS. On Sunday morning, BBC announced that Jodie Whittaker will become the Thirteenth Doctor—the first female lead in the show's history.

That's not the only major change the series will see when its Christmas Special premieres at the end of this year; longtime showrunner Steven Moffat is handing off creative duties to Chris Chibnall, who has written several episodes of the series over the past decade. The teaming of Chibnall and Whittaker will be a familiar one, as the two have spent the past several years working on Broadchurch, which Chibnall created and in which Whittaker stars (its stellar final season is airing on BBC America now).

“I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey—with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet," Whittaker said in a statement. "It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

“After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor," Chibnall added. "I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The Thirteenth Doctor is on her way.”

Though Whittaker will make history as the first female Doctor, the idea has been floated in the past. When David Tennant parted ways with his role as the Tenth Doctor in 2008, showrunner Russell Davies said that Catherine Zeta-Jones was his first choice to replace him.

When asked what it feels like to be the first woman Doctor, Whittaker said, "It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible."

Fortunately, Whittaker already has a few friends in the Doctor Who family who she's expecting to hear from at any minute. "I’m certainly expecting a couple of calls," she admitted. "I’ve got a couple of mates in there. I’m mates with a companion [Arthur Darvill], I’m mates with a trio of Doctors. I know Matt Smith, Chris Eccleston, and obviously David Tennant. Oh! And let’s throw in David Bradley! Four Doctors! So I’m hoping I get some calls of advice."

Whittaker will make her debut in the 2017 Christmas Special, which will mark Capaldi's final episode as the Twelfth Doctor—and he couldn't be more thrilled with his choice of successor.

“Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm," Capaldi said. "She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”

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