Monday, November 19, 2018

Scientists Reveal How "Molecular Boxes" Self-Assemble, Stretch to Fit Contents

Think back to your high-school biology class, where you learned about DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid is the building block of life. It is present in each of our cells and determines countless physical traits. But this incredibly complex molecule is impressive for another reason: single strands can spontaneously connect with each other to form the familiar double helix structure.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Meet the Scientists Using Swarms of "Remote Control" Bacteria to Study Collective Behavior

“It's unbelievable to be able to move a joystick and watch an organism that is 10x smaller than the width of my hair move across a screen,” says Christopher Pierce, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University (OSU) working with Dr. Ratnasingham Sooryakumar.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

These Fluid-Filled Tiles Could Help Keep the Buildings of the Future Cool

Sunlight is the power source for nearly all life on Earth, but it can be destructive, too. When too much radiation—particularly the heat rays of the near-infrared—hits manmade structures, it can cause them to overheat, warp, and even fracture.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Now You Can Listen to the Moon Landing

On July 20, 1969, just before 11 p.m. Eastern time, Neil Armstrong planted the first human footprints on another world. It was a defining moment in a journey that had transfixed the planet.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Surprising Discovery Gives "Plasma Lenses" a Clearer Future

It might surprise you that scientists at CERN—the home of the world’s largest particle accelerator—don’t always think bigger is better. At 17-miles in diameter, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It’s the hub of high energy physics research, drawing scientists from around the globe and managing to make the Higgs boson a household name. But as CERN researchers look to the future, some of them are thinking small. Well, small in size, not small in impact.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Next-Gen Satellites May Use Lasers to Part the Clouds

Scientists of the future huddle around a computer, waiting for an HD live stream of the incoming asteroid. As the probe that will provide the crucial communication slowly moves into view of the asteroid, they know that every second counts. In a surprising move, they tune their receivers not to radio frequencies, like we do today, but to a much higher frequency—somewhere in the near-infrared. But they think nothing of it—infrared and visible light allows for a much better transmission of data, and all of the leading satellite producers have switched over by now. But at the last minute, a cloud rolls in above the station, scattering the message from the relay satellite in all directions and cutting off the receiver.

That’s where the work of Dr. Jean-Pierre Wolf comes in.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Smashing (Frozen) Pumpkins: Celebrate Halloween with Triboluminescence!

Pumpkins have a very important role this time of year. Not only can they be used as decorations, jack-o-lanterns, and in pumpkin pies, but we can use them for some unique autumnal science, to demonstrate the phenomenon of triboluminescence: when solid objects emit light under physical strain. This isn’t like putting a candle inside a jack-o-lantern, mind you—the pumpkin itself can glow...but only for a split second, before it stops being a pumpkin altogether.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Surprising Behavior of "Whirlpools" of Light

The fastest timescales. The highest pressures. Absolute zero. The nanoscale. These conditions are far from our everyday experience, but studying how things behave in different situations can reveal a more complete picture of their nature—and can lead to revolutionary breakthroughs.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

How Dandelion Seeds Float Seemingly Impossible Distances

A single breath from a playing child can send dozens of fluffy dandelion seeds floating into the air. Now scientists find these seeds can keep themselves aloft by generating a type of vortex previously thought too unstable to exist, helping explain how these flowers have dispersed across the planet.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Newton's Apple

As someone whose job it is to help people understand and appreciate physics, I absolutely hate the way most people talk about Isaac Newton and how he developed his theory of gravity. It's not the apple bit that I have a problem with; that's an important part of the story, and even historically accurate! The thing that kills me is the way the idea is framed, and the gulf that it creates between his observation and his insight. What do I mean by that? Let's unpack the story, as I remember first being told it.

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