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Showing posts from April, 2016

Like Parent, Like Child

In honor of yesterday's Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, here is a look at some important scientific advancements made by parent-child collaborations. Just imagine the dinner conversations…

*Please note that each person mentioned is an esteemed scientist in his or her own right, with many other important contributions that aren’t mentioned in these brief highlights.

Star-chaeology: The Next (Stellar) Generation

“We are looking back in time by simply studying the grandfathers and all our stellar ancestors.” Dr. Anna Frebel is an Assistant Professor of Physics at MIT and the author of Searching for the Oldest Stars, and she looks for and studies stars that are almost as old as the universe itself. “That's why we call this kind of work stellar archaeology.”

Studying Dark Energy...With Light

The universe is teeming with galaxies, but gravity distorts our view of them. Astrophysicists with the ongoing Dark Energy Survey have now collected giant catalogs of the distorted shapes of 24 million distant galaxies, making it possible to probe the underlying structure of the rapidly expanding universe.

Questions to Consider on Earth Day

For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions, and by the depth of our answers.”—Carl Sagan in Cosmos.

Scientists Observe Plasma Waves That Could Help Prevent Space Debris Collisions

Scientists at the Institute for Plasma Research have observed a phenomenon in the lab that could help predict collisions between satellites and space debris in the Earth’s ionosphere. Bits of dead and disintegrating satellites, spacecraft, and spend rocket stages clutter lower Earth orbit. The amount is growing at an alarming rate. Traveling as fast as 17,500 mph, even a piece the size of a penny could cause serious damage in a collision with a live satellite. The serendipitous story of new research that could help detect, and therefore prevent such collisions takes place at the intersection of basic research and practical need. A good place to start is back in 1834.

Hoverboard Redux

The “Hoverboard”: simultaneously one of the most popular and irritating gadgets to emerge in recent memory. From the misleading name (unlike other hoverboards we've encountered, they don’t even hover!) to their tendency to go up in flames, the meteoric emergence of hoverboards is a case study in the dynamics of fads…and patent infringement. But we’re not here today to talk about the sociological aspects of this goofy-looking invention—rather, we’re discussing the technical ones.

“Giant Leaps” Mean Changes to Superconductor Theory and New Magnetic Opportunities

Experimentally verifying a prediction can be ground-breaking and extremely important, like the recent detection of gravitational waves. But finding something that disagrees with a generally accepted prediction? That can be the science of game-changing discoveries…assuming, of course, that there isn’t a problem with the experiment. As University of Houston physicist Roy Weinstein puts it, “When something new is found, the first suspect is always ourselves.”

Testing Einstein's Relativity With a Cosmic Neutrino

The arrival of a tiny cosmic particle from a distant, extremely energetic place in the universe enabled researchers to test key principles of general relativity and special relativity. Their results will be especially valuable for scientists attempting to merge quantum physics and general relativity through “quantum gravity” models.

Nano-powered Superheroes Take On Crime & Cancer

“Spider-Man, Thor, the Hulk, the X-Men. . . Okay, so I’ve created a whole caboodle of superheroes. But the important thing is, now it’s your turn.” —Stan Lee

Scientists Uncover Bubble-Trapping Vortex Rings With Environmental Applications

Watching ocean waves crashing on the beach is a relaxing, almost restful experience for many people. But for others, the oceanfront is a better place to study climate change than have a lazy getaway. The air-water interface is teeming with interesting physics—vortex rings forming, gas bubbles bursting, gas bubbles being trapped, and drops bouncing, floating, and splashing. All of this activity has a direct impact on the climate.