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Showing posts from November, 2016

Towards a safer, better nuclear energy future

Compared to most industries, nuclear power looks like (and often is) one of the slowest to innovate. Advances in batteries, solar cells, and biotech hit the news every day, while the phrase “nuclear innovation” rarely makes headlines. Look a little closer though, and you’ll see that researchers are making exciting, innovative, and rapid progress toward a better and safer nuclear energy future.

Futuristic “Photon Sails” Fail in Simulation, Shredded by Laser

Imagine a spaceship, coasting silently through the dusty void of our solar system, outward-bound on a journey away from both our sun and the pale blue dot that is Earth. Slowly, with mechanical precision and a slight whirr that’s inaudible anywhere but inside the ship, telescoping arms deploy from their hatches positioned around the circumference of the craft. Each close to a mile long, they give the impression of a shining asterisk gliding away in the endless night, or a very leggy spider.

The Truth About Star Names

This is the highlight of the holiday shopping season for bargain shoppers. Deals and steals await those willing to sacrifice sleep on Friday and click at lightning speed on Monday. Sometimes the quest for the perfect gift can be as difficult as searching for new planets among the stars. If you’re looking to the heavens for gift ideas this season though, keep in mind that stars aren’t really available for purchase. Neither are their naming rights.

Heavy Lights at America's Oldest Lighthouse

Boston Light, America's oldest lighthouse station, turned 300 this year. Built on a small, rocky island near the entrance to Boston Harbor, it draws visitors not only for its age, but for the chance it offers to view a piece of technology that some argue changed the course of the 19th century: a massive lens made from hundreds of sparkling glass prisms.

Your Friday Reading: Magic

It’s Friday afternoon! Let’s look into the archives of physics and pretend we’re still working.

Action! New Insight on Mysterious Radio Signals

If the story of fast radio bursts inspired a movie, you might find it in the mystery category. Or science fiction. Maybe comedy. Action would probably work too. I don’t know about gangster or western, but the right director could probably make it work. It’s the story of fleeting, mysterious, space-based signals reaching the Earth from unknown objects in unknown locations. You can see the broad appeal.

Keeping Skyrmions on Track: the next (next) generation of electronics

The day after Halloween, gift guides started hitting mailboxes and inboxes. One of my favorite categories to browse is “For the tech-lover.” These lists feature the latest phones, smartwatches, and random novelties ( like a wrist-band controlled BB-8 ). But even as people scan Black Friday ads for the best deal on the latest fitness trackers and virtual reality headsets, scientists are looking much further ahead—to the next, next generation of electronics.

Your Friday Reading: "Talking Rubber"

It’s Friday afternoon! Let’s look into the archives of physics and pretend we’re still working.

A Reason to Look Up

Life is busy and complicated, but can I request one small favor? Make a note to at least glance at the moon on Sunday or Monday night.

Factoring Quantum Mechanics into Encryption

Recent cyber-attacks have left many people convinced that there is no real way to keep anything secret, at least not anything connected to the grid. You can strengthen your passwords and antivirus protection, but if the systems that send and receive your data are vulnerable, so are you. And the reality is, no one actually knows just how secure our encryption systems are.

What Do We Really Know About Our Universe?

In October alone, scientists published papers in reputable journals questioning what we think we know about the expansion of the universe, galaxy formation, the number of galaxies in the universe, and the number of planets in our solar system .

The Wrinkling Nature of Flames

Many people are mesmerized by the dancing flames of a fire, watching them flicker and evolve through half-glazed eyes. Flames may be relaxing and comforting in a fireplace or campfire ring, but don’t forget that fire is also a powerful tool that can drive jet engines. The more we understand about how flames behave at a fundamental level, the better we can use them to our advantage.