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Showing posts from December, 2018

Hear the Roar of the Grid in the High Voltage Explosion that Lit Up NYC's Sky Last Night

The world is ending. The aliens are here. That's what some New York City residents thought last night when the sky over Queens lit up with a bizarre blue glow. For a few minutes, the eerie, flickering light was bright as day.

A New Model for How Wrinkled Organs Get Their Shapes

You might think wrinkles are only skin deep, but there’s a lot more to the topic than anti-aging cream and laundry. The brain is a wrinkly object for a reason, as are flames, fingerprints, raisins, elephants, and the ridges in your teeth. Understanding how and why wrinkles emerge in developing biological organs like the brain could inform treatments for conditions like lissencephaly (the absence of wrinkles in the cerebral cortex), and possibly even diseases like Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration.

Ask a Physicist: Rudolph the Redshifted Reindeer

Visiting every house in the world in one night is a tough job, even when you don't count the difficulty of squeezing down a chimney after eating a few million Christmas cookies. Just from a logistics perspective, it's a nightmare: finding the most efficient route between a bunch of points on a map (the so-called "Traveling Salesman" problem) is such a notoriously difficult nut to crack that it seems we've got no shot at doing it efficiently without quantum computing.

Why (Almost) Everything on Earth is Solar-Powered

This week, Nathan from Europe wrote in:
I have a question about the theory that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
If you have two waterfalls, and one has a turbine and the other doesn't, yet the water eventually hits the ground with the same volume and force on both, have you not created energy with the turbine?

Want to Build a Nanobot? This New Shrinking Technique Could Help

Researchers from MIT have come up with a new way to fabricate nanoscale structures using an innovative "shrinking" technique. The new method uses equipment many laboratories already have and is relatively straightforward, so it could make nanoscale fabrication more accessible.

We're Nowhere Near the Limit on Telescope Resolution, According to New Physics

What fundamentally limits our ability to see planets, stars, and galaxies through a telescope? To differentiate between one star and a galaxy that contains 100 thousand million stars?

How to Move a Single Electron

Every time you brush your hair, hundreds of trillions of electrons jump from your hair onto the brush. These particles are so small and sensitive that it is almost impossible to handle them individually, but a group of scientists from Canada have figured out a way to do it using an atomic force microscope. This newfound approach to manipulating individual electrons may one day find applications in future nanoscale electronics.

Inside DESI, an Ambitious Project to Map the Universe in 3D

DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, aims to map the universe in three dimensions and shine a light on the mysterious force of nature we call dark energy. Its five-year sky survey will begin in 2020, but the project achieved an important milestone this fall when collaborators started assembling key pieces of equipment at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but exploring DESI by pictures and numbers offers an in-depth glimpse into this unique, ambitious instrument—and a peek at the excitement to come.