Monday, June 24, 2019

Sailing by Sunlight: Solar Sail-Propelled Spacecraft Launches Tonight

Weather permitting, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will blast off into the dark Florida sky late tonight (live stream here). In each of its 27 first-stage engines, liquid propellant RP-1 will mix with liquid oxygen, igniting chemical reactions that will thrust the 3-million-pound system into the night sky.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Story of Warm Little Inflatons and Cold Dark Matter


A fraction of a second after birth, before his eyes were even open, my son was pooping. Now a six-year-old, he tells the story of his first act proudly whenever the subject of babies comes up. We laugh at the memory, and the event is documented in photographs and highlighted in his baby book. It’s part of his story.

Without witnesses, photos, and written records, the universe’s first few fractions of a second are much harder to unravel. Scientists look at the current state of this 13.8 billion-year-old and try to work backwards, creating models that begin somewhere, somehow, and bring us here. The successful models make predictions that match astronomical observations, indirect records like the cosmic microwave background, and the physical laws of the universe. Modern cosmology is a well-established field, but many unknowns remain.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Allure of Zebra Print: New Insight on the Evolutionary Advantage of Stripes


Like many other preschoolers, young Alison was intrigued by zebras and their striking black and white stripes. Why would an animal have such curious coloring? That question and its unsatisfying answer—that no one really knows—stuck with her into adulthood. Her affinity for zebras only grew during the several years she lived in Africa.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Below Bermuda, Scientists Find the Weirdest Magma on the Planet



Bermuda draws in over 650,000 tourists each year with its luxurious pink sand beaches, clear blue waters, and thriving local art scene. Sitting just below the surface, however, lies a volatile history: The island is actually an ancient volcano. While we’re not concerned of any future eruptions, the compositions of these volcanic rocks could provide key information about how volcanoes form, and what its like deep inside the earth. New research from a team of geoscientists suggests the magma that fueled this volcano formed in a rather odd place.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Bedazzling: The Size of Your Diamond Could Reveal Changes in the Fundamental Constants and the Existence Dark Matter



In the math that describes how the world works, there are some extraordinary numbers. These numbers, called fundamental constants, seem to be embedded in the very nature of the universe. They pop up whether you’re working in inches or centimeters, studying what happened billions of years ago or what’s happening today. Your very existence depends on them.

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Friday, June 07, 2019

Dig in to the Physics of Donuts for National Donut Day!

Before you ingest your annual delicious (possibly free) treat for Friday's annual celebration, why not learn about the physics of donuts? From topology to nuclear fusion, donuts are the physicist's breakfast pastry of choice. Not just because they’re tasty, but because their shape, the torus, is the subject of fascinating physics. Let's dig in to some of the multitude of donut sightings in physics, and answer the age-old question: Which rolls downhill faster, the holed donut or the filled doughnut?

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How the Moon Got its Fault Scarps: Moonquakes and the Lunar Surface


The Moon is known for its varied landscape; impact craters dot its surface, many with picturesque rays extending from them across the highlands, and so-called mare, or basalt “oceans”, cover the lowlands. But one aspect of lunar geography that captured scientists’ interest early is the presence of fault scarps, short clifflike structures zigzagging across the surface of the Moon. Like the much larger-scale mountain ranges that characterize the joining of two tectonic plates on Earth, these features point to tectonic activity on the single-plate Moon.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Quantum Physics in Secondary School? How Some Teachers Capture Student Interest Early

For many people, the phrase “quantum physics” evokes images of science fiction-like technology, a vaguely puzzled sensation, or perhaps just a shudder. Yet for a growing number of secondary school teachers worldwide and their teenage students, quantum physics represents a gateway to a lifelong love of science.

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