Neutrinos’ shifty behavior might help explain why the universe has so much stuff in it. (p. 18)
Found in: Physics
Scientists around the world are closing in on some dirty truths about carbon emissions and climate change.
A cover-up is plainly involved; it’s not about scandal but dirt itself. That means soil, the upper layer of earth typically a few feet but sometimes 10 feet or more thick, usually black or dark brown. Below is rock or other material that contains little of the organic matter, derived mainly from plants, that gives good farmland its fertility.
The last few decades have seen a string of discoveries that not only upset long-cherished theories about soil, but also could lead to ways of im... (p. 16)
Time is an ancient and contrary mystery. Augustine of Hippo, writing his Confessions in a North African monastery, asked “Who can even in thought comprehend it, so as to utter a word about it? But what in discourse do we mention more familiarly and knowingly, than time?”
More than 16 centuries later, many scholars share the feeling, if not the prospect of sainthood. “We don’t even know what time is. But we can measure it really, really well,” says Chris Oates, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Boulder, Colo., campus.
His team operates a ytterbium... (p. 22)
Found in: Physics
After mind-bendingly precise data and artists’ renditions of mysterious stars played across the screen, Martin Still leaned into his lectern at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting early this year to deliver a plea to fellow astronomers. In one word: Help!
“We need you guys,” said the manager of NASA’s guest observer program for Kepler, among the most successful space telescopes ever launched. “Wait a year and it’s too late.”Kepler has found a bonus, a treasury of wonders, or one might say a stellar freak show out in space. The result is a predicament: ... (p. 18)
Found in: Astronomy
When Viennese geologist Leopold Kober gave geology a new word — kratogen, soon shortened to craton — for the flat, stony interiors of continents, he thought such places to be among the duller places for geological study. For him, the more flexible expanses of crust he called orogens, full of rising mountains and earthquake faults, were where the action was.
Kober could not know that today, 90 years later, cratons would be objects of intense study. A man of his time, he got little right. He was a fixist and a contractionist. A skeptic of the theory of continental drift first espoused ... (p. 22)
Black holes are among the most bashful yet flamboyant characters on the cosmic stage. They consume matter so voraciously that the violence can ignite brilliant beacons called quasars, bright enough to outshine entire galaxies. Yet because they prevent light from escaping or even bouncing off, black holes themselves are also the ultimate unseeables.
Astronomers have now drawn up plans to gather an image of something almost as good: a black hole’s silhouette. They will do it with a virtual telescope spanning the globe, electronically roping together scores of smaller instruments at observ... (p. 22)
A short stroll from Boston’s Charles River, behind a sheath of blue glass on the seventh floor of a Harvard Medical School research building, Jack Szostak is getting set to replay the greatest event on Earth.He and his 15-member team of graduate students and young postdoctoral research fellows are well on their way to starting biology from scratch — more than 3.5 billion years after it first emerged.The feat would qualify as creation of life in a test tube if it weren’t for one thing: Szostak’s lab does not rely much on test tubes. “I know exactly where it will happen,” said postdo... (p. 22)
In his mind, Paul Corkum envisioned a dramatic thriller. Its actors were the pulsating electric fields of ordinary infrared laser beams and the electrons of atoms in the laser’s path. As the plot unfolded, a puzzle would be resolved — opening, he realized, a new frontier in the measurement of the ultrafast and the ultrabrief.
Corkum is a laser and plasma physicist with Canada’s National Research Council and the University of Ottawa. His vision, in 1993, led him to become a pioneer in a field called attosecond science; since then his work has won him a stack of Canada’s top science ... (p. 16)
Almost three decades ago, Richard Feynman — known popularly as much for his bongo drumming and pranks as for his brilliant insights into physics — told an electrified audience at MIT how to build a computer so powerful that its simulations “will do exactly the same as nature.”
Not approximately, as digital computers tend to do when faced with complex physical problems that must be addressed via mathematical shortcuts — such as forecasting orbits of many moons whose gravity constantly readjusts their trajectories. Computer models of climate and other processes come close to nature ... (p. 28)
Team builds device that uses two photons to calculate electron energies.
Found in: Matter & Energy