In a synchrotron,
charged subatomic particles (typically electrons) are accelerated through a
large ring. As their paths bend, the electrons emit synchrotron light, which
can range from infrared wavelengths up to X-rays. “Beam lines” attached to the
ring carry off this light to perform a wide range of scientific experiments. In
1997, as German synchrotron BESSY I was nearing replacement, physicist Herman
Winick of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif.,
proposed using it as the seed for an international research facility in the Middle
East. Called SESAME, the ... (p. 32)
R.K. Pachauri, an engineer and economist by training, is director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, India, and a corecipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC periodically issues consensus reports on the science of climate change. Senior editor Janet Raloff spoke with him about changes he hopes to see from the Obama administration. (p. 32)
Found in: Climate Change, Earth Science, Ecology, Environment and Technology
Edward O. Wilson of Harvard
written and lectured widely in fields ranging from sociobiology and
evolutionary psychology to conservation biology. He spoke recently on
“sustainability” at Baldwin-Wallace
College in Berea,
believes that too much emphasis has been placed on trying to reduce energy
consumption and avert climate change—what he calls the “physical
environment”—and too little on preserving habitat and biodiversity, or the
“living environment.” For Wilson,
preserving the living environment means protecting areas of the world...
Found in: Biology, Climate Change, Earth, Environment and Science & Society
Planetary science is in the midst of a revolution. As recently as the early 1990s, “the planets” consisted of just nine famous objects in our solar system that every school kid learned to recognize by name and appearance. But then, advances in astronomical technology unleashed an explosion of new planetary discoveries on two fronts.
One of these fronts involved a bewildering variety of planets discovered around other stars. In rapid succession, we learned about extrasolar pulsar planets, hot Jupiters, superEarths and more. And there is now a widespread scientific consensus that the 300...
Found in: Atom & Cosmos
Gerd Gigerenzer is director of the Center for Adaptive
Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He is also director
of the Harding Center
for Risk Literacy in Berlin.
He studies how people can make effective decisions given limited time and
information. Gigerenzer also explores ways to improve statistical understanding
and communication. He has trained U.S. federal judges and physicians
in several countries on how to understand risk and uncertainty. Behavioral
sciences writer Bruce Bower asked Gigerenzer about statistical illiteracy ...
We have a well-honed ability for branding the undesirable
attributes of “others.” This natural human tendency has evolved and persists
for a reason: The definition of an outcast group helps society to delineate its
“normal” boundaries. But this inclination can also breed counterproductive
stigmas that are rooted in ignorance and that too often translate into
staggering individual, social and economic costs. This makes the need to
understand and confront these types of stigmas much more than a purely academic
Sociologists like Gerhard Falk are quick to distinguish
Found in: Behavior, Biology, Body & Brain, Psychology and Science & Society
Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel laureate in physics, has advocated for energy thrift. During a September visit to Washington, D.C., he spoke with senior editor Janet Raloff about how he believes the United States can tackle what he sees as a looming energy crisis.
You’ve said the United States needs to launch an energy research program that’s comparable to the Apollo mission. What did you mean?
That we need big investments and that our country needs to act quickly. In that respect, the programs would be similar. But the Apollo mission was essent... (p. 32)
In 1993, the U.S. Congress cut off funds for the
Superconducting Super Collider, or SSC. After years of planning, two years of
major construction and $2 billion spent, the most enduring achievement of the
stillborn project was a tunnel from nothing to nowhere near Waxahachie, Texas.
The SSC would have enabled us to explore nature in more
extreme conditions — higher concentrations of energy — than ever before. It
would have yielded fundamental new insights into the origin of the universe and
the nature of matter, space and time. Thousands of scientists devoted big parts...
In Doubt Is Their Product, published in April,
epidemiologist David Michaels describes the growing corporate practice of
“manufacturing” scientific uncertainty to thwart regulation of products that
appear to pose risks. Michaels encountered the practice firsthand with
beryllium, a metal used at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, while he was the
Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. Now
head of George Washington University’s
Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, or SKAPP, Michaels spoke
with senior editor Janet Raloff about t...
Eugene Spafford is executive director of Purdue
University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and
Security, one of the world’s leading centers for information security. His
research focuses on issues related to securing computers, networks and their
data against criminal activities and failures. He has testified before various
congressional committees, advised agencies within the executive branch and
worked with the U.S.
military and the FBI. Here, freelance science writer Susan Gaidos questions
Spafford about computer security issues.