Every now and then in science, a brand-new area of research opens up. A tool, technique or discovery offers a trove of fresh data previously inaccessible, or even unknown. All of a sudden — relatively speaking — scientists are clamoring to observe the world in a way they couldn’t before. Questions that had lingered unaddressed can finally be exploited for Ph.D. dissertations. New questions appear that scientists hadn’t thought to ask.
This collection highlights technological and intellectual developments that invited scientists into new realms. The birth of radio astronomy decades ago, and the more recent detection of gravitational waves, offered new ways of seeing the vast cosmos. Advanced microscopes revealed the minuscule, from the innards of cells to the atomic structure of materials. In some cases, scientists remain passive observers. But other advances, such as optogenetics or CRISPR gene editing, give the scientists a novel superpower, inviting them not only to enter new worlds but also manipulate nature as a way of wrestling with its secrets.
Carbon dating and other techniques answer essential questions about human history, our planet and the solar system.
Old and new detectors trace the whirling paths of subatomic particles.
With a boost from World War II, the fluxgate magnetometer became a portable and invaluable tool.
A method called optogenetics offers insights into memory, perception and addiction.
Here’s how scientists connected eight observatories across the world to create one Earth-sized telescope in order to create an image of a black hole.