Meet STEVE, a newfound type of aurora that drapes the sky with a mauve ribbon and bedazzling green bling.
This feature of the northern lights, recently photographed and named by citizen scientists in Canada, now has a scientific explanation. The streak of color, which appears to the south of the main aurora, may be a visible version of a typically invisible process involving drifting...
News in Brief
The sex organs of primitive plants are inspiring precise pipettes.
Liverworts are a group of ground-hugging plants with male and female reproductive structures shaped like tiny palm trees. The female structures nab sperm-packed water droplets by surrounding them with their fronds, like an immobilized claw in an arcade machine.
Scientists have coopted that design to create a plastic...
News in Brief
Physicist Stephen Hawking, a black hole whisperer who divined secrets of the universe’s most inscrutable objects, died March 14 at age 76. In addition to his scientific research, Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, was known for his popular science books, including the best-selling A Brief History of Time, which captivated readers with lucid explanations of the universe’s...
The strangest signals reaching Earth
The search for neutron stars has intensified because of a relatively small area, low in the northern midnight sky, from which the strangest radio signals yet received on Earth are being detected. If the signals come from a star, the source broadcasting the radio waves is very likely the first neutron star ever detected. — Science News, March 16,...
The physics behind a weird electrical phenomenon — glowing orbs of lightning — may be mimicked by something even stranger. A magnetic structure proposed for the natural oddity known as ball lightning makes an appearance in a newfound variety of a knotlike entity called a skyrmion, a team of scientists reports.
Typically observed during thunderstorms, ball lightning is poorly understood....
High-energy particle beams can reveal how 2-D thin sheets behave when the heat is cranked up.
Researchers have devised a way to track how these materials, such as the supermaterial graphene, expand or contract as temperatures rise (SN: 10/3/15, p. 7). This technique, described in the Feb. 2 Physical Review Letters, showed that 2-D semiconductors arranged in single-atom-thick sheets...
The first 117 elements on the periodic table were relatively normal. Then along came element 118.
Oganesson, named for Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian (SN: 1/21/17, p. 16), is the heaviest element currently on the periodic table, weighing in with a huge atomic mass of about 300. Only a few atoms of the synthetic element have ever been created, each of which survived for less than a...
Power within 30 years
Controlled thermonuclear fusion is moving so well that full-scale development could begin within five years, says Dr. David J. Rose....It might take 20 to 30 years beyond that before fusion could move into the power grid, though, he predicts. — Science News, February 17, 1968Update
Governments and private-sector start-ups are still trying to wrangle...
Letters to the Editor
Dying light02/07/2018 - 15:30 Astronomy, Physics, Science & Society
Supernova iPTF14hls has erupted continually since its discovery in 2014, fluctuating in brightness at least five times. It may have had two other outbursts in the past, Lisa Grossman reported in “This star cheated death, exploding again and again” (SN: 12/9/17, p. 8).
Reddit user Bobgushmore wondered if the exploding star might actually be a supernova impostor similar to...
Like sailors and spelunkers, physicists know the power of a sturdy knot.
Some physicists have tied their hopes for a new generation of data storage to minuscule knotlike structures called skyrmions, which can form in magnetic materials. Incredibly tiny and tough to undo, magnetic skyrmions could help feed humankind’s hunger for ever-smaller electronics.
On traditional hard drives,...