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  • Feature

    How plant microbes could feed the world and save endangered species

    One fine Hawaiian day in 2015, Geoff Zahn and Anthony Amend set off on an eight-hour hike. They climbed a jungle mountain on the island of Oahu, swatting mosquitoes and skirting wallows of wild pigs. The two headed to the site where a patch of critically endangered Phyllostegia kaalaensis had been planted a few months earlier. What they found was dispiriting.

    “All the plants were gone,”...

    09/06/2018 - 11:00 Agriculture, Plants, Microbes
  • News

    Five things we learned from last year’s Great American Eclipse

    It’s been a year since the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, captured millions of imaginations as the moon briefly blotted out the sun and cast a shadow that crisscrossed the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.

    “It was an epic event by all measures,” NASA astrophysicist Madhulika Guhathakurta told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans in December. One...

    08/21/2018 - 14:51 Astronomy
  • Feature

    The ecosystem that controls a galaxy’s future is coming into focus

    There’s more to a galaxy than meets the eye. Galaxies’ bright stars seem to spiral serenely against the dark backdrop of space. But a more careful look reveals a whole lot of mayhem.

    “Galaxies are just like you and me,” Jessica Werk, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. “They live their lives in a...

    07/12/2018 - 07:00 Astronomy, Cosmology
  • Context

    A new ‘Einstein’ equation suggests wormholes hold key to quantum gravity

    There’s a new equation floating around the world of physics these days that would make Einstein proud.

    It’s pretty easy to remember: ER=EPR.

    You might suspect that to make this equation work, P must be equal to 1. But the symbols in this equation stand not for numbers, but for names. E, you probably guessed, stands for Einstein. R and P are initials — for collaborators on two of...

    08/17/2016 - 07:00 Quantum Physics
  • Feature

    New desalination tech could help quench global thirst

    The world is on the verge of a water crisis.

    Rainfall shifts caused by climate change plus the escalating water demands of a growing world population threaten society’s ability to meet its mounting needs. By 2025, the United Nations predicts, 2.4 billion people will live in regions of intense water scarcity, which may force as many as 700 million people from their homes in search of...

    08/09/2016 - 16:00 Sustainability, Agriculture, Materials
  • Feature

    Entanglement: Gravity's long-distance connection

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    When Albert Einstein scoffed at a “spooky” long-distance connection between particles, he wasn’t thinking about his general theory of relativity.

    Einstein’s century-old theory describes how gravity emerges when massive objects warp the fabric of space and time. Quantum entanglement, the spooky source of Einstein’s dismay, typically concerns tiny particles that...

    10/07/2015 - 10:42 Quantum Physics, Physics
  • Feature

    The mysterious boundary

    A black hole’s event horizon is a one-way bridge to nowhere, a gateway to a netherworld cut off from the rest of the cosmos.

    Understanding what happens at that pivotal boundary could reveal the hidden influences that have molded the universe from the instant of the Big Bang.

    Today some of the best minds in physics are fixated on the event horizon, pondering what would happen to...

    05/16/2014 - 14:40 Cosmology, Astronomy
  • Context

    50 years later, it’s hard to say who named black holes

    DALLAS — Nobody seems to be noticing, but this month is the 50th anniversary of using the term “black hole” to describe the bottomless pits of outer space.

    That’s probably because the traditional story gives the year of the term’s birth as 1967, when John Archibald Wheeler used it during a lecture in New York City in December of that year.

    Wheeler, who died in 2008, said the term...

    12/23/2013 - 15:05 History of Science
  • Feature

    Onward and Skyward

    High in Beijing’s sky, the August sun glows red by midafternoon, a star struggling to illuminate China’s crowded capital from above the dust and pollution.

    I’m in the city along with 3,200 astronomers for the International Astronomical Union’s two-week General Assembly meeting. It’s the first time the IAU has convened the assembly in China...

    11/16/2012 - 10:53 Astronomy