John Archibald Wheeler was fond of clever phrases.
He made the term “black hole” famous in the 1960s. He also coined the now-familiar “wormhole” and “quantum foam.” While further pondering the mystery of quantum physics at the University of Texas at Austin during the 1980s, Wheeler repeatedly uttered his favorite interrogative slogan: “How come the quantum?” And from those ponderings...
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Caesar’s Last BreathSam KeanLittle, Brown and Co., $28
Julius Caesar could have stayed home on March 15, 44 B.C. But mocking the soothsayer who had predicted his death, the emperor rode in his litter to Rome’s Forum. There he met the iron daggers of 60 senators.
As he lay in a pool of blood, he may have gasped a final incrimination to his protégé Brutus: You too, my son? Or maybe...
Our corner of the galaxy teems with alien worlds. In the 25 years since the discovery of the first planets beyond our solar system, astronomers have found more than 3,600 worlds orbiting other stars. A select few have become tantalizing targets in the search for life despite orbiting stars that are much smaller, cooler — and in many ways harsher — than the sun.
Just 39 light-years away,...
The woman in her 70s was in trouble. What started as a broken leg led to an infection in her hip that hung on for two years and several hospital stays. At a Nevada hospital, doctors gave the woman seven different antibiotics, one after the other. The drugs did little to help her. Lab results showed that none of the 14 antibiotics available at the hospital could fight the infection, caused by...
Jupiter was an early bloomer. New measurements of meteorite ages suggest that the giant planet’s core must have formed within the solar system’s first million years. If so, Jupiter’s presence could help explain why the inner planets are so small — and possibly even be responsible for Earth’s existence.
Previously, astronomers’ best constraints on Jupiter’s age came from simulations of...
In a surprising and controversial geographic twist, the earliest known remains of the human species, Homo sapiens, have turned up in northwestern Africa, researchers claim.
Fossils attributed to H. sapiens and stone tools unearthed at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago, an international team of researchers report June 7 in two papers in Nature. Until now, the...
News in Brief
Whether standard white bread or an artisanal sourdough loaf is “healthier” depends on the microbes living in a person’s intestines, a new study suggests.
Averaging results from 20 people who ate white and whole wheat sourdough bread for one week each, researchers found no difference in people’s response to the breads, which includes changes in blood sugar levels. But when researchers...
The planet KELT 9b is so hot — hotter than many stars — that it shatters gas giant temperature records, researchers report online June 5 in Nature.
This Jupiter-like exoplanet revolves around a star just 650 light-years away, locked in an orbit that keeps one side always facing its star. With blistering temps hovering at about 4,300o Celsius, the atmosphere on KELT 9b’s dayside is over...
For a third time, scientists have detected the infinitesimal reverberations of spacetime: gravitational waves.
Two black holes stirred up the spacetime wiggles, orbiting one another and spiraling inward until they fused into one jumbo black hole with a mass about 49 times that of the sun. Ripples from that union, which took place about 3 billion light-years from Earth, zoomed across the...
Egyptian mummies are back in style at the summer box office — and in genetics labs. A study of genetic blueprints from 90 mummies repairs the frayed reputation of sarcophagus occupants as sources of ancient DNA. And it reveals evidence of a hookup history with foreigners from the east.
An Egyptian mummy served up the first ancient human DNA sample in 1985 (SN: 4/27/85, p. 262). But both...