News in Brief
A potential sign of dark matter is looking less convincing in the wake of a new analysis.
High-energy blips of radiation known as gamma rays seem to be streaming from the center of the Milky Way in excess. Some scientists have proposed that dark matter could be the cause of that overabundance. Particles of dark matter — an invisible and unidentified substance that makes up the bulk of...
A recent upsurge in planet-warming methane may not be caused by increasing emissions, as previously thought, but by methane lingering longer in the atmosphere.
That’s the conclusion of two independent studies that indirectly tracked concentrations of hydroxyl, a highly reactive chemical that rips methane molecules apart. Hydroxyl levels in the atmosphere decreased roughly 7 or 8 percent...
Nuclear physicist Evangeline Downie hadn’t planned to study one of the thorniest puzzles of the proton.
But when opportunity knocked, Downie couldn’t say no. “It’s the proton,” she exclaims. The mysteries that still swirl around this jewel of the subatomic realm were too tantalizing to resist. The plentiful particles make up much of the visible matter in the universe. “We’re made of them...
Albert Einstein was a master of physics, but his talent in personal relationships was decidedly underdeveloped. A new 10-episode series, Genius, airing on the National Geographic Channel, focuses on the facets of Einstein’s life where he was anything but a virtuoso.
Genius is a dramatization, not a documentary. The series reveals the human side of the famously brainy...
A new device the size of a coffee mug can generate drinkable water from desert air using nothing but sunlight.
“With this device, you can harvest the equivalent of a Coke can’s worth of water in an hour,” says cocreator Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s about how much water a person needs to survive in the desert.”
Though that may not sound...
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Blame physics — not kindergarten-level clumsiness — for perpetually untied shoelaces. The combined forces from legs swinging and feet pounding the pavement create a perfect lace-loosening storm, scientists report April 12 in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Mechanical engineer Oliver O'Reilly of the University of California, Berkeley was familiar with the...
Letters to the Editor
New normal04/05/2017 - 10:39 Mental Health, Animals, Physics
People who stay mentally healthy throughout life are exceptions to the rule, a small study suggests. Only 17 percent of study participants experienced no bouts of anxiety, depression or other mental ailments from late childhood to middle age, Bruce Bower reported in “Lasting mental health may be unusual” (SN: 3/4/17, p. 7).
Reader Lou Floyd found the article disturbing and the...
The Milky Way’s black hole may finally get its close-up.
Beginning on April 5, scientists with the Event Horizon Telescope will attempt to zoom in on a never-before-imaged realm: a black hole’s event horizon. That’s the boundary at which gravity’s pull becomes so strong that nothing can escape.
In the telescope’s cross hairs are two supermassive black holes, one at the center of...
The heavy-duty material used to build bridges and sculpt skyscrapers could learn a few tricks from humble bones.
Steel’s weakness is its tendency to develop microscopic cracks that eventually make the material fracture. Repeated cycles of stress — daily rush hour traffic passing over a bridge, for example — nurture these cracks, which often aren’t apparent until the steel collapses....
The moon’s origin story does not add up. Most scientists think that the moon formed in the earliest days of the solar system, around 4.5 billion years ago, when a Mars-sized protoplanet called Theia whacked into the young Earth. The collision sent debris from both worlds hurling into orbit, where the rubble eventually mingled and combined to form the moon.
If that happened, scientists...