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  • News in Brief

    New ‘smart’ fibers curb fires in lithium-ion batteries

    Hoverboards and certain cell phones powered by lithium-ion batteries occasionally go up in flames. Scientists now have a new plan for squelching these fires before they flare out of control: incorporating a flame retardant in the battery that’s released if temperatures get too toasty.

    Within lithium-ion batteries, ions travel between positive and negative electrodes through a liquid...

    01/13/2017 - 14:00 Materials, Technology
  • News

    New molecular knot is most complex yet

    View the video

    One hundred and ninety-two atoms have tied the knot.

    Chains of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, woven together in a triple braid, form the most complex molecular knot ever described, chemists from the University of Manchester in England report in the Jan. 13 Science.

    Learning how to tie such knots could one day help researchers weave molecular...

    01/12/2017 - 14:00 Chemistry, Materials
  • Feature

    Better batteries charge forward

    Everybody wants more power from their batteries. Smartphones and laptops always need recharging. Electric car drivers must carefully plan their routes to avoid being stranded far from a charging station. Anyone who struggles with a tangle of chargers every night would prefer a battery that can last for weeks or months.

    For researchers who specialize in batteries, though, the drive for a...

    01/09/2017 - 17:50 Chemistry
  • News in Brief

    New form of hydrogen created

    Scientists have produced a new form of hydrogen in the lab — negatively charged hydrogen clusters.

    Each cluster consists of hydrogen molecules arranged around a negatively charged hydrogen ion — a single hydrogen atom with an extra electron — at temperatures near absolute zero, the researchers report in the Dec. 30 Physical Review Letters. Similar, positively charged ion clusters have...

    01/09/2017 - 14:50 Physics, Chemistry, Condensed Matter
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Time Travel’ tours a fascinating fiction

    Time TravelJames GleickPantheon, $26.95

    It’s kind of daring to write a science book about something that — you must remind your readers — doesn’t exist. That’s James Gleick’s task in Time Travel, an engaging and entertaining look at science that will always remain fiction.

    It’s lucidly written, a breeze to read and erudite in assessing a vast range of literary and popular media...

    01/08/2017 - 08:00 Physics, Science & Society
  • News

    Debate heats up over claims that hot water sometimes freezes faster than cold

    It seems logical to expect cold water to freeze faster than hot, but some experiments have suggested the opposite. There’s now a new explanation for why hot water might freeze faster than cold under certain conditions. The phenomenon, known as the Mpemba effect, may be due to the properties of the chemical bonds that link up neighboring water molecules, a team of chemists reports. Yet other...

    01/06/2017 - 10:37 Chemistry
  • News

    Carbon can exceed four-bond limit

    A molecule originally proposed more than 40 years ago breaks the rules about how carbon connects to other atoms, scientists have confirmed. In this unusual instance, a carbon atom bonds to six other carbon atoms. That structure, mapped for the first time using X-rays, is an exception to carbon’s textbook four-friend limit, researchers report in the Jan. 2 Angewandte Chemie.

    Although the...

    01/04/2017 - 14:38 Chemistry
  • News in Brief

    Antimatter hydrogen passes symmetry test

    An antimatter atom abides by the same rules as its matter look-alike. Scientists studying antihydrogen have found that the energy needed to bump the atoms into an excited, or high-energy, state is the same as for normal hydrogen atoms.

    Scientists at the European particle physics lab CERN in Geneva created antihydrogen atoms by combining antiprotons and positrons, the electron’s...

    12/19/2016 - 11:00 Physics
  • Feature

    Year in review: Gravitational waves offer new cosmic views

    The secrets gleaned from the universe’s most mysterious giants are incongruously subtle when witnessed at Earth: Detectors budge by a tiny fraction of a proton’s breadth, outputting a feeble, birdlike chirp.

    For centuries, astronomers have peered out into the universe almost exclusively by observing its light. But 2016’s announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves,...

    12/14/2016 - 07:41 Physics, Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

    First signs of boron on Mars hint at past groundwater, habitability

    SAN FRANCISCO — A new element has been found in Mars’ chemical arsenal.

    While sampling rocks from Gale Crater, the Curiosity rover detected boron concentrations of about 10 to 100 parts per billion. The discovery is the first find of boron on the Red Planet and hints that the Martian subsurface may have once been habitable for microbes, scientists reported December 13 at the American...

    12/13/2016 - 18:34 Planetary Science, Chemistry