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  • Mystery Solved

    How ravens caused a LIGO data glitch

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — 

    While the data was amassing, suddenly there came a tapping,As of something gently rapping, rapping at LIGO’s door.

    The source of a mysterious glitch in data from a gravitational wave detector has been unmasked: rap-tap-tapping ravens with a thirst for shaved ice. At the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO...

    04/18/2018 - 15:00 Physics
  • News

    Here’s why putting a missile defense system in space could be a bad idea

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — A beefed-up missile defense system might seem like a good idea in a time of heightened nuclear tensions. But such enhancements could have dangerous consequences.

    The current U.S. missile defense system isn’t all it was cracked up to be, performing unreliably in tests, physicist and missile defense expert Laura Grego argued April 14 at a meeting of the American Physical...

    04/17/2018 - 11:52 Science & Society, Physics, Technology
  • Teaser

    A new plastic film glows to flag food contaminated with dangerous microbes

    Pathogen detectors built into plastic patches could someday spare you food poisoning.

    Carlos Filipe, a chemical engineer at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and colleagues have developed a new kind of flexible film that’s coated in molecules that glow when they touch E. coli cells. This type of sensor also glows in the presence of molecules secreted by E. coli, so the material...

    04/17/2018 - 07:00 Materials, Microbes, Health
  • News in Brief

    Using laser tweezers, chemists nudged two atoms to bond

    For the first time, researchers have played matchmaker between two specific atoms, joining them together to form a molecule.

    Typically, chemists make molecules by mixing up many constituent atoms, some of which stick to each other to form the desired compounds. In the new, supercontrolled chemical reaction, researchers trapped a single sodium atom in one optical tweezer — a device that...

    04/12/2018 - 14:00 Chemistry, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A key constant’s new measurement hints ‘dark photons’ don't exist

    An ultraprecise new measurement has given some weird particle physics theories a black eye.

    By measuring one of nature’s most fundamental constants more precisely than before, scientists have tested proposed tweaks to the standard model, the theory governing fundamental particles. The result, reported April 13 in Science, casts doubt on hypothetical particles called dark photons and...

    04/12/2018 - 14:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    Einstein’s general relativity reveals new quirk of Mercury’s orbit

    The calculation of Mercury’s orbit is being tweaked — for a second time. And it’s all thanks to Albert Einstein.

    Before the famous physicist came up with his theory of gravity, known as the general theory of relativity, scientists’ predictions for Mercury’s motions were slightly off: The planet’s orbit disagreed with expectations. When Einstein realized that general relativity accounted...

    04/11/2018 - 12:11 Physics, Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    This material uses energy from ambient light to kill hospital superbugs

    PHOENIX — A new material that harnesses the power of ambient light to produce bacteria-killing molecules could help stem the spread of hospital infections, including those with drug-resistant bacteria.

    About 1 in 10 patients worldwide get an infection while receiving treatment at a hospital or other health care facility, according to the World Health Organization. “Contaminated hospital...

    04/10/2018 - 07:00 Microbes, Materials, Technology
  • Science Ticker

    In a colony, king penguins behave like molecules in a 2-D liquid

    Emperor penguins are known to huddle for warmth, but their regal relatives prefer personal space.

    Aerial photos of two king penguin breeding colonies show that individuals and couples keep their distance from neighbors but still stay together as a group. That arrangement resembles a simulated 2-D liquid in which molecules on a flat plane simultaneously attract and repel one another,...

    04/06/2018 - 12:03 Animals, Physics
  • News in Brief

    Toxic chemicals turn a new material from porous to protective

    PHOENIX — A new, breathable material that can also block biological or chemical threats could offer comfortable protection for people working in contaminated environments or dangerous military zones.

    The bottom layer of the material, described April 3 at the Materials Research Society spring meeting, features carbon nanotube pores embedded within a flexible synthetic polymer film. These...

    04/05/2018 - 08:00 Materials, Chemistry
  • Editor's Note

    How many scientists do you know in real life?

    The death of physicist Stephen Hawking on March 14 at age 76 sparked a global outpouring of admiration. In our appreciation, Science News physics writer Emily Conover calls him “a black hole whisperer who divined the secrets of the universe’s most inscrutable objects." He was also among the very few cosmologists (hello, Carl Sagan) to have written an international best seller; Hawking...
    04/05/2018 - 07:53 Science & Society, Physics