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  • For Daily Use

    Here’s why your wheelie suitcase wobbles

    Anyone who’s dragged roller luggage knows it’s liable to fishtail. To most people, this is a nuisance. To a few scientists, it’s a physics problem. Researchers detail the precise interplay of forces that set suitcases shimmying in a study published online June 21 in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

    The researchers simulated and observed the motion of a toy model suitcase on a...

    06/20/2017 - 19:05 Physics
  • Science Ticker

    Satellite trio will hunt gravitational waves from space

    The hunt for gravitational waves is moving upward. A space-based detector called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, or LISA, was selected as a mission in the European Space Agency’s science program, the agency announced June 20.

    LISA will consist of three identical satellites arranged in a triangle that will cartwheel through space in orbit around the sun just behind Earth. The...

    06/20/2017 - 16:58 Astronomy, Cosmology, Physics
  • News

    Water circling a drain provides insight into black holes

    Water swirling down a drain has exposed an elusive phenomenon long believed to appear in black holes.

    Light waves scattering off a rotating black hole can bounce off with more energy than they came in with, by sapping some of the black hole’s rotational energy. But the effect, predicted in 1971 and known as rotational superradiance, is so weak that it would be extremely difficult to...

    06/12/2017 - 11:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    Swift kick from a supernova could knock a black hole askew

    Gravitational waves are providing new hints about how black holes get their kicks.

    The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s detection of spacetime ripples from two merging black holes on December 26, 2015, indicated that one black hole was spinning like a tilted top as it orbited with its companion (SN: 7/9/16, p. 8). That off-kilter spin could mean that the...

    06/09/2017 - 14:37 Physics
  • News

    LIGO snags another set of gravitational waves

    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...

    06/01/2017 - 11:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • Mystery Solved

    Why you can hear and see meteors at the same time

    For centuries, skywatchers have reported seeing and simultaneously hearing meteors whizzing overhead, which doesn’t make sense given that light travels roughly 800,000 times as fast as sound. Now scientists say they have a potential explanation for the paradox.

    The sound waves aren’t coming from the meteor itself, atmospheric scientists Michael Kelley of Cornell University and Colin...

    05/30/2017 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Physics
  • News

    Naked singularity might evade cosmic censor

    Certain stealthy spacetime curiosities might be less hidden than thought, potentially exposing themselves to observers in some curved universes.

    These oddities, known as singularities, are points in space where the standard laws of physics break down. Found at the centers of black holes, singularities are generally expected to be hidden from view, shielding the universe from their...

    05/15/2017 - 09:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    New printer creates color by shaping nanostructures

    Carving nanostructures with a laser creates long-lasting colors.

    Researchers developed the new printing technique as an alternative to ink-based printing, in which colors fade with time. Aside from eternally vibrant art, the technique could lead to new types of color displays or improve security labels, the scientists report in the May 5 Science Advances.

    Anders Kristensen of...

    05/05/2017 - 14:00 Technology, Physics
  • News in Brief

    Gamma-ray evidence for dark matter weakens

    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...

    04/24/2017 - 09:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • Feature

    There’s still a lot we don’t know about the proton

    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...

    04/18/2017 - 08:00 Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Physics