The time that ends up on your smartphone—and that synchronizes GPS, military operations, financial transactions, and internet communications—originates in a set of atomic clocks on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory. Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for UNSO’s Time Services, gives a tour.
The first moments of an X-class significant solar flare in different wavelengths of light.
(Photo credit: REUTERS/NASA/SDO)
Scientists and philosophers argue that human beings are little more than puppets of their biochemistry. Here’s why they’re wrong.
Read more. [Image: Matt Dorfman]
The particles inside Ernest Lawrence’s 1931 cyclotron particle accelerator traveled just 11 inches inside the perimeter of what he called his “proton-merry-go-round.” The initial size was tiny, but Lawrence’s strategy was, as we might say now, scalable: If atoms could be accelerated a bit inside a device with a diameter of 11 inches, then imagine how fast one could make them fly if a bigger device was built. They quickly built a 27-inch version, then a 60-incher a few years later.
Most simple histories of physics date the birth of Big Science to Lawrence’s cyclotron. Physics needed big machines. There were things that a big machine could test that no people working unaided or with a smaller machine could. And that’s never stopped being true. Bigger equals more energy equals better atom smashing.
Which is why the Large Hadron Collider opened to such fanfare a few years ago. It’s the largest particle accelerator in the world, tucked underground near Geneva. The tunnel through which particles travel is now 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) long. Lawrence’s cyclotron could reach energies exceeding one million electron volts. The LHC turns up the dial to 14 trillion electron volts. That’s an improvement of seven orders of magnitude.
So, naturally, the BBC reports, physicists want to go bigger! Scientists at CERN, the European scientific agency that runs the LHC, are kicking around the idea of a 100-kilometer (62-mile) machine that would fully encircle Geneva. It might take 30 years to build, so that’s why they’re kicking off the next-gen thing just five years into the LHC’s working lifespan.
Read more. [Image: Lawrence Livermore National Library]
Last week, California saw something it hasn’t seen for a shockingly long time: rain. And snow. The precipitation was not enough to end the drought that has, for the past three years, turned the Golden State into a toasty shade of brown … but it was something.
The injection of moisture came courtesy of the “Pineapple Express,” a jet of moist air flowing to California from Hawaii. Such an atmospheric river sent from the tropics is not always something to be celebrated: The system tends to bring heavy rainfall and fierce winds. And this particular Pineapple Express, true to form, brought flooding and wind damage along with it. But it also brought moisture! Some 4 to 8 inches of it! Which, given a drought that some are saying could be California’s worst in 500 years, is something.
Years ago, doctors went to extreme measures to save a woman with the lowest-ever body temperature on record.
Read more. [Image: NASAGoddardPhotoAndVideo/Flickr]
The market for stories of paranormal academe is a rich one. There’s Heidi Julavits’s widely acclaimed 2012 novel The Vanishers, which takes place at a New England college for aspiring Sylvia Brownes. And, of course, there’s Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters—Marvel’s take on Andover or Choate—where teachers read minds and students pass like ghosts through ivy-covered walls.
The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine is decidedly less fantastic than either Julavits’s or Marvel’s creations, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating place. Founded in 1967 by Dr. Ian Stevenson—originally as the Division of Personality Studies—its mission is “the scientific empirical investigation of phenomena that suggest that currently accepted scientific assumptions and theories about the nature of mind or consciousness, and its relation to matter, may be incomplete.”
Read more. [Image: P.Morrissey/Flickr]
The typical condiment container has barely changed since 1955.
A peek into the evolution of a beloved passage.
Read more. [Image: NASA]