It seems like a basic enough question, but when you realize that energy can’t be created or destroyed, things get less obvious fast. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that the light gets absorbed into the walls, but how? What does it even mean to say that light gets “absorbed?”Continue reading →
I talked about why it’s easier for us to recognize something than it is to remember it, even though the information is clearly sitting in our brain somewhere. A 13-story asteroid passed closer than our satellites today. Biotechnology transforms a bacterium into a living computer. Are we witnessing the birth of a black hole first [...]Continue reading →
If I showed you a picture of an obscure person from your past, there’s a good chance you’d remember them, and even be able to tell me something about them. But if I asked you to sit down and write a list of all the people you knew, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t remember that person? Why?Continue reading →
Earth-like planets are everywhere. Kepler discovers another 461 potentially habitable planets, bumping the total count up to 2,740, and estimating a total 17 billion of them in the Milky Way. Australian wind energy is now cheaper than coal. African physicists develop the world’s first digital laser, which would allow the manipulation of laser beam shapes without additional lenses and [...]Continue reading →
- I discussed why gravity doesn’t need to escape a black hole in order to work.
- Using an evolutionary algorithm, Northwestern University developed an efficient solar cell that would trap more light due to its shape. The design is so effective that it outperforms the theoretical limit three times over. Meanwhile, Norwegians produce a new type of solar cell that is 20 times thinner, and thus cheaper, than standard solar cells.
- A new experiment suggests that our sense of smell might take advantage of the bizarre world of quantum vibrations.
- Evolution in the test tube: the university of Minnesota evolves a primordial enzyme.
- Korean scientists developed a magnetic transistor that would allow circuitry to be reconfigured on the fly, dramatically reducing size and energy consumption of computers.
- Penicillin may have been responsible for the sexual revolution of the ’60s much more than the contraceptive pill.
- Extroverts are not better at sales and leadership than introverts. The highest performance seems to come from people with a mix of both.
- Poor memory in old age may be the result of poor sleep.
- A working artificial pancreas.
- The Scripps Research Institute discovered that tiny fragments of DNA (microRNA) play a role in forming memories within the amygdala, the part of the brain that handles fear and aggression (and sometimes sex).
Featured Science Book This Week:
The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (CBC Massey Lecture)Continue reading →
Black holes are often described as collapsed stars with such an intense gravitational pull that nothing can escape. This begs the question: “How does gravity ‘escape’ the black hole in the first place?”Continue reading →
Tons of breakthroughs in genetic science this week, possible new physics, astronomers getting ready to snap a picture of our galaxy’s black hole, and more.
- I talked about the science of burnout, what brain scans and spit tests can tell us about tired overachievers.
- More than a double helix: four-stranded segments of DNA also exist in the human genome.
- Swiss physicists measure the size of the proton using muons instead of electrons, and find an answer that is seven standard deviations different from previous measurements. Could it be experimental error, or new physics? (Part of me’s excited. The other part remembers the “faster than light” neutrinos.)
- Old brains have trouble making new memories because they have trouble writing over old ones, at least in this mouse study.
- Leprosy spreads by turning nerve cells into stem cells.
- Scientists are setting up a worldwide network of radio telescopes to snap a picture of the black hole at the center of our galaxy, a picture that would be the first of its kind.
- Scientists are making great strides when it comes to storing computer data in DNA segments.
- Subconscious race biases actually change the way that our brains store people’s faces.
- Firefly genes cause tumors to glow, allowing for early cancer detection.
- By studying areas where insects infect trees, scientists find strong evidence that exposure to trees is good for human health, even after controlling for a wide range of demographics.
- Analyzing ancient DNA, scientists confirm that humans who lived in Beijing 40,000 years ago were more closely related to modern Asians and Native Americans. But another study also shows that Europeans are more closely related to Native Americans than we might think.
- Is Earth crashing through walls of dark matter that fill the universe?
- Scientists develop a medical “tractor beam” that tugs on tiny objects using light.
This Week’s Science Book:
Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left BehindContinue reading →
Some estimates put the number of North Americans and Europeans suffering from burnout at about ten percent. The word “burnout” might sound like flimsy psychobabble, but science is showing us differences between the brains of people suffering from it, and those who don’t.
Some call it exhaustion depression, and others call it work stress, but what is really happening, and what can we do about it?Continue reading →
- I discussed the incredible overlap between memory and intelligence, and the controversy over whether intelligence can be trained.
- Scientists discovered the first “solar powered” vertebrate.
- A commercially scalable way of producing carbon nanotube fibers has been presented.
- At least one is six stars has a planet comparable in size to Earth.
- Mathematicians are planning to launch an open-access peer-reviewed journal that eliminates publishers from the science publishing process.
- The Mars rover Curiosity discovered compelling evidence that underground water was fairly common on our neighbor planet, increasing the number of places that life may have formed.
- Scientists are perfecting the process of reversing quantum error, a crucial step toward quantum computing.
- A three second interruption will double your error rate.
- A 4 billion light-year structure is so big it threatens fundamental cosmological assumptions.
- Fermented plants produce gasoline at low enough costs that the process may soon be commercialized, dramatically cutting down on global warming emissions.
This Week’s Featured Book:
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern WorldContinue reading →
How much does our intelligence rely on our ability to hold ideas in our mind? It turns out memory and intelligence are very closely related, to the point that some have questioned if they could be the same thing.Continue reading →