Since Galileo first discovered the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, telescopes have gotten larger, more accurate, and more powerful. They're now installed all around the world from mountaintop observatories to suburban backyards. And over those 350 years, all of them have battled the same enemy: our Earth’s atmosphere.
Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers—those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them.
Several evenings a week, after a day’s work at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, Sergey Brin drives up the road to a local pool. There, he changes into swim trunks, steps out on a 3-meter springboard, looks at the water below, and dives.
Huddled in a coffee shop one drizzly Seattle morning six years ago, the astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman stared blankly at his laptop screen, paralyzed. He had been running a simulation of an evolving planet, when suddenly oxygen started accumulating in the virtual planet’s atmosphere. Up the concentration ticked, from 0 to 5 to 10 percent.
“Is something wrong?” his wife asked.
The rise of oxygen was bad news for the search for extraterrestrial life.
You do not want to go to Mars. At least, not with today’s engines powering the trip. A chemically propelled voyage would take 18 months, one way. During which time any combination of boredom, radiation poisoning, and cancer will likely kill you. Suppose you make it? Congratulations on being the first Martian to die of old age, because a return trip from the Red Planet is currently impossible without using wishful logistics like fuel harvesting.
From nowhere, they appear as a sudden surge of power in the radio spectrum. Then, a few milliseconds later, they're gone—and as far as we could tell, they never come back. They've picked up the name "fast radio bursts," but nobody's entirely sure of what produces them. Follow-up observations have generally failed to find anything interesting in their direction, and the bursts didn't seem to repeat, leaving everyone who cares about these sorts of things a bit mystified.
For the approximately 37 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the newest cocktails of anti-retroviral drugs have come a long way in beating back the retrovirus and keeping an infection in check. Still, those drugs are no cure. While the treatments snarl the viral assembly line and thwart new infectious particles from invading the body’s cells, HIV itself is still there, hunkered in the DNA of a patient’s genome until there’s an opportunity for a comeback—say, when a patient goes off their medication.
Militarizing the body’s natural immune responses so that it can fight off cancerous uprisings has been seen as a promising strategy for years. Now, a sneak peek of data from a small clinical trial suggests that the method may in fact be as useful as doctors hope—but there’s still some serious kinks to work out.
Harvesting electrical power from vibrations or other mechanical stress is pretty easy. Turns out all it really takes is a bit of crystal or ceramic material and a couple of wires and, there you go, piezoelectricity. As stress is applied to the material, charge accumulates, which can then be shuttled away to do useful work. The classic example is an electric lighter, in which a spring-loaded hammer smacks a crystal, producing a spark.
Imagine watching birds in your backyard. You love birds and want to know when certain birds are there. Sure, you have your favorite binoculars to look for these birds—but what if you also listen for birds? Better yet, what if you use several microphones to determine the location and type of bird in your yard? This is what gravitational wave observatories add to the field of astronomy. Instead of just detecting electromagnetic waves (infrared, radio, visible, UV, X-ray), we can also detect gravitational waves.