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Precious metals in peril: Can asteroid mining save us?

by Andy Greenspon Have you ever wondered how much gold remains to be mined on Earth? How about the lesser-known element indium, essential to computer and smartphone displays? Known sources of some metals could be depleted in as little as 20 to 30 years, especially the rarest ones necessary to construct computers, smartphones, and other advanced technologies. While some elements can be substituted for others, … Continue reading Precious metals in peril: Can asteroid mining save us?

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Engineering the Earth to Fight Climate Change

by Katie Dagon Imagine if we had an “undo” button for climate change – we could remove all the greenhouse gases from the air or cool the planet’s temperature in an instant. While this might sound like science fiction, the basic idea is not as far off as you might think. Reducing fossil fuel use is really important, but also really difficult. And even if … Continue reading Engineering the Earth to Fight Climate Change

For almost a century, galactic rotation curves have served as robust evidence for the existence of dark matter. A rotation curve is simply the radial velocity of the stars, dust, and gas that make up a galaxy plotted as a function of their distance from the galaxy’s center. Based on the gravitational pull of matter, one would expect that stars closest to the center of the galaxy would move faster than the stars near the galaxies outer edge. However, in most galaxies, inner and outer stars move at roughly the same velocity. There is some additional gravitational pull on the outer stars that isn’t fully described by the amount of visible matter in a galaxy. For ages, most scientists have interpreted this result to mean that galaxies are surrounded by a halo of invisible dark matter. However, this new finding points to several other possibilities. (Image obtained under Creative Commons License. Credit: Gemini Observatory)

Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter

Historically, galactic rotation curves have suggested that galaxies are surrounded by a vast amount of invisible matter, otherwise known as a dark matter halo. A few weeks ago, a team of astrophysicists published a result that completely contradicts these halo models and could even change the popular understanding of dark matter. The team found that galactic rotation curves can be calculated explicitly from a simple … Continue reading Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Shrink to grow: on the road towards a 57-codon bacterium

“Shrink to grow” is a two-pronged business strategy where a company gets rid of unprofitable brands (“shrink”) to focus its resources on a few remaining or new brands (“grow”). Companies like P&G and Microsoft have used it, and a similar idea to “shrink to grow” is behind the George Church lab’s ongoing development of the synthetic bacteria rEcoli57. But while the executives at P&G were … Continue reading Shrink to grow: on the road towards a 57-codon bacterium

monopoles

New Experiment Chases the Elusive Magnetic Monopole

A new experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) seeks to detect the long theorized magnetic monopole. In 1931, physicist Paul Dirac showed that our theories of electromagnetism allow for the existence of a solitary magnetic charge. Just as protons and electrons represent unique electric charges (positive and negative), magnetic monopoles should similarly exist as manifestations of magnetic charge. Despite our best efforts, however, we … Continue reading New Experiment Chases the Elusive Magnetic Monopole

LUX Limits on WIMP Dark Matter

Dark Matter Evades the World’s Most Sensitive Search

At the 11th Identification of Dark Matter Conference, LUX, the Large Underground Xenon experiment, announced the results of the world’s most sensitive search for dark matter. Physicists at LUX have been racing for a dark matter discovery since the collaboration’s inception. Observers in the field were aware that the LUX announcement would include more data with vastly improved performance compared to experiment’s initial run in … Continue reading Dark Matter Evades the World’s Most Sensitive Search

Planets found by the Kepler that are in their star's “habitable zone." Earth, Venus and Mars are included for comparison. (Credit: NASA Ames, Image obtained under Creative Commons License)

NASA’s Kepler Discovers over 1000 New Planets

Recently, the Kepler mission announced the discovery of 1,284 new planets. The announcement represents the most planets ever discovered at a single time, and more than doubles the total number of planets discovered by the Kepler telescope. Launched into space by NASA in 2009, Kepler’s goal is to determine how many Earth-sized planets reside in or near habitable zones, and estimate how many of such planets might exist … Continue reading NASA’s Kepler Discovers over 1000 New Planets