Solar has become the world’s favourite new type of electricity generation, according to global data showing that more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is being installed than any other generation technology.
It may not be obvious while lying in the sun on a hot summer’s day, but a considerable amount of heat is also coming from below you – emanating from deep within the Earth. This heat is equivalent to more than three times the total power consumption of the entire world and drives important geological processes, such as the movement of tectonic plates and the flow of magma near the surface of the Earth. But despite this, where exactly up to half of this heat actually comes from is a mystery.
Imagine a future in which buildings tower miles over the streets below, tourists take day trips to the edge of our atmosphere, and multiple space stations can be spotted drifting across the night sky. To make this sci-fi vision a reality, we will need to create new kinds of structures that are lightweight but still strong and tough.
Within the realm of physics, there are certain barriers that human beings have come to recognize. The most well-known is the speed of light, the maximum speed at which all conventional matter and all forms of information in the Universe can travel. This is a barrier that humanity may never be able to push past, mainly because doing so violate one of the most fundamental laws of physics – Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
In the broadest sense, an ATM works by accepting a cash request from a user, verifying the user’s authority to access a particular bank account, ensuring that account has enough money to fulfill the request and dispensing the money – all without the assistance of a bank clerk or teller.
As a scientist, I consider myself artistic in neither my abilities nor my observations of the world around me – I am a physicist who has dedicated his career to controlled experiments, mathematical descriptions and quantifying all I observe. I’ve always seen art as the converse – as something unquantifiable and fundamentally opposite to science.
When you step outside your house, light from the sun means that the colour of everything changes. You probably haven’t even noticed it, because your brain helps you see colours the same way under most conditions.
If you’ve ever tried to get the best deal on a holiday, you will have noticed that airlines and hotels continually change their prices. What might cost a certain amount now, could be cheaper or more expensive tomorrow due to this “dynamic pricing” – used as a method to manage revenue. We have studied these pricing techniques in sectors including airlines and hotels to further understand and identify when it is best to book and get the best price.
Sometimes you run across a grimy, tattered dollar bill that seems like it’s been around since the beginning of time. Assuredly it hasn’t, but the history of human beings using cash currency does go back a long time – 40,000 years.
Does science inspire fiction or does it work the other way around? In the case of medical technology, the long-running TV and film series Star Trek has increasingly been inspiring researchers worldwide. Two teams were recently awarded the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize for developing handheld devices that can diagnose a range of diseases and check a patient’s vital signs without invasive tests – inspired by Star Trek’s medical “tricorder” device.
The satellite Micius, launched from Jiuquan, China, in August last year, is unlike any other in the sky. While other satellites communicate with Earth using physics worked out by James Clerk Maxwell 150 years ago, Micius is the world’s first quantum-enabled satellite. And now, it has conclusively proved its quantum credentials.
In late 2016, a sports championship event was held in Chicago, drawing 43 million viewers during the series finals. That was 12 million more people than watched the 2016 NBA Finals.It wasn’t soccer, or football, or even the World Series of Poker. Instead, it was the “League of Legends” World Finals, an esports competition.
I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun. Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy.
When the Golden Gate Bridge went up, it was the longest suspended bridge span in the world – cables hold up the roadway between two towers, with no intermediate supports. And the setting had a number of inherent challenges. It cost about US$37 million at the time; building the same structure today would cost about a billion dollars. So how has the design held up over the past 80 years – and would we do things differently if we were starting from scratch today?
There’s a limit to how fast autonomous vehicles can fly while safely avoiding obstacles. That’s because the cameras used on today’s drones can only process images so fast, frame by individual frame. Beyond roughly 30 miles per hour, a drone is likely to crash simply because its cameras can’t keep up.
We seem to be fascinated by holograms or at least the promise of what they can do. Think the famous Princess Leia projection in Star Wars; holographic fashion shows in New York, Hamburg and Beijing; the massive success of synthetic pop star Hatsune Miku in Japan, or recent reports of holographic politicians in France.
You can’t see them, but swarms of electrons are buzzing through the magnetic environment — the magnetosphere — around Earth. The electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields. When they penetrate into the magnetosphere close enough to Earth, the high-energy electrons can damage satellites in orbit and trigger auroras. Scientists with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission study the electrons’ dynamics to better understand their behavior. A new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.
Everything we see with the unaided eye in a painting – from the Australian outback images of Albert Namatjira or Russell Drysdale, to the vibrant works of Pro Hart – is thanks to the mix of colours that form part of the visible spectrum.