Raul Polit Casillas grew up around fabrics. His mother is a fashion designer in Spain, and, at a young age, he was intrigued by how materials are used for design.Now, as a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, he is still very much in the world of textiles. He and his colleagues are designing advanced woven metal fabrics for use in space.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig suffered a catastrophic explosion and blowout on April 21, 2010, leading to the worst oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, the well’s operators thought they would be able to block the leak within a few weeks. On May 9 they succeeded in lowering a 125-ton containment dome over the broken wellhead. If that measure had worked, it would have funneled the leaking oil into a pipe that carried it to a tanker ship above, thus preventing the ongoing leakage that made the spill so devastating. Why didn’t the containment work as expected?
There’s no denying that we’ve seen some absolutely staggering accomplishments in physics in the past year or so, particularly in our ability to measure space and time with unprecedented levels of detail. But being a lifelong “Whovian” excited about Doctor Who returning to our screens once again, I wondered how these accomplishments stacked up to those of the fictional Time Lords.
Luke Skywalker wasn’t just a farmer. In the original 1977 Star Wars film, the lead character was desperate to leave his home planet of Tatooine, where his family farmed moisture from the atmosphere using devices called “vaporators”. In the planet’s hot and dry desert landscape, moisture farming was an important activity for survival.
A fresh approach to designing and manufacturing heat-thwarting thermal protection systems (TPS) for spacecraft is being developed and tested, offering the promise of fabricating larger tile sizes while reducing labor, cost and waste.
You don’t have to wait long to see a headline proclaiming that some food or behaviour is associated with either an increased or a decreased health risk, or often both. How can it be that seemingly rigorous scientific studies can produce opposite conclusions?
Scientists have discovered a group of materials which could pave the way for a new generation of high-efficiency lighting, solving a quandary which has inhibited the performance of display technology for decades. The development of energy saving concepts in display and lighting applications is a major focus of research, since a fifth of the world’s electricity is used for generating light.
Since it began its second operational run in 2015, the Large Hadron Collider has been doing some pretty interesting things. For example, starting in 2016, researchers at CERN began using the collide to conduct the Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment (LHCb). This is investigation seeks to determine what it is that took place after the Big Bang so that matter was able to survive and create the Universe that we know today.
On March 14, or 3/14, mathematicians and other obscure-holiday aficionados celebrate Pi Day, honoring π, the Greek symbol representing an irrational number that begins with 3.14. Pi, as schoolteachers everywhere repeat, represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
Residential solar power is on a sharp rise in the United States as photovoltaic systems become cheaper and more powerful for homeowners. A 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that solar could reach 1 million to 3.8 million homes by 2020, a big leap from just 30,000 homes in 2006.
For many people, memories of maths lessons at school are anything but pretty. Yet “beautiful” is a word that I and other mathematicians often use to describe our subject. How on earth can maths be beautiful – and does it matter?
Our notion of reality is built on everyday experiences. But wave-particle duality is so strange that we are forced to re-examine our common conceptions. Wave-particle duality refers to the fundamental property of matter where, at one moment it appears like a wave, and yet at another moment it acts like a particle. To understand wave-particle duality it’s worth looking at differences between particles and waves.
Chemist John Dalton proposed the theory that all matter and objects are made up of particles called atoms, and this is still accepted by the scientific community, almost two centuries later. Each of these atoms is each made up of an incredibly small nucleus and even smaller electrons, which move around at quite a distance from the centre.
Many scientists are pursuing ways to treat disease by delivering DNA or RNA that can turn a gene on or off. However, a major obstacle to progress in this field has been finding ways to safely deliver that genetic material to the correct cells.
Flying cars have become something of a hot ticket item of late. In the past few years, companies like Terrafugia, Aeromobil and Moller International have all grabbed headlines with their particular designs. And soon enough, international transportation giant Uber could be joining the ranks of those looking to turn a popular staple of science fiction into science fact.
Quantum computers, which are based on the strange rules of quantum mechanics, will revolutionise society in a similar way to how mechanical computers have. Once built, they will help us answer many questions in science, create lifesaving medicines, provide transformative capabilities for the financial sector and in general solve certain problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.
The once-small community of drone hobbyists has transformed into a worldwide phenomenon. In 2016 especially, significant technology improvements and regulatory clarity have paved the way for even more dramatic changes in the coming years.
The Earth’s magnetic field surrounds our planet like an invisible force field – protecting life from harmful solar radiation by deflecting charged particles away. Far from being constant, this field is continuously changing. Indeed, our planet’s history includes at least several hundred global magnetic reversals, where north and south magnetic poles swap places. So when’s the next one happening and how will it affect life on Earth?