The material science of building a light sail to take us to Alpha Centauri

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It has been about two years since Yuri Milner announced his most audacious piece of science-focused philanthropy: Breakthrough Starshot, an attempt to send hardware to Alpha Centauri by mid-century. Although the technology involved is a reasonable extrapolation of things we already know how to make, being able to create materials and technology that create that extrapolation is a serious challenge. So much of Breakthrough Starshot’s early funding has gone to figuring out what improvements on current technology are needed.

Read Article:  https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/05/the-material-science-of-building-a-light-sail-to-take-us-to-alpha-centauri/

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A fascinating article about how science students can benefit from courses in the humanities.

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Monday was the first day of Dartmouth’s Spring term. So, as I often do at this time, I started teaching my course for non-science majors called “Understanding the Universe: From Atoms to the Big Bang.”

This is what students like to call a “physics for poets” class — a class that explores the history of how humanity has confronted some of the deepest questions we can ask about the material world and our place in it, without the math. It is a class that tries to capture the true spirit of the liberal-arts education, mixing the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences as different and complementary ways of knowing the world and why we matter. In fancier words, as an intellectual history of physics and astronomy, the class requires that scientific thinking be contextualized culturally, so that students can situate the ways in which some of the most revolutionary ideas in the past 2,000 years emerged when they did.

Read Entire Article:  https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2018/03/28/597496820/teaching-and-learning-at-the-boundaries-of-two-cultures

Kids Learn Why Bees Are Awesome

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Bees are vital to the world’s food supply. To educate schoolchildren about the importance of honeybees, the Sweet Virginia Foundation is using a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. The kids get up close and personal with the insects, donning beekeeper suits and actually interacting with a buzzing hive.

Watch Video:  https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150815-kids-bees-pollinators-farms-vin?source=relatedvideo

A fascinating article detailing the best scientific pictures of 2017.

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The spectacular total solar eclipse that swept the United States dominated headlines as it delighted scientists and the public alike in August 2017 (the above image of the Moon transiting across the Sun was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft in the extreme ultraviolet spectrum). The year also brought innovations in spaceflight and surprising insights into species past. Here are the striking shots from science and the natural world that caught the eyes of Nature’s editors.

Read Article:  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-017-08492-y

What is innovation, and how can we awaken its dormant traits and cultivate them?

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While education may not be able to create innovative traits in individuals, education may improve the ability of individuals to utilize the traits they already possess. To that end, the authors begin by defining innovation and identifying the characteristics, traits, and thought processes of innovative individuals or groups of individuals and the environments that they exist in. The ultimate goal will be to develop an educational process whereby individuals would learn how to fully utilize the traits they have and awaken traits that are dormant.

Read Article:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170310121710.htm

You can peel permanent marker, intact, off of glass

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Permanent markers aren’t so permanent after all, scientists now report. All you need to peel the ink from glass is water. Oh, and you also need a whole lot of patience!

When glass marked with permanent ink is slowly dipped into water, the writing lifts off the glass. It then floats intact atop the water. Scientists have now uncovered the physics behind the surprising phenomenon: The water’s surface tension breaks the seal between ink and glass.

Read Article:  https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/you-can-peel-permanent-marker-intact-glass

A fascinating article about communication between dogs and people.

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Every dog owner is familiar with the ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression. As the inner brow lifts, the eyes get bigger and bigger … It’s tempting to interpret this as a plea from a sad dog for a scrap of the family dinner. Now, a small study provides support for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us.

Read Article:  https://www.nature.com/news/the-science-of-puppy-dog-eyes-1.22867

Neutron star collision showers the universe with a wealth of discoveries

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Two ultradense cores of dead stars have produced a long-awaited cosmic collision, showering scientists with riches.

The event was the first direct sighting of a smashup of neutron stars, which are formed when aging stars explode and leave behind a neutron-rich remnant. In the wake of the collision, the churning residue forged gold, silver, platinum and a smattering of other heavy elements such as uranium, researchers reported October 16 at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Such elements’ birthplaces were previously unknown, but their origins were revealed by the cataclysm’s afterglow.

“It really is the last missing piece” of the periodic table, says Anna Frebel, an astronomer at MIT who was not involved in the research. “This is heaven for anyone working in the field.” After the collision, about 10 times the Earth’s mass in gold was spewed out into space, some scientists calculated.

Read Article:  https://www.sciencenews.org/article/neutron-star-collision-gravitational-waves

 

Measured distance within the Milky Way gives clues to what our galaxy looks like

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For the first time, astronomers have directly measured the distance to a spot clear across the galaxy. The established but challenging technique promises a new way to map the structure of the Milky Way.

This technique, called parallax, has measured distances to stars since the 1830s. But because of galactic dust in the way, it has been difficult to use parallax on stars on the opposite side of the galaxy. Other ways to measure distance are saddled with assumptions and uncertainties.

Read Article:  https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-ticker/distance-milky-way-galaxy-parallax?tgt=nr

 

Was this ancient person from China the offspring of modern humans and Neandertals?

When scientists excavated a 40,000-year-old skeleton in China in 2003, they thought they had discovered the offspring of a Neandertal and a modern human. But ancient DNA now reveals that the “Tianyuan Man” has only traces of Neandertal DNA and none detectable from another type of extinct human known as a Denisovan. Instead, he was a full-fledged member of our species, Homo sapiens, and a distant relative of people who today live in East Asia and South America. The work could help scientists retrace some of the earliest steps of human migration.

“The paper is very exciting because it is the first genome to fill a really big gap, both geographically and temporally, in East Asia,” says paleogeneticist Pontus Skoglund of Harvard Medical School in Boston, who was not involved in the work.

Read Article:  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/was-ancient-person-china-offspring-modern-humans-and-neandertals