October 26, 2012
By Juliette Kayyem The conviction of seven Italian geological and disaster experts for failing to predict the 6.3-magnitude Aquila earthquake in 2009 has shocked the scientific community. Many are wondering whether the Dark Ages have returned to Italy. Galileo rarely trends on Twitter, but this week's verdict had many alluding to his 1633 heresy conviction for questioning whether the sun actually circled the Earth. The Earth is not the center of God's universe, and neither are scientists.
October 21, 2012
The Secret Anarchy of Science By Michael Brooks Overlook. 320 pp. $26.95. Reviewed by John Timpane Science reporting and writing suffer the same malady we've had for years with business writing, or writing about the Internet. Almost everyone who writes about it is either a salesperson, pitching like heck for the home team; a current or former practitioner; or a cheerleader. So you never get a straight deal. With science, it's hard not to cheerlead. Its successes, in technology, engineering, and medicine, are spectacular and world-transforming.
October 10, 2012 |
NEW YORK - A Frenchman and an American shared the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for inventing methods to peer into the bizarre quantum world of ultratiny particles, work that could help in creating a new generation of superfast computers. Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics in the 1990s by showing how to observe individual atoms and particles of light called photons while preserving their quantum properties. Quantum physics, a field about a century old, explains a lot about nature but includes some weird-sounding behavior by individual, isolated particles.
October 4, 2012 |
Daniel Spielman's parents knew he was good at math, just not how good, because his private school used written evaluations instead of letter grades. Then at the end of seventh grade at the Philadelphia School, teachers asked the Spielmans if their son would be willing to work with a tutor - from the University of Pennsylvania. Now 42, Spielman earned a much more public accolade on Tuesday. He and 22 others are this year's winners of the MacArthur fellowships - sometimes informally called "genius grants," though award administrators discourage that term.
September 28, 2012 |
PASADENA, Calif. - The landing site of the Mars rover Curiosity was once covered with fast-moving and possibly waist-high water that could have possibly supported life, NASA scientists announced Thursday. While planetary scientists have often speculated that the now-desiccated surface of Mars was once wet, Curiosity cameras provided the first proof that flowing water was present on a least one part of Mars for "thousands or millions of years. " The early finding led Mars Science Laboratory mission top scientist John Grotzinger to conclude that Curiosity had already found a potentially "habitable" site - a central goal of the mission - well before heading to its primary destination.
September 17, 2012
Jaylee Mead, 83, a NASA astronomer who married into a paper manufacturing fortune and with her husband, Gilbert, helped transform Washington's cultural scene by donating more than $50 million to local theaters, died Friday at her home in Washington. Her death, from congestive heart failure, was confirmed by her sister Mary Watts. For decades Gilbert and Jaylee Mead lived in Greenbelt, Md., and worked in relative obscurity at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, he as a geophysicist and she as an astronomer.
September 17, 2012 |
Scientists have been hard-pressed to explain why menopause happens so early in humans - there's no obvious evolutionary advantage to having your reproductive system shut down decades before the rest of your body. Most other long-lived animals keep reproducing until the end. Female turtles can lay fertile eggs at 100. Our primate relatives, too, keep bearing young until they are near death. Now, scientists are finding clues to our unusual life pattern in killer whales - one of the few other species in which females get decades of so-called postreproductive life.
August 21, 2012 |
The owner of the small, dark canvas with the swirling brushstrokes thinks it may be a rare find: a previously unknown painting from the hand of Vincent van Gogh. Jennifer Mass agrees that this is quite possible, but she is not contemplating the brushstrokes. She's looking at the mercuric sulfide and iron hexacyanoferrate. Those are two of the materials present in the paint, and Mass, a chemist by training, is among a small but growing group of scholars who apply the rigid principles of science to the world of art. She is head of the scientific research and analysis lab at Winterthur in Delaware, analyzing art in that museum's collection as well as for other museums and owners who come calling.
August 20, 2012 |
What can chemistry do to help doctors detect cancer? To exonerate the wrongly convicted? And clarify the causes of climate change? These are some of the issues that will be addressed this week as 14,000 scientists descend on the Convention Center for a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Though the theme is "Materials for Medicine and Health," more than 8,000 planned sessions will range into nutrition, brain science, biodegradable plastics, solar cells, and forensics. The Washington-based ACS, which boasts of being the world's largest scientific society, holds two meetings a year in various cities.
August 15, 2012 |
LAVALLETTE, N.J. - A marine scientist has sounded an alarm over the health of Barnegat Bay, one of New Jersey's most used recreational waterways and the source of $3 billion in annual tourist dollars. Michael Kennish of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University told lawmakers Monday that the bay was in danger of dying from unchecked runoff. The pollution sources include broken storm water basins and too much fertilizer. The pollution decreases oxygen levels, causing algae blooms and habitat loss.