Today is a busy day—I’m heading to Washington, DC this afternoon for a meeting and a DC Science Tweetup (if you’re a sciency person in the DC area, please join us!). In the meantime, the last few days offered ahuge number of excellent science-related items, almost too many to count. Here are just a few:
- Reconstructing the atmosphere of Earth in ancient times is a difficult task to say the least, but the imprint of raindrops on fresh lava from 2.7 billion years ago may help. It turns out the atmosphere may have been a lot thicker in those days, helping keep Earth warm and moist.
- Natalie Angier profiled my favorite 20th century mathematician, Emmy Noether, for the New York Times. (Too bad she didn’t link back to my tribute, but then again, Angier doesn’t sell Emmy Noether t-shirts either, I bet.)
- Satellite images of a site in Peru have revealed large effigy mounds, which may be as much as 4000 years old. (Tip of the pendulum to Megan McCullen.)
- Citizen science of a different sort: while anyone with the right software (much of which is freely available) can process raw Hubble Space Telescope data to make the beautiful images we all love, now you can enter a contest and win an iPad! NASA is soliciting contributions, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how those awesome pictures are made, now is your chance.
- Wallace and Gromit are stop-motion clay characters best known for mayhem and Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, but now they’re working to teach science! And if that isn’t enough from the Aardman studio, which makes the Wallace and Gromit films, they’ve also made a new movie called Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, co-starring David Tennant as Charles Darwin. (Warning: historical accuracy may have been sacrificed for the sake of awesomeness.)
In self-promotional news, here are the latest articles I’ve written for Ars Technica:
- Modifying a particular molecule’s chemical structure slightly changes its electrical conductivity by a factor of 100. The reason? The electrons experience destructive quantum interference.
- Speaking of quantum interference: diffraction has been achieved with the largest molecules yet, pushing the boundary between quantum mechanics and the macroscopic world.
- “Cloaking” in real science doesn’t resemble the stuff you see in Star Trek, but it’s still interesting. Researchers have made a cylinder that is masked from magnetic fields, using a combination of a superconductor and a ferromagnetic material. The major advance here is that the materials and temperatures are relatively easily accessible.