After an exceedingly busy week, I’m spending the day in Washington, DC today at the DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA) professional development day, so I’m bending the laws of time and space by writing this the night before. Confused yet? That’s the magic of physics!
So, here are some links for your amusement:
- Life on Earth despite all its diversity is all based on the same genetic molecules: DNA and RNA. To understand how life arose from non-life, researchers have constructed DNA/RNA-like molecules they label XNA, which can store genetic information and mutate, which allows for evolution. The force of nature yclept Ed Yong has the story.
- NASA has a new citizen science project, where amateur astronomers can help spot and catalog near-Earth objects (NEOs). Since NEOs are potentially dangerous (one was responsible for ending the dinosaur era, after all), we have kind of a vested interest in keeping an eye on them. This project is part of the upcoming OSIRIS-REx mission, which will study a particular NEO up close in 2019.
- We’ve all heard about magnetic levitation (maglev) trains. How about a maglev hamster?
- Who does the science around here, anyway? It’s not the astrologers or the homeopaths, as the Tree Lobsters remind us.
Now for some of my writing in other places:
- Continuing the occasional series I write over at Double X Science, I described how light-emitting diodes (LEDs) work. They are yet another example of quantum mechanics in the home, showing how stuff once considered esoteric is every day science.
- Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are some of the brightest objects in the universe, and they are thought to be the source of the highest-energy cosmic rays. However, new results from the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole shows that either our model for GRBs is wrong, or there is another source of cosmic rays.
- In particle physics, electrons are indivisible: they are not made up of anything smaller. Within materials, however, interactions between electrons produce weird quasiparticle states, in which the spin of the electron can be split apart from its orbital character.
- A device based on diamond is capable of producing single photons. While that’s been accomplished in other materials, this is the first such device that operates at room temperature, instead of requiring very cold conditions.