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Muscles Use Gears, Automatic Transmission

Analogies may not be perfect representations of reality, but it must pique the interest of all of us the way Elisabeth Pennisi in Science1 compared muscle to cars and bicycles: One look at a ballerina as she pirouettes and poses drives home the remarkable ability of our muscles to adapt to diverse biomechanical demands.  Manny […]

What’s On ETV Tonight?

SETI researchers are building radio telescopes that might be able to catch leaking airwaves from the aliens, reports National Geographic and Space.com.  Some 1,000 stars within 30 light-years may be within the reach of an array of new radio telescopes in Australia.  SETI researchers can piggyback on this astrophysics facility to listen in on frequencies […]

This Bug Is Whiter than White, Brighter than Bright

Detergent manufacturers should get a load of this beetle.  Cyphochilus, a resident of southeast Asia, is clothed in one of the brightest white surfaces (per unit thickness) known.  British scientists reporting in Science1  were intrigued how the bug accomplishes this shining performance.  Most bright-white surfaces, such as paint and paper, need a hundred times the […]

Article:  What Hath Galileo Wrought?

For the PhysicsWeb site, philosopher and historian Robert B. Crease (State U of NY at Stony Brook) wrote a “Critical Point” article called “The Book of Nature.”  He discusses Galileo’s contention that there is a Book of Nature separate from the Book of Scripture that can be investigated on its own through the language of […]

Crisis in Comet Formation Theories

Results from the Stardust mission last week (12/15/2006) are causing quite a stir.  Detailed analysis of comet dust particles from Comet Wild 2, published in Science Dec 15, reveal the wrong stuff.  Scientists found olivine, pyroxene and osbornite – minerals said to form at high temperatures – instead of the cold volatiles expected for an […]

It’s Hard to Break a Bone

People wearing a cast right now may not feel comfortable, but should be thankful it’s hard to break a bone.  Scientists at Max Planck Institute discovered “a novel construction principle at the nanoscale which prevents bones from breaking at excessive force,” making them “nearly unbreakable.”  Because of the way the rigid components of bone tissue […]

How Not to Date a Volcano

Two teams of geologists looked at the same volcano field in Nevada, but came up with vastly different dates.

You’ll Love Beetle-Foot Tape

If beetles can do it, scientists should be able to: climb the wall, that is.  Some researchers at Max Planck Institute have invented an adhesive that sticks to glass like beetle feet.  The secret was to manufacture thousands of microscopic pads that adhere to smooth surfaces by van der Waals forces (the attraction of neighboring […]

Strange Exploding Star Continues to Puzzle Astronomers

The Hubble took another image of the expanding shell of star V838 Monocerotis (see ESA and Hubblesite).  Four years after the first dramatic sequence (see 05/29/2003), astronomers are still puzzled by this star, with the most dramatic light echo ever photographed.  Leading hypothesis now is that two stars collided before the outburst.  The image made […]

Will Cosmology Emerge from the Dark Ages?

To cosmologists, the “dark ages” were not after the fall of Rome, but the time between the release of the microwave background radiation, and the light from the first stars.  In a feature article for the November Scientific American, Abraham Loeb discussed how astronomers hope to shed light on this epoch with new telescopes measuring […]

Mars Life: Hope Against Hope

Good news: the Viking landers (1976) may have been unable to detect life on Mars if it were present.  Bad news: the dust devils on Mars probably would kill anything alive on the surface.  These contrasting stories recently tugged in opposite directions on hopes to find life on the red planet.  A report on PNAS1 […]

New Titan Ethane Theory Proposed

They wonder where the ethane went (see 09/14/2006 and its links).  The case of the missing ethane on Titan has only gotten more puzzling since the Huygens Probe landed last year and found almost none, when oceans a mile deep were anticipated.  In Nature last week,1 D. M. Hunten (U of Arizona) posited a new […]

Archer Fish Shoot Efficiently

Archer fish, the sharpshooters of the underwater world, have another trick in their blowguns: energy efficiency.  Three German scientists were curious how they knew how hard to shoot at targets of differing mass.  Publishing in Current Biology,1 the team first determined that the prey’s ability to cling to its leaf or stem is proportional to […]

Supernova 80% Younger Than Thought

The age of a supernova remnant has dropped from 10,000 years to less than 2,000 years. How?

Mars Radiation Would Fry Astronaut Brains

Imagine the first Martian astronauts coming home confused, impaired and demented.  This is the risk from solar radiation on Mars, say a group of NASA medical researchers (see RxPG News).  Among the gravest risks of a manned flight to Mars ranks the possibility that massive amounts of solar and cosmic radiation will decimate the brains […]
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