60 Years On: The Silver Ball That Shook the WorldIt was 8:07 p.m. on a Friday night in Riverhead, Long Island, when the operators at an RCA Communications outpost picked up a signal that had never been heard before on Earth. A sharp, insistent ... More >
How Your Smartwatch Tracks Your SwimLast week I splashed into an underground university pool with an Apple Watch Series 3. As the company's wearable has matured, Apple has marketed it more and more as a fitness device, one that's, ... More >
The Radio Pulse No Astronomer Can ExplainLong ago, 15 bright radio pulses emerged from a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away from Earth. Last Saturday, a telescope in a remote area of West Virginia picked up those signals from ... More >
Is This The First Maths Textbook?Some researchers say the Babylonians invented trigonometry—and did it better. A long-debated tablet known as Plimpton 332, featuring 3,700-year-old scrawls from a Mesopotamian scribe, is the ... More >
Does Science Think You're An Alcoholic?The trouble with alcohol is that it's everywhere. We don't treat any other drug the way we treat alcohol, marijuana included, and in part that's because we mostly don't think of it as a drug. It's ... More >
Two city-sized orbs dance through their galaxy. Their dense mass, each equivalent to a star, spins the partners as they get closer and closer together, grazing the outer limits of their other half's being. For 100 breathless seconds, their pas de deux of anticipation sends gravitational shivers through the universe.
This month, Northern California experienced some of the worst fires it's ever had, killing dozens of people and leaving thousands without homes. The ongoing fires started in Napa and Sonoma counties and spread to Mendocino and Solano, all regions world-renowned for their wine. While it's certainly far from the biggest concern in the midst of such tragedy, some are wondering how the local grapes—and the local wine industry—will fare in the wake of the fire.
Back in the film photography days, different films produced distinct “looks”—say, light and airy or rich and contrasty. An experienced photographer could look at a shot and guess what kind of film it was on by looking at things like color, contrast, and grain. We don't think about this much in the digital age; instead, we tend to think of raw digital files as neutral attempts to recreate what our eyeballs see. But, the reality is that smartphone cameras have intense amounts of processing work happening in the background. Engineers are responsible for guiding that tech to uphold an aesthetic. The new Google Pixel 2 phone uses unique algorithms and a dedicated image processor to give it its signature style.
Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)
I started using the iPhone as my personal device in the 4S era of 2011. I liked the hardware and the fact that it let me avoid all the tricky Android version and compatibility issues. Since then, I have waited for an Android phone that could sway me to the other side, away from the iOS life I chose for myself many years ago.
Looks like we're going back to the moon. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new priority to put Americans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. If we do manage to return to our natural satellite—no budget or specific timeline was released during the announcement—then it will likely be for a longer period of time than the short Apollo missions, and will almost certainly involve longer moonwalks. That means more time for something to go wrong, and more of a need for plans and equipment ready in case of emergency.
At its best, virtual reality is transportative: It will let you scale a simulated cliff face, or come face-to-teeth with a T-rex. You can have those experiences from your living room, but of course, you need a virtual reality headset, and for that, you have two broad categories to choose from—a low-end contraption that uses your smartphone, or a fancy rig that requires a PC.
We have an abusive relationship with our smartphone cameras. We take them into dark bars, shoot them into blinding backlight at the beach, and refuse to wipe the pocket goo off their lenses. Then we blame the phone when our pictures don't look great. It's the equivalent of holding the phone upside-down, screaming into its earpiece, and then getting upset about sub-par sound quality.
Hurricane Ophelia is an odd storm. It's a picture-perfect hurricane with winds around 90 MPH, but that's not the odd part, of course. What makes this storm weird is its location. It's way out in the Atlantic, where it's usually too cool for hurricanes to develop—much less survive. Ophelia is so far off the beaten path that instead of heading for the Americas (as so many storms have this season), the system will evolve and threaten Ireland and the United Kingdom early next week.
Once upon a time, Tabasco sauce was considered spicy and a jalapeno hit the upper threshold of heat for the American palate. But that was before 2007, when the Bhut jolokia—an Indian chili better known as the ghost pepper—became the first to top a million Scolville Heat Units (SHU), the measure of spicy pain. While your typical sweet pepper weighs in at zero on the Scolville scale, the ghost pepper's 1 million SHUS make it 125 times hotter than your hottest jalapeno; between 200 and 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.
In the past couple of years, you've likely heard much talk about the bacteria that live inside your digestive system, what scientists and doctors now call the gut microbiome. All that buzz is for good reason. Researchers have found that these tiny bugs can have an influence on our health, though how much and in what ways is still unknown. Store shelves are now full of products promising to deliver these beneficial bacteria, though many of them have little, if any, evidence to back up their claims.
We typically think of insects as pests or pestilences, carrying disease or gnawing their way through our gardens before we can get a bite. But they are also gorgeous creatures, as photographer Levon Biss explores in his latest book, Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects. The book is a continuation of his Microsculpture exhibit at Oxford's Museum of Natural History, which displayed bugs from the collection in a larger-than-life way.