The Robots Will Be Soft and Cuddly and Heal Their Own Wounds

Poke a hole in a human and something remarkable happens. First of all, you go to jail. But meanwhile, the wound heals itself, filling in the missing tissue and protecting itself from infection. Poke a hole in a robot, however, and prepare for a long night of repairs. The machines may be stronger than us, […]

Explore the Moon Using Augmented Reality

For a brief, non-shining moment on Monday, August 21, the moon will be the most important object in the daytime sky. Not that you’ll get a good look at much besides its backlit outline. And sure, it is uncanny and cool that the moon sits at just the right distance from the Earth to blot […]

Crispr Fans Dream of a Populist Future for Gene Editing

CrisprCon is not a place where spandexed, beglittered, refrigerator drawer fans come together for an all-you-can-eat celebration of unwilted produce. No. Crispr-Cas9 (no E), if you haven’t been paying attention, is a precise gene editing tool that’s taken the world by storm, promising everything from healthier, hangover-free wine to cures for genetic diseases. Like, all […]

What a Border Collie Taught a Linguist About Language

Tansy was not into sports. The little border collie, a rescue, didn’t care for agility trials or flyball. But her adopted family—with two other border collies already in the house—played them all the time. Border collies, the elite athletes of the canine universe, are working dogs. They go a little nuts without something to do. […]

NASA’s Rocket to Nowhere Finally Has a Destination

On a Thursday afternoon in June, a 17-foot-tall rocket motor—looking like something a dedicated amateur might fire off—stood fire-side-up on the salty desert of Promontory, Utah. Over the loudspeakers, an announcer counted down. And with the command to fire, quad cones of flame flew from the four inverted nozzles and grew toward the sky. As […]

How Will California’s Solar Grid React to the Eclipse?

Like many thrifty business owners, officials at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, were banking on reducing their carbon footprint and saving money when they installed rooftop solar panels during a big expansion in 2015. In fact, since the panels went up, the zoo has saved more than $8,500 on its electric bill by […]

Plankton ‘Mucus Houses’ Could Pull Microplastics From the Sea

Each year, the world throws 8 billion metric tons of plastic into the ocean, about a dump truck every minute. Some washes up on beaches, some sinks, and the rest floats to the surface, where currents sweep it into giant rafts of garbage. Over time, chopping waves and beating sunlight break those plastics down into […]

The Best Way to Test Students? Make Them Explain It On Video

The Best Way to Test Students? Make Them Explain It On Video

As a physics professor, I have two jobs. The first, obviously, is to help students understand physics. That makes me something of a coach. But I want to talk about my second job: evaluating what students understand about physics. You might call this grading them. Evaluating a student’s understanding of a topic is like taking […]

How Solar Eclipses Illuminate the Marvel of Science

On Monday, August 21, 2017, the world will go under, or so it might well feel like if you position yourself along a 70-mile-wide swath of the US from South Carolina to Oregon. From here you can witness the moon move in front of the sun in the middle of the day and darken the […]

What Is Quantum Internet?

A year ago this week, Chinese physicists launched the world’s first quantum satellite. Unlike the dishes that deliver your Howard Stern and cricket tournaments, this 1,400-pound behemoth doesn’t beam radio waves. Instead, the physicists designed it to send and receive bits of information encoded in delicate photons of infrared light. It’s a test of a […]

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