The Personal Satellite
Assistant (PSA), a cute little robot designed by scientists at
NASA, could someday help astronauts handle mundane housekeeping
chores aboard the space station. "The PSA is an intelligent
robot that serves as the eyes, ears and nose of astronauts in space
and their support personnel on the ground," explained scientist
Greg Dorais, the project's principal investigator at NASA Ames
Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
The iconic Japanese
volcano Mount Fuji is something of a mystery - it is simply too
big and too active for its location. The volcano sits above a subduction
zone in which the Philippine Sea plate is sinking beneath Japan.
This process melts the rock, creating lots of small pockets of
magma. Volcanoes in regions like this tend to be quiet and small
as there simply are not large enough volumes of magma to make them
bigger and more active.
Ever since 1998,
Robert Caldwell has been obsessed with something dark and repulsive.
He spends nearly every waking moment trying to comprehend a mysterious
entity that may be undermining gravity and pulling everything apart,
making the universe expand at a faster and faster rate. This presumed
force, sometimes called dark energy, might ultimately rip apart
every object in the cosmos, from the tiniest of atoms to gargantuan
clusters of galaxies. "It's both fascinating and terrifying," says
Caldwell, a cosmologist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
the world is getting darker. Scientists now agree that as cloud
cover and particles in the atmosphere increase, the amount of radiation
reaching us from the Sun is falling. And although they are nervous
about raising the idea, they think the effect may help protect
us from global warming. The phenomenon, called global dimming,
has been quietly discussed in scientific circles for the past decade
of Homeland Security is backing research on lab-on-a-chip sensors
that might guard the nation's food supply better than the current
system of tamper-resistant lids and freshness dates. Whitaker investigator
David Beebe, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has
developed a process to make on-demand, miniature sensors for a
wide variety of poisons, including naturally occurring contaminants
and intentionally introduced toxins. The sensors can be constructed
to test for a particular toxin in as little as an hour with test
results available in minutes.
At the start of
the 20th century, a Danish mathematical historian named Johan Ludvig
Heiberg made a once-in-a-lifetime find. Tucked away in the library
of a monastery in Istanbul was a medieval parchment containing
copies of the works of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes,
including two never-before-seen essays. To mathematicians' astonishment,
one of the new essays contained many of the key ideas of calculus,
a subject supposedly invented two millennia after Archimedes' time.
The essay caused a sensation and landed Heiberg's discovery on
the front page of a 1907 New York Times.
sculpted on metal surfaces could have a profound impact in many
fields of engineering. By training intense electron beams on the
surface of metals, Bruce Dance and his team have found a way to
fashion delicate metal projections that will act like ultra-strong
Velcro to form much tougher joints between metals and lightweight
composite materials in aircraft and cars. The projections could
be used to encourage bone to grow onto artificial hips. They could
also be used in electronics to produce heat sinks of just about
A new brain-imaging
study indicates that a specially designed program for second and
third graders deficient in reading boosts their reading skills
while prodding their brains to respond to written material in the
same way that the brains of good readers do. The same investigation
found that the remedial instruction typically offered to poor readers
in the nation's schools doesn't improve their skills and fails
to ignite activity in brain areas that have been linked to effective
With the first
data from their underground observatory in Northern Minnesota,
scientists of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search have peered with
greater sensitivity than ever before into the suspected realm of
the WIMPS. The sighting of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles
could solve the double mystery of dark matter on the cosmic scale
and of supersymmetry on the subatomic scale.
In the community
of very tiny particles that make up all matter in the universe,
there are two main citizens: bosons and fermions. Bosons are socially
oriented and tend to stick together, while fermions are solitary
entities, preferring to go it alone. That's why NASA-funded researchers
overcame an important technical challenge when they recently persuaded
reclusive fermion atoms to act like their friendly boson buddies
and jiggle together in an ultra-cold, jelly-like state of matter.
A truly extraordinary
cure for some forms of blindness is being proposed. The idea is
to add light-absorbing pigments from spinach to nerve cells in
the retina, to make the nerve cells fire when struck by light.
Eli Greenbaum's team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in
Tennessee has been exploring this possibility for several years.
In their latest experiments, the researchers have shown that adding
plant pigments to human cells makes the cells respond to light.