Jun 9, 2009
Editor’s note: Scientific American contributing editor Christie Nicholson is traveling with nearly 80 scientists conducting the largest tornado study ever completed. Check out her progress and learn about twisters on SciAm’s Twitter feed, and have a look at the photos she's taking along the way.
TOPEKA, Kan. (June 8, 2009)—When I arrived in Colby, Kansas last Thursday to join the VORTEX2 team’s nearly 160 scientists, students and media participating in the largest tornado-spawning storm study in history, the teams were despondent. The jet stream had been unusually displaced far to the north, resulting in one of the more calm seasons in decades. Even potential supercells—storms most likely to produce a twister—were conspicuously lacking.
Jun 3, 2009 | 4
Editor’s note: For the next three days, Scientific American contributing editor Christie Nicholson will be traveling with nearly 80 scientists conducting the largest tornado study ever completed. Check out her progress and learn about twisters on SciAm’s Twitter feed.
DENVER—I’ve just landed at Denver International Airport, and I’m traveling to Kansas to meet up with the largest entourage of storm chasers in history. So at the risk of being insensitive to those who live in Tornado Alley—the area between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains—I’m happy that there are a few severe storms on the horizon.
For the next three days, I’m joining the great tornado hunt, called VORTEX2, a veritable army of 80 scientists and support crew driving 35 trucks across the central Great Plains in tight formation. Imagine the logistics: Pulling up to a gas station for a pit stop becomes a major undertaking.
Nov 21, 2008 | 1
Saturn's small, snow and ice–covered moon, Enceladus, only 310 miles (500 kilometers) across, has made a big impact on astronomers. On a series of close flybys in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft revealed a great deal of unexpected activity bursting forth from this frozen world, which travels with 33 other named satellites in Saturn's domain over 740 million miles from Earth.
But none, save Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have proved so enigmatic: The Cassini spacecraft has imaged jets feeding an active plume of water vapor spouting into space from "tiger stripes," or gashes, on Enceladus's south pole, signaling perhaps underground liquid seas stirred by enough internal heat to drive surface venting. Add to the mix organic compounds, and the remarkable thing is that this little moon has joined Mars, Jupiter's satellite Europa, and Titan as one of the most promising candidates scientists have for finding life elsewhere in the solar system.
Nov 6, 2008 | 1
It's been nearly 25 years since Mauna Loa, Hawaii's most dangerous volcano, last erupted—but researchers warn that another eruption may be on the horizon. It's nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact date or time the mountain may blow next, but a new technology allows scientists to determine the eruption's location on the slopes of the giant volcano, thereby helping them determine where the lava it spews will go.
Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, is a so-called shield volcano, which means that lava can rush either from its central crater or its slopes—and in some eruptions from both. If lava shoots out of Mauna Loa's southern or northern rifts, two neighboring villages are at risk of being scorched. When the mountain blew in 1950, lava ran down its southwest side, prompting the evacuation of 75 people and destroying 15 homes near the village of Kona, about 25 miles from the mountain. When it last erupted in 1984, rivers of fiery-hot lava flooded the northeastern side of the mountain, stopping just short of the island of Hawaii's largest city, Hilo (population: approximately 150,000).
Oct 23, 2008 | 5
There's no question that carbon when paired with fellow element oxygen can spell trouble. The combo creates carbon dioxide (CO2), the root of climate change, the most destructive environmental woe facing our planet. But carbon is not inherently evil. In fact, it is a building block of life, present in all living creatures. In our daily lives we often see it in its pure form–think diamonds or lead in pencils. And it is a key ingredient in oil (made from hydrocarbons), certain types of surfboards, and even carbohydrates like bread and pasta, which provide energy for humans and animals.
Aug 28, 2008 | 1
Canada's Vancouver Island has been jolted by a string of earthquakes and their aftershocks since Monday, but residents have barely noticed because the tremors are so far offshore. The latest and most powerful quake—registering magnitude 5.5 on the Richter scale—ripped through the Pacific Ocean floor off the island's west coast at 5:37 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Though more vigorous than those experienced in the area in years past, the quakes are not causing alarm at the Ministry of Public Safety's Emergency Management British Columbia.
Aug 27, 2008 | 14
Good news for potheads making their annual trek to Black Rock, Nev. this week to celebrate Burning Man: A new study says that marijuana appears to fight infections. According to research published in the Journal of Natural Products, the five most common cannabinoid compounds in weed—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannabinol and cannabichromene—can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Think MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which claimed more lives than AIDS in 2007 or, more recently, extensively drug-resistant mycobacterium tuberculosis (XDR-TB.)
Aug 6, 2008 | 8
Imagine taking the social experience of a site like Facebook or MySpace and integrating it into a Web browser so that collaboration and communication with friends and colleagues is completely seamless.
Adaptive Path, a Web design company, in partnership with the people at Mozilla Labs (a virtual lab connected to the Mozilla Foundation, the Firefox browser creators), want to do just that. In this video, they show one possible future scenario of the Web: Aurora.
Jul 16, 2008
Ousted head of the Alden March Bioethics Institute (AMBI) Glenn McGee has agreed to drop his lawsuit against Albany Medical College for allegedly refusing to acknowledge his severance package, following his dismissal two months ago. This from The Business Review (Albany).
McGee, 40, was sacked on May 14 in the wake of allegations of questionable actions. Among them was the fallen ethicist made disparaging comments about colleagues, forged signatures, and promised jobs that were not in the offing. See more background and SciAm’s complete coverage here.
McGee remains a tenured professor at Albany Medical College, but according to The Albany Times Union he sued the institution for allegedly failing to recognize a severance package that provided his salary (for his former leadership position) and benefits through the end of this year. Read more about the details of the suit here.
Jul 15, 2008 | 3
The Oxfordshire band known for taking digital risks has done it again.
Last October Radiohead released their album In Rainbows as a digital download with a pay-whatever-you-want price tag.
Now, they’ve published the video to their song House of Cards, again online, but this time the kicker is that their video, which involved all the parts of traditional filmmaking, was made without any cameras or lights.
They shot the entire thing with lasers. Computers constructed the resulting 3D moving images of pinpoints and wide colorful landscapes. (Watch video below.)
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The Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative (GBFAI) is launching the 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge whose
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