Physics & Astronomy News

Soft robotic gripper picks up an egg.  

Courtesy of EPFL
Robotic Fingers with a Gentle Touch
EPFL Scientists have developed a new soft robotic gripper -- made out of rubber and stretchable electrodes -- that can bend and pick up delicate objects like eggs and paper, taking robotics to a whole new level.
In order to study abnormalities in electron state changes, the scientists applied a strong vertical magnetic field and then bombarded the system with microwave photons. 
Courtesy of OIST
Electrons and Liquid Helium
Research conducted by the OIST could represent an important step in understanding two-dimensional semiconductors. They found anomalies in the behavior of electrons in electrons on liquid helium two-dimensional system.

(Illustration) At solar maximum, in July 2014, the structure is complex, with closed and open field lines poking out all over – ideal conditions for solar explosions.
Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Bridgman
Understanding the Magnetic Sun
Brief overview of the sun's invisible magnetic field which is responsible for everything from the solar explosions that cause space weather on Earth – such as auroras – to the interplanetary magnetic field.
The switch is based on the voltage-induced displacement of one or more silver atoms in the narrow gap between a silver and a platinum plate. (Illustration: Alexandros Emboras / ETH Zurich)
Switching light with a silver atom
Researchers at ETH have created the world’s smallest integrated optical switch. Applying a small voltage causes an atom to relocate, turning the switch on or off.

Space-Time Continuum Rainbow
Physicists have shown that in models of the Universe using any of the quantum theories of gravity there must also be a 'rainbow' of sorts, composed of different versions of spacetime.
New Theory of Secondary Inflation
Physicists suggest a smaller secondary inflationary period in the moments after the Big Bang could account for the abundance of the mysterious matter.
A new way to store solar heat
Material could harvest sunlight by day, release heat on demand hours or days later.

Science Facts

The Devil's In The Details

by Gene Mascoli and

The Mars Climate Orbiter: Image Courtesy NSSDC Did you ever make a mistake converting English numbers to metric numbers? Let's hope that your mistake didn't cost anyone $125 million dollars. That's what happened to NASA. The Mars Climate Orbiter's mission to study Martian weather and climate was a part of NASA's faster-better-cheaper philosophy of the 1990s. On September 23, 1999, after firing its main engine to enter an orbit around the planet Mars, it crashed into the planet and was destroyed. So what happened?

The mission had proceeded normally and was believed to be on track as the spacecraft went behind Mars causing a planned 20 minute loss of its signal as it was occulted by the planet (occult means to hide). The 20 minutes came and went with no resumption of contact with the spacecraft. NASA now believes that the Mars Climate Orbiter was destroyed because of a navigation error which caused a much lower angle of descent into the Martian atmosphere, an angle of descent outside the structural capabilities of the spacecraft. NASA's disappointment was understandable. What wasn't understandable was the reason that the target altitude of 80 to 90 kms was missed.

To quote NASA, '[t]he 'root cause' of the loss of the spacecraft was the failed translation of English units into metric units in a segment of ground-based, navigation-related mission software, as NASA has previously announced.' In plain English, spacecraft engineers failed to coordinate their numbers. It turns out that a team of engineers at NASA was using metric numbers to calculate the target altitude, while the company that built the spacecraft was using feet and inches. A trip of 35 million miles was destined to failure because of a few inches and millimeters. So next time you're doing some math problems, remember what your teacher told you -- check your work.

Stopping In Thin Air

Imagine you're going very fast -- much faster than a race car. In fact, imagine you're going 100 or 200 times faster than a race car. When you reach your destination, you need to stop relatively quick ...
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Powerful Quasars

Quasars appear as distant, highly luminous objects that look like stars. Strong evidence now exists that a quasar is produced by gas falling into a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy. Q ...
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Pluto and Charon are tough to see even with the best telescopes.
Pluto Is Way Out There

Long considered to be the smallest, coldest, and most distant planet from the Sun, Pluto may also be the largest of a group of objects that orbit in a disk-like zone of beyond the orbit of Neptune cal ...
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Science Quote

'There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap. The important thing is not to stop questioning.'

Albert Einstein

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