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NASA scientists have directed the Hubble Space Telescope to inspect a tiny patch of sky with an unusually long exposure time to obtain the deepest image of the sky ever obtained. The image, dubbed the Hubble Extreme Deep Field (XDF), reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever detected, shedding more light on the early history of the universe. Read More
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover reached another pair of milestones over the past week. Last Saturday, the 4x4-sized lander touched its first rock with the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) mounted on its seven-foot (2.1 m) robotic arm. Then on Wednesday, 50 Martian days into the mission, Curiosity took its longest drive yet as it rolled 160 feet (48.9 meters) eastward toward the Glenelg area. It also took the opportunity to show off the American flag. Read More
Often called "frozen smoke", aerogels are among the amazing materials of our time, with fifteen Guinness Book of World Records entries to their name. However, despite their list of extreme properties, traditional aerogels are brittle, crumbling and fracturing easily enough to keep them out of many practical applications. A new class of mechanically robust polymer aerogels discovered at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio may soon enable engineering applications such as super-insulated clothing, unique filters, refrigerators with thinner walls, and super-insulation for buildings. Read More
Back when compact discs were first coming out, they were touted as being able to store data “forever.” As it turns out, given no more than a decade or so, they can and do degrade. According to an AFP report, Hitachi has unveiled a system that really may allow data to last forever – or at least, for several hundred million years. It involves forming microscopic dots within a piece of quartz glass, those dots serving as binary code. Read More
It’s time to pull out the old red/cyan 3D glasses for these anaglyphs created with high-resolution stereo images beamed back from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Having revealed the fate of the Apollo lunar flags earlier this year, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) is now enabling the creation of anaglyphs to bring the third dimension to craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features on the lunar surface. Read More
By studying the behavior of bees, a group of researchers at Queen Mary University of London has documented and modeled the way in which the insects can fly from flower to flower and then come back to their hives expending the least amount of time and energy. The findings might lead to better, much more flexible ways to deal with problems ranging from building faster computer networks to creating more powerful microchips. Read More
A number of research institutions are currently developing systems in which autonomous robots could be sent into places such as burning buildings, to create a map of the floor plan for use by waiting emergency response teams. Unfortunately, for now, we still have to rely on humans to perform that sort of dangerous reconnaissance work. New technology being developed by MIT, however, kind of splits the difference. It’s a wearable device that creates a digital map in real time, as the person who’s wearing it walks through a building. Read More

Sandy beaches are a delight for swimmers, surfers, sailors, and people strolling down the boardwalk. A horde of beautiful shells and buried coins (not to mention the occasional dropped ring) awaits the skilled beachcomber. Beach sand also carries within it a variety of traces of the history of that beach. A prime example is the magnetic sands of Normandy. Read More

Approximately 90 percent of the world’s electricity is generated by heat energy. Unfortunately, electricity generation systems operate at around 30 to 40 percent efficiency, meaning around two thirds of the energy input is lost as waste heat. Despite this, the inefficiency of current thermoelectric materials that can convert waste heat to electricity has meant their commercial use has been limited. Now researchers have developed a thermoelectric material they claim is the best in the world at converting waste heat into electricity, potentially providing a practical way to capture some of the energy that is currently lost. Read More
In the mid-1930s, physicists thought they knew all the subatomic particles of nature - the proton, neutron, and electron of the atom. However, in 1936 the muon was discovered - a new particle having such surprising properties that Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi quipped "Who ordered that?" when informed of the discovery. Evidence that a new light boson may exist has recently been published. If the discovery is confirmed, such a boson is not part of the Standard Model of Particle Physics - potentially leading to another "Who ordered that?" moment for physicists. Read More