2012

Good day, moons

Good day, moons

October 22, 2012

Now that astronomers routinely find far-flung planets orbiting other stars, a fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is pushing into a new frontier in detecting bodies outside our solar system: distant moons.

“It’s the next big thing in the field. We’ve found rocky planets as small as Mars. The big challenge now is trying to find a moon,” said David Kipping, the Carl Sagan Fellow at the CfA and Harvard College Observatory.

Kipping heads the Hunt for Exomoons with Read more about Good day, moons

The Labs That Go Boom: The Shock Compression Laboratory Smashes Planets

The Labs That Go Boom: The Shock Compression Laboratory Smashes Planets

September 9, 2012

The central feature in Sarah Stewart’s Harvard lab is a bright blue blast tank in which she and two undergrad assistants simulate some of the biggest booms in the cosmos: the collision of celestial objects. Attached to the blast tank is a 40-millimeter-diameter single-stage gas gun that launches quarter-pound projectiles up to 6,000 miles per hour—nearly eight times the speed of sound—at targets that mimic asteroids, planets and moons. The resultant shock-wave profiles and impact energies, recorded with a variety of sensors and strain gauges embedded in the target, help explain what Read more about The Labs That Go Boom: The Shock Compression Laboratory Smashes Planets

Toward a science of simplicity

Toward a science of simplicity

June 29, 2012

Cheap, functional, reliable things unleash the creativity of people who then build stuff that you could not imagine. There’s no way of predicting the internet based on the first transistor. — George Whitesides

Simplicity: we know it when we see it - but what is it, exactly? In this funny, philosophical talk, George Whitesides chisels out an answer. Talk recorded 13 February 2010.

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Earth’s sister in the crosshairs

Earth’s sister in the crosshairs

April 19, 2012

Earth’s sister is out there, somewhere, and scientists searching for planets that may support life believe they are closing in on finding just that.

“Maybe this year, maybe next — before 2014,” predicted Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, head of Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative and co-investigator on the planet-finding Kepler Space Telescope.

Sasselov’s prediction may seem bold to those who have not been following the avalanche of new findings in the search for planets circling other stars. From the barest trickle in the mid-1990s, the discovery of extrasolar planets, Read more about Earth’s sister in the crosshairs