Tag Archives: Scientific American

Astronomers Gear Up to Grapple with the High-Tension Cosmos – Scientific American

A debate over conflicting measurements of key cosmological properties is set to shape the next decade of astronomy and astrophysics

By Anil Ananthaswamy, April 18, 2022

Atacama Cosmology Telescope at Cerro Toco in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Credit: Giulio Ercolani/Alamy Stock Photo

How fast is the universe expanding? How much does matter clump up in our cosmic neighborhood? Different methods of answering these two questions—either by observing the early cosmos and extrapolating to present times, or by making direct observations of the nearby universe—are yielding consistently different answers.

The simplest explanation for these discrepancies is merely that our measurements are somehow erroneous, but researchers are increasingly entertaining another, more breathtaking possibility: These twin tensions—between expectation and observation, between the early and late universe—may reflect some deep flaw in the standard model of cosmology, which encapsulates our knowledge and assumptions about the universe.

Finding and fixing that flaw, then, could profoundly transform our understanding of the cosmos.

Source: Astronomers Gear Up to Grapple with the High-Tension Cosmos – Scientific American

A Big Bet on Nanotechnology Has Paid Off – Scientific American

The National Nanotechnology Initiative promised a lot. It has delivered more

By Chad Mirkin, October 9th, 2021

Credit: Getty Images

We’re now more than two decades out from the initial announcement of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a federal program from President Bill Clinton founded in 2000 to support nanotechnology research and development in universities, government agencies and industry laboratories across the United States.

It was a significant financial bet on a field that was better known among the general public for science fiction than scientific achievement.

Today it’s clear that the NNI did more than influence the direction of research in the U.S. It catalyzed a worldwide effort and spurred an explosion of creativity in the scientific community.

And we’re reaping the rewards not just in medicine, but also clean energy, environmental remediation and beyond.

Source: A Big Bet on Nanotechnology Has Paid Off – Scientific American

Looking for Interstellar Monuments – Scientific American

An ancient civilization from a distant star could have created immortal machines to roam the Milky Way and keep its legacy alive

By Avi Loeb on September 11, 2021

Credit: Getty Images

By now I have reached an age at which my birthdays can be thought of as a countdown to the inescapable end.

We live our life without knowing when that end will come. But acknowledging its inevitability encourages us to build monuments of our accomplishments that will outlast us.

Of course, our DNA can give us that sort of longevity through our children. But we often wish to add meaning to the world we leave behind that goes beyond our genetic code.

Source: Looking for Interstellar Monuments – Scientific American

What Structural Engineers Learned from 9/11 – Scientific American

By Donald Dusenberry, on September 8, 2021

Members of the profession study such tragic events to try and ensure that something similar won’t happen again

Credit: Donald Dusenberry


The events of 9/11 shook the world.

Before that day, we could not imagine that someone would be bold and cruel enough to enact such violence. We could not imagine that two iconic 110-story skyscrapers would collapse in the middle of a U.S. city, gouging and crushing other buildings for hundreds of feet in all directions.

We asked ourselves, “How could this possibly happen? How could they collapse?” These are natural questions that express the scope of the loss we felt on that day.

Structural engineers asked these questions, too, but they also asked the contrasting question: How did the World Trade Center towers manage to stand up to the attack at all, even for a short while? The damage was extensive. Commercial aircraft flying at nearly top speed crashed into the buildings, cutting wide swaths through the exterior walls and inflicting extensive interior damage. Shouldn’t that have been enough to cause immediate collapse?

Source: What Structural Engineers Learned from 9/11 – Scientific American