The fundamentals of earthquake mechanics are simple: Pieces of rock slip past one another along a fault to release pent-up energy. Some of that energy ripples outward, causing seismic waves that shake the earth. But how long it takes and exactly how the energy dissipates has remained elusive. To discern these processes, researchers recently built a machine at the University of Oklahoma to mimic what happens inside the earth’s crust.
A beehive buzzes with thousands of genetically similar female honeybees. Some nurse their queen and her eggs while others fly out in search of pollen and nectar. For decades, scientists knew that bees took on new jobs as they aged, but a team of researchers recently discovered that chemical tags attached to the bees’ DNA play an important role in determining their career paths.
From the outside, galaxies appear as a mass of stars orbiting a dense center. But inside, they are more complex, with some groups of stars moving at different speeds or directions, in part because they originated from separate galaxies that collided billions of years ago. To untangle these disparate components of the Milky Way, the European Space Agency plans to launch Gaia in October.
By Sal Vaglica
Posted 04.08.2013 at 10:30 am 4 Comments
Coiling up extension cords by hand is tedious. Spring-activated spools aren’t much better; the mechanisms break easily and can cause violent snapback at the end of the cord. Engineers at Texas-based Great Stuff motorized the entire process. Using a combination of sensors and circuitry, the RoboReel neatly winds 50 feet of cable in 10 seconds, saving time and frustration.
If you’ve ever wondered how boneless chicken parts end up that way, take a peek inside one of the 4,000 or so poultry processing plants in the U.S. Workers man massive assembly lines to scald, pluck, gut, slice, and wrap an estimated nine billion birds annually.
By Amber Williams
Posted 04.02.2013 at 10:47 am 6 Comments
It’s not easy to see what’s going on in a handful of dirt, so some labs use gels and other substitutes to grow plants when they study them. Unfortunately, roots and most of the organisms that interact with them don’t grow as well in fakes. That’s why researchers at Scotland’s nonprofit James Hutton Institute have developed a transparent soil that more closely resembles the real deal.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.