When I was taking chemistry in college, the mass spectrometer was a desk-mounted machine about twice the size of a PC. Oh, how times do change. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created the first nanoscale mass spectrometer. Only four micrometers across, the device can measure the mass of single molecules in an entirely novel way.
By Gregory MonePosted 08.16.2007 at 6:02 pm 0 Comments
A giant, dying star named Mira has been littering the universe with key elements for the last 30,000 years, according to a new report from astronomers working on NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer project.
The star itself is actually very well known. It's been a favorite among star-gazers for centuries. Using the ultraviolet Galaxy detector, the astronomers saw that Mira, which streaks through the cosmos at 291,000 miles per hour, has been leaving important elements like carbon and oxygen in its wake. This trail of stardust is 13 light years long, and it's the first time scientists have seen anything like it. Christopher Martin of the California Institute of Technology, the lead author of a new paper in Nature that explains the find, says the tail looks remarkably similar to the wake you'd see behind a speedboat, or a jet's contrail. Yet it's not just for looks. Eventually, all that material Mira leaves behind could be recycled into new stars or planets. In fact, it's already dumped enough stuff to seed 3,000 planets the size of Earth.—Gregory Mone
By Margarita MarinovaPosted 07.19.2005 at 12:15 pm 0 Comments
The ultrathin atmosphere, cold climate (average - 67�F), and consequential lack of the liquid water that is required for life make Mars an inhospitable planet. But by 2100, scientists predict, Mars colonists will say goodbye to their spacesuits, thanks to a geoengineering scheme that puts greenhouse gases to good use. The process, called terraforming, employs robots to mine 130 million tons of fluoride and sulfur deposits from Martian quarries each year and transport them to factories.
By David PescovitzPosted 04.22.2004 at 12:29 pm 0 Comments
In the 1940s, Swiss engineer George de Mestral found burrs stuck to his pants legs and examined their hooks under a microscope. Ten years later, he patented Velcro. De Mestral's biology-inspired invention is a quintessential example of biomimetics?applying design principles from nature to engineering. In recent years biomimetics has led to numerous innovations, from "self-cleaning" paint based on lotus leaves to new adhesives inspired by the gripping hairs on a gecko's feet.