There’s too much guesswork in cancer surgery. Although a tumor is usually a different color or density than the healthy tissue around it, stray cancer cells near the tumor often blend in, so surgeons carve out an extra fraction of an inch surrounding it. But if post-op tests prove that the extracted tissue has cancer cells on its edge, another round of surgery is required. This happens frequently: About 20 percent of breast-cancer patients need a second surgery because of lingering cancer cells.
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 12.17.2010 at 10:59 am 49 Comments
In April, President Obama urged NASA to come up with, among other things, a less expensive method than conventional rocketry for launching spacecraft. By September, the agency's engineers floated a plan that would save millions of dollars in propellant, improve astronaut safety, and allow for more frequent flights. All it will take is two miles of train track, an airplane that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound, and a jolt of electricity big enough to light a small town.
There's a long tradition of offering big cash prizes to entice talented and creative individuals to solve problems that have stymied industry and governments for decades. For example, in 1810, French cook Nicolas Appert won a 12,000-franc government prize for a food preservation method to help feed Napoleon's army. His demonstration of putting food in airtight glass jars and sterilizing them with heat led to canning techniques that are still used today. Recently, such contests have blossomed, with many geared toward particle physicists and backyard tinkerers alike.
Every December since 2004, engineers have flown to the South Pole to drill 8,000-foot-deep holes in the ice. The team lowers cables, each strung with 60 disco-ball-size light sensors, into the holes and let them freeze over. So far they have completed 79 such holes, set in a grid half a mile on each side, and plan to drill the final seven this month. The result will be the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cube of ice packed with 5,320 sensors looking for cosmic particles.
By Jim ObergPosted 11.16.2010 at 4:07 pm 7 Comments
When NASA retires its fleet of space shuttles next year, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft will become the only means of transporting people to the International Space Station. American astronauts have trained part-time on Soyuz craft in Moscow since the early 1990s, but recent bureaucratic struggles and outdated equipment are taking the shine off the Russian space program, once famous for its reliability.
By Morgen PeckPosted 11.08.2010 at 12:21 pm 0 Comments
Toads. Clouds. Radon gas. Scientists have studied the movement of each of these in desperate attempts to improve earthquake detection methods by even just a few minutes. Now there’s a technology to test the radon theory for good and possibly give warning days before a quake.
As uranium in the earth decays, it emits radon gas, some of which collects in pockets underground. Some seismologists hypothesize that earth shifts imperceptibly in the days before a quake, causing fractures that puncture the pockets and release more radon. But it would take a lot of data to test the theory.
When astronauts next land on the moon, they're likely to whip up a celebratory dinner of freeze-dried macaroni and cheese. But a new self-building greenhouse could supplement that meal with a fresh salad to eat and oxygen to breathe.
What do you do with an 800-pound butter sculpture of Benjamin Franklin that’s starting to go bad? Normally, the inedible art would get tossed in a Dumpster. The organizers of the Pennsylvania Farm Show had a better idea: Donate it to science.
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 10.22.2010 at 12:59 pm 2 Comments
In 2002, Matthew Rosen won a NASA grant to study how gravity affects the lungs. He soon found out what lung specialists already know: An MRI scanner reveals how well a lung moves air, but it only works when the patient is lying on his back. What Rosen really wanted to see is how air moves when a person is upright, so the Harvard University physicist built a scanner that can look at the lungs no matter what position the subject is in.
To perform the first scientific survey of the entire Titanic site this summer, the crew of 30 researchers needed several miles of fiber-optic cable and a phalanx of robots. Now that they’ve imaged every surface of the historic ruins, all you’ll need to view their 3-D photo-real model of the wreck is a computer.