I can't stand diamonds. No, really, they just tick me off, because nearly everything about them is a lie. Diamonds are neither rare nor intrinsically valuable nor uniquely romantic. Those are ideas invented by the diamond industry. And no, despite what the ads tell you, diamonds are not forever. They are flammable and will burn brightly with a little help from a torch. This makes perfect sense when you consider that they are made of pure carbon, which reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide ("reacts with oxygen" just being another way of saying "burns").
As students everywhere return to school, the luckiest are heading for caves and rocket firing ranges instead of lecture halls
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 09.09.2009 at 11:08 am 5 Comments
So you want to explore the deepest caves? Design the cars of the future? Fire rockets? Don't wait until you graduate. Here are 10 college programs that offer the most fun per credit—and can help you land your ideal job.
By John Scott LewinskiPosted 09.08.2009 at 12:06 pm 1 Comment
Harry Kloor may be the world’s most well-rounded nerd. He is the only person to have earned doctorates in physics and chemistry simultaneously, and he has penned episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. And when NASA asked him for help in improving its image with young people, he drew on both of those experiences. The best way to get kids enthused about outer space, Kloor figured, was to hide their medicine in a bucket of popcorn. Next February, Quantum Quest, a star-studded CGI space adventure that pairs animated protons with real footage from NASA spacecraft, hits theaters. “Many of NASA’s scientists were inspired by Star Trek and Star Wars,” he says. “I want to inspire that kind of passion.” We caught up with Kloor to find out why kids will go nuts for quarks.
By Mark SpoonauerPosted 09.03.2009 at 11:47 am 5 Comments
One word: performance. If you’re a gamer, a designer or a movie lover, you’ll need a full-fledged laptop. Even low-end models like the $550 Gateway MD have large screens and feature fast processors and lots of memory that let you easily run multiple programs or powerful apps like Photoshop. To get fast enough graphics for Blu-ray movies or games, though, your starting price will go up.
Meet Lrry, a part-equine, part-reptile fire-breathing monster
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 09.02.2009 at 10:34 am 1 Comment
"Lrry has no brakes," says builder Lyle Rowell. "Nor do I."
Don’t call Lyle Rowell’s giant fire-breathing robot a dog. The artist, who lives in Rimini, Italy, insists that his 1,900-pound creation, Lrry (pronounced “Larry”), is actually a cloven-hooved, two-legged, half-donkey, half-raptor-type-reptile.
You’re in luck. For their senior project, two Cornell University computer-engineering whizzes recently built a machine that does just that. After learning in class how breathalyzers work, Robert Clain and Miguel Salas assembled a fart detector from a sensitive hydrogen sulfide monitor, a thermometer and a microphone and wrote the software that would rate the emission. A “slight perturbance in the air” near the detector sets it to work measuring the three pillars of fart quality: stench, temperature and sound. Temperature, Clain explains, is critical.
I was not screwing around. When I took the first physics class of my life, at age 35, it was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and my professor was Walter Lewin, one of that institution's most respected instructors. Lewin is a man so comfortable with his vectors that he diagrams them in front of a classroom audience while wearing Teva sandals.
OK, I wasn't really "at" MIT. And "took" the class may be a stretch. I was watching the video of one of Lewin's lectures from the comfort of my backyard in Brooklyn, and I too was wearing sandals (but not Tevas; I have standards).
Three new ways math can help you stay awake, clear clogged drains, and solve ancient mysteries
By Katharine GammonPosted 08.28.2009 at 11:05 am 1 Comment
Red-Eye Flight Relief
If you drag after a transcontinental flight, imagine yourself after a trip to Mars. To aid frequent flyers and future Marstronauts, researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School wrote software that models complex internal timing systems like our circadian clock. Based on variables such as light and number of time zones crossed, the software will determine how much and how often to expose travelers to full-spectrum light to reset their brain. Future versions will factor in caffeine and naps, which could help astronauts deal with day-night cycles on the moon or Mars.