Category Archives: science

Small Teams of Scientists Have Fresher Ideas

It took $1.1 billion and a 1,000-strong team to prove Einstein right about gravitational waves. In 2016, the scientists behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, announced that they had finally detected these ripples in the fabric of space and time, formed by colliding black holes. “LIGO was a masterpiece of 21st century engineering and science,” says James Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago who studies the history of science. “But it was perhaps the most conservative experiment in history. It tested a 100-year-old hypothesis.”

“Big science,” of which LIGO is a prime example, is becoming more common. Funding agencies are channeling more money toward ever larger teams working on grand projects such as cataloging the diversity of our cells or sequencing Read the rest

Opportunity did not answer NASA’s final call, and it’s now lost to us

The Opportunity rover leaves its landing site in Eagle Crater on Mars back in 2004.

Enlarge / The Opportunity rover leaves its landing site in Eagle Crater on Mars back in 2004. (credit: NASA)

Late Tuesday night, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent their final data uplink to the Opportunity rover on Mars. Over this connection, via the Deep Space Network, the American jazz singer Billie Holiday crooned “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a song which closes with the lines:

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

The scientists waited to hear some response from their long-silent rover, which had been engulfed in a global dust storm last June, likely coating its solar panels in a fatal layer of dust. Since then, the

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The Bizarre Planets That Could Be Humanity’s New Homes

Imagine going to live on a planet where the sun never moves in the sky. No sunrise, no sunset.

Several years ago, I became obsessed with tidally locked planets. The notion of a world permanently caught between two extremes—with one half always illuminated, the other always in the dark—took hold of my imagination. I realized that planets like these were the surest bet in the search for Earth-like places that our descendants could settle on. Worlds of eternal darkness and never-ending sunlight could be the future of the human race—if we’re serious about living in other solar systems.

Astronomers believe that most of the planets in our galaxy that have Earth-like temperatures are likely to be tidally locked. Because their orbital period is the same as … Read the rest

Danish haunted-house studies seek to reveal the seductive appeal of horror

Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by "scare actors" depending on whether they are "adrenaline junkies" or "white-knucklers."

Enlarge / Visitors to a haunted house in Vejle, Denmark, respond differently to being confronted by “scare actors” depending on whether they are “adrenaline junkies” or “white-knucklers.” (credit: Andrés Baldursson, Baldursson Photography)

It’s no secret that many of us here at Ars are genuine fans of horror. As a child, I would compulsively devour horror short stories and watch classic movies on late-night TV, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) or I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Then I’d lie awake at night in terror, convinced a werewolf was lurking just outside my bedroom window. (In reality, it was a trick of light and shadow against the curtains.) That’s the central paradox of horror: we both fear the experience of watching a scary movie, or reading

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