Physics

  • HOW TO BUILD A ROBOT THAT WON’T TAKE OVER THE WORLD

    SAAC ASIMOV’S FAMOUS Three Laws of Robotics—constraints on the behavior of androids and automatons meant to ensure the safety of humans—were also famously incomplete. The laws, which first appeared in his 1942 short story “Runaround” and again in classic works like I, Robot, sound airtight at first: A robot may not...
  • Scientists Unleash CRISPR on RNA

    The CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system allows scientists to permanently alter the human genome faster and more precisely than ever before (see Sep 2014 news; May 2016 news). What if scientists wanted to make a temporary change, by targeting RNA instead? In the October 25 Science, researchers led by Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of...
  • Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It’s Posted Online

    Interest in “Properties of Expanding Universes” is at an all-time high: Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis of that name has crashed Cambridge University’s open-access repository on the first day the document was posted online. The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download from its website,...
  • LUNAR SCIENTISTS WANT TO HITCH A RIDE ON AMERICA’S NEXT MOONSHOT

    AT THE BEGINNING of the month, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US, at long last, will go back to the moon. At least, some day. Pence didn’t give a date, details, or even a ballpark cost during his speech at the opening of the National Space Council. But he...
  • Scientists detect gravitational waves from a new kind of nova, sparking a new era in astronomy

    Some 130 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other. The resulting explosion sent a burst of gamma rays streaming through space and rippled the very fabric of the universe. On Aug. 17, those signals reached Earth —...
  • Heating Dirt Could Cause a Runaway Rise in Carbon Emissions

    Tucked into the apple-growing hills of Western Massachusetts is the Harvard Forest, a 3,700-acre wooded preserve that hosts school kids on field trips, day-tripping hikers, and, for more than a quarter century, a highly unusual science experiment. For the past 26 years, strings of subterranean electrical wires have heated...
  • Nobel Prize honors technique for seeing molecules’ details

    Three researchers based in the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for developments in electron microscopy. The 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize is shared by Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne, Joachim Frank at New York’s Columbia University and Richard Henderson of MRC...
  • How earthquake scientists eavesdrop on North Korea’s nuclear blasts

    On September 9 of last year, in the middle of the morning, seismometers began lighting up around East Asia. From South Korea to Russia to Japan, geophysical instruments recorded squiggles as seismic waves passed through and shook the ground. It looked as if an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 had...
  • Stephen Hawking: Trump Pushing Earth’s Climate ‘Over The Brink’

    The world’s best-known living physicist, Stephen Hawking, says that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord could lead humanity to a tipping point, “turning the Earth into Venus.” The Cambridge professor and renowned cosmologist made the remarks in an interview with the BBC that aired Sunday....
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