Science in the News


The REAL First Day of Spring

Spring is on the way. Really! Despite the chilly weather and occasional snow dump, the second half of March invariably brings on scientific-sounding descriptions of something called the vernal equinox, the day when daytime and nighttime are finally equal. It marks the time when daylight starts lasting longer, nights get shorter, and (eventually) warm weather returns to our fair land.

What is rarely discussed, though, is why. Why should the Earth's axis tilt in such a way to create varying seasons? Why are seasons so predictable, year after year after year? Do other planets have similar cycles? Will our pattern ever change?

Panorama of COSI on a sunny day

A Higgs Update

A while ago we reported on the discovery of the Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe. On March 14, CNN and other news outlets reported some new information to coincide with both pi day (3.14) and Albert Einstein's birthday.

So what's it all about?


Twas the Night Before Mars-mas

An ode to the Mars Curiosity written by our very own Emily Dorrian who is an Associate Faculty Leader for Operations:

Twas the night before Mars-mas, when all through Gale Crater,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a gator;
Mount Sharp was piled in the center with care,
In hopes Curiosity soon would be there;


Alien Invader!

Imagine yourself on the surface of Mars. The temperature is a balmy zero degrees Fahrenheit. The pink, nearly cloudless Martian sky surrounds a tiny but blindingly bright Sun, shining its feeble light on the frigid surface. In other words, it’s a beautiful day on the Red Planet.

Suddenly the sky opens up in a fiery and terrifying display. What can only be described as a creature from another world begins a rapid descent to the Martian surface. In the space of seven minutes, what was a speck of fire in the sky becomes an enormous robotic vehicle firmly planted on the surface of Mars. It promises quite a show.

First a parachute catches as much of the thin Martian air as it can, slowing the body of the craft down from a blistering 900 mph to a still-deadly 180 mph.


Swimming in the Higgs Ocean

Scientists at CERN have announced that it's quite likely they've finally cornered the primary quarry of their latest and biggest machine, the Large Hadron Collider. I'd like to call it the Higgs, but others will insist on calling it "The God Particle."

If you remember nothing else from this article, I'd like you to remember this: please don't call it The God Particle. According to Rutgers University physics professor Matt Strassler, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, the origin of the nickname is about as non-religious and non-scientific as one could imagine: it was invented as advertising... I have never heard or seen a physicist refer to the Higgs particle in this way in the context of a scientific paper, a talk at a conference, or even an informal scientific discussion. There’s nothing in the mathematical equations, in the interpretation of the physics, in any philosophy of which I am aware, or in any religious text or tradition with which I am familiar that connects the Higgs particle or the Higgs field with any notion of religion or divinity. The nickname is pure invention."

Swimming in the Higgs Ocean
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