power grid, science policy, energy Physics Science Policy Technology 

Science Policy Challenges, Part Two: A Strained Grid

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic This is the second in a series of four articles by Dr. Jonathan Trinastic in our new Science Policy section. Just over a year ago, over 230,000 Ukrainians lost connection to their country’s electricity grid after hackers took control of computers and shut down regional substations. The attack had been planned for months, likely by an experienced and well-funded team. Such an organized assault could soon be seen somewhere in the United States. “Everything about this attack was repeatable in the United States,” said Robert Lee,…

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Graphene Sieve Turns Saltwater into Drinking Water Physics 

Graphene Sieve Turns Saltwater into Drinking Water

By Kate Stone Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink. —Rime of the Ancient Mariner Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge published those lines in 1798. In 2017, scientists from the University of Manchester have developed a graphene-based desalination tool. Soon, more of that abundant seawater might be drinkable after all. This is good news for Coleridge’s ancient mariner and for everyone in need of fresh water. Fresh water is like liquid gold. According to the United Nations, 85 percent…

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Can You Improve Your Running with Physics? Biology Physics 

Can You Improve Your Running with Physics?

By Emily Rhode @riseandsci Running is one of the simplest forms of exercise we can do. It requires no protective gear or fancy equipment. At its core, it just requires force. Runners are constantly searching for clues for how to improve their speed and prevent injury. But until now, there was no easy way to fully assess the way a runner moves. In a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers at Southern Methodist University describe a new method that requires nothing more than a quality camera…

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How Nature Uses Physics to Create the Color Blue Animals Physics 

How Nature Uses Physics to Create the Color Blue

By Danielle Bengsch Pigments are one way to be colorful, but butterflies rely on physics at the nanoscale. The Blue Diadem butterfly, found on the African continent, is roughly the size of a saucer with wings spread. These wings fascinated Radwanul Hasan Siddique of the California Institute of Technology. It wasn’t pigment that turned the butterfly’s wings a radiant cornflower blue, but what was it? He found out and is applying lessons he’s learning from nature’s palette to biomedical devices. ResearchGate: Why is the color blue so rare in nature,…

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Nanostructured Honeycomb Creates Electricity from Light Physics Technology 

Nanostructured Honeycomb Creates Electricity from Light

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic Zoom in to the nanometer scale—less than the width of a human hair—and you might think the new device designed by a team of scientists led by Lei Zhang is a honeycomb. Upon closer inspection, you would find that the hexagonal structure is made of gold and that a long string of organic molecules winds up and down through each hexagonal space. And one more thing: this device, so perfectly structured in the world of atoms and molecules, can create electricity from light. These researchers from…

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How Do Shark Teeth Bite? Animals Physics 

How Do Shark Teeth Bite?

By Kate Stone For as long as humans have walked the earth, we have been fascinated by shark teeth. Sharks are famous for their biting skills. These predatory fish are equipped to efficiently dismantle prey including marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Sharks have been around for approximately 450 million years and haven’t changed a whole lot in that time. Today there are more than 400 species of sharks, and each has uniquely shaped teeth. Some are triangular, some have deep notches or curves, and others are shaped like spikes.…

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Phosphorescent Concrete: Photo of light-emitting concrete courtesy of Investigation y Desarrollo Physics Technology 

Phosphorescent Concrete Lights the Way Home

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic Imagine a future when, as dusk turns to night during a long drive, the darkening highway begins to glow in soft hues of blue and green to illuminate the path ahead. Such a possibility could become reality after the creation of light-emitting cement by Jose Carlos Rubio at the University of San Nicolas Hidalgo in Mexico. The novel material could provide lighted pathways for cars, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians without using electricity. Countries of Concrete Most developed countries now rely on vast networks of roads to…

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conductive concrete Engineering Physics 

Conductive Concrete May End Flight Delays

By Emily Rhode @riseandsci Every year, thousands of flights are delayed and thousands of car accidents happen due to snowstorms and icy road conditions. Millions of dollars are spent each year plowing and de-icing runways, tarmacs, roadways, and bridges. Salt and plowing cause damage to roadways and waterways, and shoveling heavy snow causes injuries and deaths. Flight Delays (and Snow Days) Could be Things of the Past, Thanks to Science The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is very interested in a special type of conductive concrete made by researchers at the…

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liquid graphene, liquid metal Physics Technology 

Liquid Graphene: Metal Behaves Like Water

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic The Liquid Electrons of Graphene Graphene has always been a material full of promise, and now researchers from Harvard University have found one more reason to wonder at this deceptively simple, two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms. Electrons moving across one graphene layer have been observed to act like a fluid for the first time, showing a collective motion rarely seen in other metals. Potential applications of this new behavior range from electronic devices converting heat into electricity to a better understanding of black holes. A Sheet…

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gecko Animals Biology Engineering Physics 

Why Spiderman Can’t Exist, but a Gecko Can

By Kate Stone With all due respect to Spiderman, it turns out that physics is against our wall-crawling, web-slinging hero. There is a size limit on who or what can stick to walls: the size of a gecko. David Labonte and his team at the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology have been wondering why geckos are the largest animals able to scale smooth vertical walls. Geckos have highly effective and complex foot pads that they use to climb smooth, vertical surfaces. However, anything larger than a gecko would need…

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