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- Jan 19 201710 minutes
The Not-So-Fine Tuning of the Universe: Physics:There’s more than one way to build a universe suitable for life.
Before there is life, there must be structure. Our universe synthesized atomic nuclei early in its history. Those nuclei ensnared electrons to form atoms. Those atoms agglomerated into galaxies, stars, and planets. At last, living things had places t
- Jan 12 201711 minutes
Why Most Planets Will Either Be Lush or Dead: Earth Science:The Gaia hypothesis implies that once alien life takes hold, it will flourish.
Can a planet be alive? Lynn Margulis, a giant of late 20th-century biology, who had an incandescent intellect that veered toward the unorthodox, thought so. She and chemist James Lovelock together theorized that life must be a planet-altering phenome
- Jan 30 20174 minutes
The Moon May Be Covered With Oxygen Beamed From Earth
The gas travels alongside particles from the sun, and could offer clues to life’s origins.
- Jan 2 20171 minute
She Helped Send John Glenn Into Space
CAITLIN KEATING AND MIA McNIECE At the age of 98, Katherine Johnson tells People her greatest accomplishment is “just staying alive.” But the West Virginia native has much more to be proud of: A brilliant mathematician (played by Taraji P. Henson in
- Dec 23 20164 minutes
The Top 11 Science and Health Stories of the Year
It was a great year for weed and gravitational waves.
- Oct 8 20156 minutes
The Cello Music of the Spheres: Experience mathematical beauty and symmetry in a multimedia work.
If there really is a music of the spheres, the sound of a fundamental harmony in the universe, it has to be Just Ancient Loops, a 2012 work by composer Michael Harrison. Played on the cello, and complemented by a film created from archival clips and
- Sep 13 20132 minutes
In Space, No One Can Hear Lady Gaga (Yet)
Yesterday Science published a study including “strong evidence that Voyager 1,” an unmanned spacecraft launched in 1977, “has crossed the heliopause into the nearby interstellar plasma.” Don’t let the scientific understatement fool you—the researcher
- Dec 8 20166 minutes
The Romantic Venus We Never Knew: Venus used to be as fit for life as Earth.
On the day that I was born—winter solstice, 1959—a headline in Life magazine proclaimed “Target Venus: There May be Life There!” It told of how scientists rode a balloon to an altitude of 80,000 feet to make telescope observations of Venus’s atmosph
- Dec 7 20164 minutes
The Extreme Hazing Of The Most Expensive Telescope Ever Built
The James Webb Space Telescope, $8.8 billion and 20 years in the making, is undergoing rigorous testing to make sure it can survive launch.
- Feb 6 20158 minutes
Goodbye, Turing Test; Bring on the Turing Decathlon
Chicago-bound motorists passing mile marker 121 on Interstate-88 through Aurora, Illinois, on Sept. 30, 2011, at 3:00 p.m. likely noticed nothing that seemed particularly remarkable. To their right was a scene of humdrum office parks, and to the left
- Feb 2 20165 minutes
Here’s What We’ll Do in Space by 2116
In a mere 60 years, we of Earth have gone from launching our first spacecraft, to exploring every planet and major moon in our solar system, to establishing an international, long-lived fleet of robotic spacecraft at the Moon and Mars. What will we d
- Sep 3 20142 minutes
The Few Tough Species That Survive the Rigors of Nothingness
In the 1800s, scientists imagined that life was brought to Earth by a rock that had been knocked off of a distant, life-filled planet. Now, over 100 years later, we are able to test this idea of “panspermia”—by sending life away from Earth and seeing
- Aug 22 20162 minutes
An Unlimited Digital Universe With Wonder to Spare
I’M CRUISING THROUGH AN AMARANTH-TINGED VACUUM in a dangerously vulnerable starship. Asteroids phase in and out of view, each a mineral mass my photon cannons can mine for fuel. In the distance, a distress signal beckons from one of the nearly unlimi
- Dec 14 20163 minutes
Earth Is Probably Unprepared For A Comet Strike
The U.S. should invest in an interceptor spacecraft before we detect a dangerous object, say government scientists.
- Jul 2 20139 minutes
The Best Way Yet to Talk to Aliens (If They’re Out There)
“None knows whence creation arose; And whether he has or has not made it; He who surveys it from the lofty skies. Only he knows—or perhaps not.”This is an edited snippet from a 3,500-year-old Vedic creation myth. I sent each of its 143 characters str
- Dec 12 201312 minutes
The Madness Of The Planets: Our home in the universe continues to rock out of control.
I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability. Residents of
- Mar 13 201410 minutes
Looking For A Second Earth In The Shadows: Scientists are blocking out the light of distant suns to look for life.
Some dark, clear nights, when the blazing stars cast shadows down on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the astronomer Olivier Guyon steps away from his workbench and computer screens and walks outside the giant 8-meter Subaru Telescope to savor the heavens. Guyon b
- Dec 12 20164 minutes
The Map That Lets You Listen To The Radio Everywhere
Radio Garden is a meditation on connectedness and what broadcast technology does to local culture.
- Dec 1 20164 minutes
Spooks In Space
How a banal celestial lab kicked off a new age of warfare.
- Nov 21 20162 minutes
Want to Go to Mars? Ron Howard’s New Series Gives Red Planet Fever a Boost
IT’S A FIRST-WORLD LUXURY TO LIVE in a country in which we can gripe about not having gotten to Mars yet. If we could land on the moon 47 years ago, why is Mars taking so long? The question is being asked more often lately, which makes it a good time
- Dec 14 20162 minutes
Find Cosmic-Blast Shields, Find The Aliens
Astronomers say they could detect signs of advanced civilizations by searching for their defense mechanisms.
- Jan 6 20172 minutes
Is NASA Paving the Way for Asteroid Mining?
The agency just greenlit a robotic mission to the most metal-rich space rock in the solar system.
- Jan 21 20166 minutes
How the Cold War Created Astrobiology: Life, death, and Sputnik.
Astronomy and biology have been circling each other with timid infatuation since the first time a human thought about the possibility of other worlds and other suns. But the melding of the two into the modern field of astrobiology really began on Oc
- Jan 4 20177 minutes
Trump Might Be Thinking About a Moon Base
Last week, upon leaving the president-elect’s office, Douglas Brinkley, a historian and conservationist, reported that Trump “was very interested in a man going to the moon.” Before that point, the entirety of Trump’s utterances of space policy consi
- Oct 24 20161 minute
Obama Says NASA Will Put a Human on Mars ‘by the 2030s.’ Can It?
JEFFREY KLUGER FEW THINGS MAKE A POST-1950S PRESIDENT APPEAR AS visionary as talking about going to Mars. At one point or another, almost all Presidents seem to do it. On Oct. 11, Obama joined the chorus, promising a public-private partnership to se
- Jan 9 20172 minutes
The Moon May Be Formed From Many Tiny Moons
New research suggests the moon was the result of a series of smaller collisions rather than a single catastrophe, contradicting a theory that has been widely accepted for over 30 years.
- Jan 13 20178 minutes
Why Mars Is the Best Planet
It’s like The Man in the High Castle for Earth’s history.
- Nov 28 20162 minutes
Your December Horoscope
It’s time to be a visionary. And you’ll have help: Saturn, the planet of long-range planning, Jupiter, the planet of abstract thinking, and Uranus, the planet of sudden change and progressive reasoning, are working together at the beginning of Decem
- Dec 15 20161 minute
The Icy Secrets of Ceres
New research suggests water ice lurks under the surface of the dwarf planet.
- Oct 31 20162 minutes
Your November Horoscope
Now’s a great time to collaborate.