Lab Notes

Are we alone in the universe?

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This is one of humanity’s most fundamental and persistent questions. The answer has always seemed, until recently, elusive and out of reach. But this is beginning to change. Biologists have been deepening our understanding of what kinds of environments life might ...

Leaving science to the scientists

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When Pope Francis addressed Congress last month he asserted that “climate change is a problem that can no longer be left to a future generation,” casting it as a moral issue rather than a political one. His comments echoed a letter about the environment released by ...

New Horizons at Pluto

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In the 1960s, the Apollo missions to the moon inspired a generation of scientists and engineers to pursue careers in space exploration. On the heels of those successes, the Voyager missions to the outer solar system inspired my generation. I vividly remember the ...

Searching for sister Earth

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In last year’s blockbuster movie Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey leads a team of astronauts on a quest to find a new planet like Earth, after humanity collectively destroys the climate on the only home we’ve got...

Engineering the climate

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Last month at a conference in Paris, 195 countries adopted a landmark agreement on how to respond to the Earth’s changing climate. The agreement...

Launching commercial spaceflight

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Imagine boarding a brand new Boeing 747 on your way to Seattle. When you reach your destination a few hours later, after unloading the...

Tracking killer asteroids

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In December 2004, astronomers in Arizona discovered an asteroid the size of a cruise ship that appeared to be on a collision course with...

Chasing alien megastructures

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In 1960, physicist Freeman Dyson suggested that the energy demands of all technological civilizations would eventually exceed the natural resources of their home planet....

Igniting space weather

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In March 1989, a powerful eruption from the Sun slammed into the Earth’s magnetic field and took down a regional power grid in Canada,...

Boosting solar physics

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Shortly after the financial crash of 2008, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to stimulate the economy with $787 billion in...

Juno reaches Jupiter

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In Roman mythology, Jupiter is king of the gods and his wife Juno is the queen. Jupiter was known for his infidelity, so Juno...

Catching the solar eclipse

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More than a century ago, Albert Einstein proposed a new theory of gravity, suggesting that concentrations of matter warp the underlying fabric of space,...