A supercell thunderstorm over Texas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 30, 2013

The Physics of Ferocious Funnels

Every year around this time, tornadoes materialize out of the ominous slate-grey skies of the Midwest, hurtling across the plains with unpredictable ferocity. Large ones, like the behemoth that obliterated the town of Moore, OK, earlier...

Cicada Molting

May 26, 2013

Video of the Week: Cicada Swarmageddon!

You may have seen or heard about the record swarm of billions of cicadas (“Brood II” to scientists) expected on the East Coast of the U.S. this spring and summer. The insect in question is the...

April 19, 2013

Video of the Week: Visualizing 150 Years of Health Data

Technology has transformed the process of science—this fact is indisputable. It has allowed us to detect elusive particles like the Higgs boson that remained invisible to generations of physicists, to probe the cold vacuum of outer...

How important is a single word? In science it's critical to use precise language.
 Image courtesy: MJ Ecker (Flickr CC)

April 5, 2013

Should We Use These Three Controversial Science Terms?

One of the Wired Magazine science blogs, Dot Physics, recently ran a post entitled “Three Science Words We Should Stop Using.”  Care to guess what they were? Hypothesis.  Theory.  Scientific Law. Setting aside for a moment...


March 22, 2013

World Water Day 2013

  The humble water molecule is full of surprises. Although it is just one oxygen with two Mickey Mouse ears of hydrogen, water is arguably the most important substance on Earth. It has sculpted the planet’s...


March 14, 2013

The Chemistry of Snack Food: Why Are Those Chips So Tasty?

You sit down to your favorite TV show with a large bag of cheese puffs. Losing yourself in the exciting plot, you start snacking away. You are not quite sure whether it is the salty, slightly...

Geologic Map of the North Side of the Moon by Baerbel K. Lucchitta (1978)
(U.S. Geological Survey map I-1062)

March 6, 2013

Image of the Week: The USGS Maps the Moon and Mines its Secrets

On Sunday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) turned an impressive 134 years old. Founded by President Rutherford Hayes on March 3, 1879, this scientific agency has been charged with many tasks over the years from...

The reconstructed appearance of the oldest common placental ancestor. Credit: Carl Buell

February 12, 2013

For Darwin’s Birthday, Scientists Reconstruct an Important Evolutionary Ancestor

Two hundred and four years ago today, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England. He grew up, of course, to become the father of evolution –— the first to propose a robust, testable scientific hypothesis to...

False color image of the Ganges River Delta

February 11, 2013

A Beautiful Line of Scientific Research Continues as Landsat 8 Launches

And liftoff!  At 10:02 a.m. Pacific Standard Time today, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a collaboration between NASA and the USGS, launched the eighth satellite in service of a scientific mission that dates back more than...

A Groundhog on Green Grass

February 2, 2013

The Science of Groundhog Day

Ah, Groundhog Day. That whimsical winter moment when even the most logical among us pause to embrace the silly, hopeful notion that a rodent can predict the coming of spring.  In case you haven’t heard the...