Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1962, reporters gathered for a press briefing at NASA headquarters and heard an unearthly sound: radio signals being beamed back by a spacecraft flying within 22,000 miles of Venus.
The Mariner 2 mission to Venus was the first time any spacecraft had ever gone to another planet.
These days, vivid photographs showing scenes from all around the solar system are so ubiquitous that people might easily forget how mysterious our planetary neighbors used to be.
Did you know plants use quantum mechanics every day? That quantum computers can hack the encryption used in online commerce? Or that a 'quantum internet' could someday teleport your emails? MIT's Seth Lloyd discusses those and other quantum mysteries in this episode of "Ask a quantum mechanic."
Could you handle a world that looked upside down? Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of The Annals of Improbable Research, shares a case study in which the subject was made to wear vision-flipping goggles. Ten days later, the man was riding a bicycle and playing catch in the park--his only impairment the strange headgear itself.
Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 12:50 pm
The world isn't going to end next Friday, but Dec. 21, 2012, has come to be known as the Mayan apocalypse because that's when the Mayan calendar ends. As scientists have told us repeatedly, the end of the calendar year was actually a time for celebration and renewal — the equivalent of an ancient New Year's Eve. So breweries around the country have decided to celebrate with — what else? — beer.
Nothing beats the smell of a live Christmas tree in your home, but how can you keep the needles on your tree and off your carpet? Rick Bates, professor of horticulture at Penn State University, offers tips for how to properly care for your Christmas tree this holiday season.
Up next, what is intelligence? What is thought? What does it really mean to have a mind? And if we can answer those questions, is it possible for people to reverse-engineer the process and build an artificial mind? Sure, there are things like Siri, which can understand enough of your question to pull up directions to the restaurant, and there's IBM's Watson, which took on human contestants in a game of "Jeopardy!" and won. But how to jump the gap from those to something everyone would agree is truly intelligent?
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. Of course we'll be keeping you up to date this hour on the shooting spree that's been going on in Newtown, Connecticut. But first something different. When Alan Alda was 11, he asked one of his teachers: What is a flame? The answer he got back was oxidation. Accurate, yeah, but not very helpful.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 9:02 pm
Though we hear about them every holiday season in that famous song, chestnuts – whether roasting on an open fire or otherwise – have been noticeably absent from many American tables for decades, thanks to a deadly fungus that decimated the species near half a century ago. But a small army of determined growers have been on a seemingly quixotic quest to put chestnuts back on the American table, and they're just starting to see results.