Archive for Science

NetFlix Adds Documentaries to YouTube

NetFlix has established a free YouTube channel featuring the thirty-four videos of Our Planet that were narrated by David Attenborough. An accompanying link provides access to additional educational resources.

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How to Determine a Journal’s Ranking

The CWTS Journal Indicators presents bibliometric data on 20,000 scientific journals scattered among dozens of disciplines. This interactive feature allows a granular analysis of a journal’s impact in a specific sub-field; the methodologies employed are clearly delineated. The differences between the rankings in this tool and the “journal impact factor” are explained.

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50 Years Ago Today: the First Men on the Moon

Not quite the scenario envisioned by H G Wells in his novel First Men in the Moon, but an astounding achievement nevertheless. Practically anyone alive at that time can tell you exactly where they were. I was with my Irish grandma – Nanny – watching on a black and white tv. She who had escaped Ireland under pain of death for teaching Gaelic, who had married a veteran of the Spanish American War, had lived long enough to witness this. She cried.

Here are some sites of interest:

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting hosts To the Moon, a collection of 146 interviews of those who participated in this program;

The American Presidency Project contains hundreds of speeches/announcements/proclamations on the Apollo program;

The BBC has issued Apollo in 50 numbers – informative essays on everything from the cost of the program to the workers that helped put men on the moon;

C-SPAN has a pre-launch interview with Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins as well as additional relevant videos;

Infodocket has assembled a small collection of vital primary sources, including the flight journal;

NASA has numerous links on the Apollo Program as well as a collection of Apollo-related videos;

The New York Times offers its extensive coverage of this mission; and

YouTube carries many videos of Apollo 11.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong at 10:56pm ET on July 20, 1969 from the surface of the Moon.


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First Photos of a Black Hole

The announcement of this scientific discovery was made public through a series of six brief papers presented in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, 875(#1, April 10, 2019). These articles are rather dense and not meant for the layperson (at least not this layperson). More accessible information can be gleaned from the Event Horizon Telescope site as well as from NASA.

For those who do not know what a black hole is, this explanation is for you. Black holes are featured prominently in science fiction literature as well as films.

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What’s the Weather Like on Mars?

As of readings for February 20, the high temp was tolerable if you bundled up – plus 8 degrees; however, the low temp would be a tad much to handle at minus 139 degrees. This coupled with a lack of breathable air do present challenges to any manned missions. Wind speed, wind direction, and barometric pressure are also included in the daily weather reports.

Certainly not the climate from the Barsoom novels or Bradbury’s haunting The Martian Chronicles.

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When We Get To Mars, What Will We Live In?

NASA sponsored a competition for 3-D printed structures to be erected on Mars preceding an actual mission. Here are the five winners along with brief videos explaining their different processes/buildings. This article – A Home Away from Home – goes over some of the “nuts and bolts” of constructing habitations on the Red Planet.

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Rare Earth Elements – Recent Developments

In a discovery that might alter the world’s economic infrastructure, a small island off Japan has been found to contains hundreds of years’ worth of rare earth elements used in everything from cellphones to computers to batteries. Read the original paper here.

China has long held the spot as the top producer of these metals, but this find will weaken its stranglehold on the marketplace. China’s Rare-Earth Industry (US Geological Survey Open File Report, 2011) presents a lucid explanation of China’s situation. This 2017 USGS Professional Paper – Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply – reinforces the national security implications for this country not having adequate supplies of these metals.

These CRS reports provide additional information:  China’s Rare Earth Industry and Export Regime: Economic and Trade Implications for the United States (2012); Rare Earth Elements in National Defense: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress (2013); Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain (2013); and China’s Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress (2015).

This 2015 RAND dissertation – Critical Rare Earths, National Security, and U.S.-China Interactions – has proven useful as well as this 2013 report Critical Materials Present Danger to U.S. Manufacturing.

And don’t forget Mission 2016: The Future of Strategic Natural Resources from MIT.


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Stephen Hawking’s Last Scientific Paper

He was working on this – A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation – when he died. For those of us who are not physicists, an explanation in understandable terms can be found hereMany of his other papers are freely available online as well.


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Most Downloaded Documents from the National Academies Press

The NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. It annually issues hundreds of reports, studies, and analyses on a wide variety of topics. Here is a list of the top twenty downloaded documents ranging from information technology to fostering student success. And they are all free to read!

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How Would Alien Life Forms Develop?

This article, Darwin’s Aliens, uses both theoretical and mechanical models to explain how aliens might evolve. And with some interesting results. The article concludes that “Combining both approaches is the best way to make predictions about the many hundreds, thousands or millions of hypothetical aliens. Now we just need to find them.”

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Feynman Lectures on Physics Online

Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, author of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: The Adventures of a Curious Character (excerpts here), and a key member of the Rogers Commission investigating the Challenger explosion whose very simple and direct demonstration of the effect of cold temperatures on the O-rings showed him at his brilliant best, compiled a three-volumes opus of his lecture notes; they are now available online for perusal.

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Read Stephen Hawking’s Dissertation Online

Stephen Hawking is just not a character on Big Bang Theory, he is well-known for his far-flung research in the area of physics. His dissertation – Properties of Expanding Universes – has been online for a two days now; it is the most heavily accessed document in Cambridge University’s open access collection, crashing the system intermittently as demand for this item is intense. Here is an article from The Guardian that further elucidates this development, and here is one from the BBC.

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The Moon Once Had an Atmosphere

It may not have been breathable, but it was once surrounded by a blanket of gas. That is according to this recent article – Lunar volcanism produced a transient atmosphere around the ancient Moon – from Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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Free Online Science Encyclopedia

National Geographic hosts an online encyclopedia touching on many scientific disciplines. What is different about this work is that you can filter the articles by grade level, starting at grade three and extending past high school. The entries have vocabulary lists, embedded links, suggestions for other entries of relevance, and many graphical supplements. An informative and worthwhile site.

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Scientific Definitions

ScienceDirect has released its Topic Index that contains thousands of definitions and supporting material in the form of excerpted book chapters. Many scientific disciplines are included here – biology, chemistry, physics, etc.

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Today in History : Sputnik Launches the Space Age

Sixty years ago today, Sputnik 1 blasted into space. Here is how The New York Times reported it. Review these documents in the Sputnik and the Space Race site from the Eisenhower Presidential Library from American reaction. Also check out this section from the 1955-57 volumes of the FRUSUnited States interest in the scientific exploration of outer space.

To see early documents for the American space program, please peruse

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program: Volume 1. (The seven other volumes in this NASA history series are also available here.)



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Welcome to Zealandia, the Newest Continent

As published in GSA Today, Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent, this landmass broke off of Australia tens of millions of years ago and is now 94% underwater. (The part of the continent above the water is New Zealand.)  The authors of this article state that “The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth.” (Abstract)

While the existence of this continent had been known for years( Zealandia was first named by Bruce Luyendyk in his Hypothesis for Cretaceous Rifting of East Gondwana caused by Subducted Slab Capture written in 1995), the first scientific expedition to explore this area has just finished its survey, and that is why this is now newsworthy.

The JOIDES Resolution is the name of the survey ship; it has a YouTube channel with brief videos highlighting some of the work involved with this expedition. You can also read blog entries at the vessel’s site. Additional information at The New York Times, The Guardian, Smithsonian, and National Geographic.


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Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates

Speaking of Isaac Asimov, these debates are hosted by the American Museum of Natural History and moderated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. They are certainly worth a listen.

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Live Broadcasts of the August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse

Please come to this site for various options. The Guarini Library will be showing coverage of this event starting at noon in the Machuga Technology Center.

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Specials and Supplements Archives of “Nature”

Nature has a recurring feature labeled “special and supplements” that contains a plethora of information on diverse scientific topics, whether on astronomy or biology, reflecting the wide fields of inquiry that are the hallmark of this journal. Each entry may contain articles and letters from Nature; i.e.,  the recent astronomy entry has writings by both Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, as well as podcasts and graphical presentations. In addition, research and protocols may be highlighted along with opinion pieces. All in all, this is a great way to access relevant and scholarly material on current scientific endeavors.

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