Influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital near Fort Riley, Kansas in this 1918 file photo (AP Photo/National Museum of Health)

Another Unhappy Centennial


The centennial of the end of World War I was observed with all due ceremony, even if President Trump embarrassed himself and the United States by his churlish behavior. World War I killed perhaps 16 million people, counting both soldiers and civilians. A nearly unimaginable number. But it wasn’t even the worst disaster of 1918.…

Graphene (via Wikipedia)

Graphene: The Next Big Thing?


In 1961, WC’s sixth grade teacher, the late Jerry Norum, told his students that “LASERs” were going to be the “next big thing.” He was right, of course; lasers are ubiquitous now, scanning groceries, transmitting data, playing music, performing surgery and serving hundreds of other tasks. They were, indeed, the “next big thing.”1 Is graphene…

Turbulent flow from a candle

Some Turbulence Ahead


Richard Feynman in 1970 described turbulence as the most important unsolved problem of classical physics. Sir Horace Lamb (in a speech to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1932) said that “when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the…

Discovery image of AT2018cow – nicknamed The Cow by astronomers – acquired by the ATLAS telescopes. Image via Stephen Smartt/ATLAS.

Watching the COW Come Home


The COW in this case is a star – well, the remnants of a star – in a galaxy called CGCG 137-068. It’s about 200 million light years away. And COW is a stellar anomaly, something new in the heavens, whose light and other radiation is just now reaching us here on Earth. COW – technically,…

NASA artist's concept of Kepler doing its job

R.I.P. NASA Satellite Kepler, 2009-2018


NASA Satellite Kepler, the exo-planet-discovering super hero, was taken off life support on October 30, 2018.1 The 2,750 pound satellite will be left in solar orbit, trailing the Earth by some 94 million miles. Kepler was the child of William Borucki, the retired Kepler principal investigator, who first proposed the satellite in 1992. It was named…