My Clips from Science News Magazine

This is my portfolio of clips from Science News magazine, where I was the physical sciences writer from March 2007 to October 2008.

(You can also browse my pre-Science News clips, by topic, by genre, or by publication.)

Feature Articles

Half-life (more or less)
Physicists are stirred by claims that the sun may change what’s unchangeable—the rate of radioactive decay.
November 22, 2008

Welcome to the Quantum Internet
Quantum encryption is here, but the laws of physics can do much more than protect privacy.
August 16, 2008

Building ‘The Matrix’
Simulating the complexity of quantum physics would quickly overwhelm even the most advanced of today’s computers.
August 30, 2008

These ‘atoms’ can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, but they have special powers
June 21, 2008

Quantum Cocoon
Diamond is now the hottest material in quantum computing.
April 5, 2008

Energy in Motion: How the nanomachines of life harvest randomness to do the cells’ work
The molecular machines of living cells harvest energy out of randomness, and scientists are learning how to do the same with artificial molecules.
February 23, 2008

Science News of the Year 2007
For Science News’ end-of-year double issue, I compiled the lists of the most notable Physics, Technology, and Math and Computers stories of 2007
December 22, 2007

Tied Up in Knots
Anything that can tangle up, will, including DNA.
December 22, 2007

Shadow World
How many dimensions space has could all be a matter of perspective.
November 17, 2007

Electron Superhighway
Can graphene overtake silicon as the essential ingredient of computer chips?
September 29, 2007

The Wealth of Nations
A country’s competitive edge can spread industry to industry, similar to how epidemics or rumors spread among people, a new network-theoretic model shows.
September 1, 2007

Alien Pizza, Anyone?
Biochemistry may have taken a different turn on other worlds
August 18, 2007

The Power of Induction
Cutting the last cord could resonate with our increasingly gadget-dependent lives
July 21, 2007

Much Ado about Nothing
Review of “Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes,” by Alex Vilenkin (scroll to the bottom of the page to find review)
June 30, 2007

Spinning into Control
High-tech reincarnations of an ancient way of storing energy
May 19, 2007


Magic tape
Physicists discover an unexpected source of X-rays.
October 22, 2008

Clean coal for cars has a dirty side
Getting liquid fuels from coal would likely increase carbon emissions, and certainly not reduce them.
October 20, 2008

Numbers don’t add up for U.S. girls
Culture may turn potentially high achievers away from math, a new study suggests.
November 8, 2008

An attractive source for spintronics
Discovery may lead to battery that generates magnetic currents
October 8, 2008

No naked black holes
In a simulated merger, astrophysicists tried to push the boundaries of two black holes into shedding their event horizons. But the resulting black hole was still shrouded by its event horizon, through which even light can’t escape.
October 3, 2008

Diamonds engage at the nano scale
Manipulating the quantum properties of diamond impurities makes diamond into a kind of microscope that could, for example, reveal the inner working of cells.
October 25, 2008

Galaxies on the move
Scientists discover “dark flow” — the unexplained streaming of galactic clusters across the universe.
October 25, 2008

Photons caught in the act
Physicists manipulated a microwave pulse and could essentially watch it transition from a quantum state into the realm of classical physics.
September 24, 2008

A better fate for plastic bottles
Using microbes to convert PET into a high-value plastic could encourage more recycling.
September 19, 2008

Fastest spores in the West (or anywhere)
Researchers film a fungus catapulting its spores with an acceleration greater than what astronauts feel on lift-off.
September 16, 2008

This bite won’t hurt a bit
A team dissects the physics of a mosquito bite, working to find a way to design gentler needles.
October 11, 2008

The proton’s strange new cousin
Physicists have discovered a new particle made of three quarks, including two strange quarks. Its existence further validates the standard model of particle physics.
September 27, 2008

Electrons as math whizzes
A new paper suggests the possibility that the behavior of electrons in quantum systems could verify Riemann’s famous conjecture about prime numbers.
September 27, 2008

A difficult breakup
By identifying a new way to wrestle fluorine from carbon compounds, chemists may now be able to break down certain types of greenhouse gases before they reach the atmosphere.
August 28, 2008

Turning CO2 into chalk and sand
Removing carbon dioxide from smokestacks and storing it permanently is one of the possible solutions to global warming, but remains expensive to do. A new technique could make carbon sequestration economical on a large scale, while producing useful materials on the side.
(From Philadelphia, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.)
August 22, 2008

Ear infections make fatty food sound good
A history of middle ear infections could give people an affinity for fatty foods and leave them twice as likely to become obese.
(From Philadelphia, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.)
August 20, 2008

Carcinogens from car exhaust can linger
Free radicals similar to those in cigarette smoke may form when car exhaust cools off, and may persist indefinitely in the air.
(From Philadelphia, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.)
September 13, 2008

Invisible hand, and a quick one at that
God doesn’t play dice, Einstein said in his critique of quantum theory. But any alternative theory to quantum mechanics would require certain quantum events to influence each other 10,000 times faster than the speed of light, physicists have shown.
August 13, 2008

Invisibility within sight
Two new studies take steps toward practical materials that can bend light backward, which could lead to invisibility cloaks.
August 30, 2008

Fingerprints go high-tech
A new chemical technique shows promise in identifying traces of explosives, illicit drugs and perhaps even signs of disease.
August 30, 2008

Carbon tubes, but not nano
Trying to grow better, longer nanotubes, researchers accidentally discover a new type of carbon filament, colossal carbon tubes, which are tens of thousands of times thicker.
August 30, 2008

Chem 101
The phrase “core chemistry” is taking on a meaning that’s definitely not mentioned in the standard curriculum, and which in fact goes against chemistry dogma.
August 1, 2008

Small steps toward big energy gains
New studies with different fuel cell catalysts show promising results.
July 31, 2008

Quantum physics makes water different
The length of bonds connecting water molecules could demonstrate quantum effects and help explain some of water’s weirdness.
August 16, 2008

Hydrogen economy sustainable in 15 years
Hydrogen fuel cells can eventually replace the combustion engine, but meanwhile a wider range of technologies will be needed to reduce carbon emissions.
July 17, 2008

Seeing the smallest atom
Electron microscopes can now image single atoms of hydrogen.
August 16, 2008

Solar panels to dye for
Scientists show that cheap chemical dyes may one day help with the efficient capture of the sun’s energy
July 11, 2008

Fossils, now available in color
Fossilized feathers of an early bird or dinosaur may retain evidence of pigment, offering a chance to animal colors of the Cretaceous.
August 2, 2008

Strategy to stop a pandemic
A limited supply of vaccine shots, if targeted well, could stop the spread of disease.
July 4, 2008

Optimizing leafy networks
Scientists reveal a mathematical principle underlying the arrangement of leaf veins in plant species.
June 30, 2008

Too much information in the Odyssey
A controversial interpretation of passages from the Odyssey suggests that Homer knew much more about planetary motions than historians thought possible.
June 26, 2008

Resonating with the ocean
An experiment may explain the origin of underwater waves that shape the sediment of continental slopes.
June 24, 2008

Left in the cold
An optical trap lets atoms in but not out, and it can be used to study matter at ultracold temperatures.
July 19, 2008

Life’s code in soap
The mathematics of soapy water yields some clues to the origin of the genetic code.
June 11, 2008

Suction hunters
Scientists reveal new details on how extendable jaws help fish capture prey.
SEE VIDEO 1 and especially VIDEO 2!
June 10, 2008

Tight deadline
Photons: Decide what to do — and do it yesterday
May 23, 2008

Slippery when dry
Surfaces that mimic the back of an African beetle can collect water from fog.
May 21, 2008

Phlegmatic molecules
Time-lapse snapshots of molecules show that they change shapes less often than theory predicted.
June 7, 2008

Neutron tie-dye
Neutrons can produce 3-D scans of a magnetic field, even inside a solid.
May 13, 2008

Testing nanoparticles
Testing the toxicity of dozens of nanoparticles en masse may offer a faster track to medical applications.
May 12, 2008

The undeciders
More decision-makers bring less efficiency. A country’s development seems tied to the size of its executive cabinet, and a mathematical model helps explain why.
May 9, 2008

Less is more
Researchers have shown that a grip that’s too tight can be counterproductive, especially on a microscopic object — but the findings could apply to fields ranging from ecology to sociology.
May 7, 2008

Gödel, Escher, Chopin
Musical theorists see inuitive links between musical chords and geometries.
May 24, 2008

Down with the transistor
A new type of electronic component could shrink computer chips and make them more powerful.
May 24, 2008

Bass Booster
Tight coiling in the human inner ear pumps up the bass.
April 24, 2008

Einstein’s invisible hand: Is relativity making metal act like a noble gas?
Element 114 should be chemically similar to lead, but controversial experimental data shows it behaves more like a noble gas, potentially subverting the periodic table’s structure.
April 12, 2008

Squid beaks are hardly soft
Water softens squid beaks toward their base, so they don’t cut into the squid’s own soft tissue.
April 5, 2008

Live Another Day: African insect survives drought in glassy state
When dehydrated, the larvae of an African fly replace the water in their cells with a sugar, which solidifies and helps keep cellular structures intact.
March 29, 2008

Love Code: A twist of light only mantis shrimp can see
Alone in the animal kingdom, these crustaceans signal their presence to potential mates with circularly polarized light.
March 22, 2008

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New software pinpoints the weak spots in Michelangelo’s David.
March 22, 2008

Black Hole of Light: Laser pulses create model of event horizon
Physicists have created the optical analog of a black hole’s surface of no return, a setup that could help test whether actual black holes glow.
March 8, 2008

True Blue: Electron jumps make protein shine like an LED
A protein thought to be fluorescent instead emits light the way an LED does, suggesting that some living things might do the same.
March 1, 2008

Wish List: FY ’09 budget proposal ups physical sciences
President Bush’s proposed 2009 federal budget would boost R&D in the physical sciences while reining in biomedical research.
(With other Science News staff)
February 9, 2008

Scanner Darkly: Tiny venetian blinds enhance radiography
Microscopic gratings that select scattered X rays might improve luggage screening and cancer detection.
January 26, 2008

Dusty Fireball: Can lab-made blob explain ball lightning?
Artificial cousins of ball lightning contain microscopic particles, just like a model says they should.
January 19, 2008

Bathtub Optics: Bending light also shifts it sideways
When light bends at an interface, it also shifts depending on its polarization. With animation.
January 12, 2008

Light Swell: Optical rogue waves resemble oceanic ones
Signals in optical fibers can combine into rare, short-lived spikes that resemble oceanic rogue waves.
December 15, 2007

15 = 3 x 5: Photons do their first quantum math
Physicists have performed the first calculation involving manipulation of the quantum states of photons, another step on the road to optical quantum computers.
December 8, 2007

Base Load: Currents Add Detail to DNA Structure
The first precise measurements of DNA’s sideways conductivity confirm its similarities with semiconductors.
December 1, 2007

Einstein Unfruffled: Relativity Passes Stringent New Test
The moon’s orbit and the dilated time of speeding atoms give new meaning to ‘Einstein was right.’
November 24, 2007

Rock, Paper, Toxins
A computer model simulates a kind of rock-paper-scissors competition among three species of virtual bacteria
November 3, 2007

Let There Be Aluminum-42: Experiment Creates Surprise Isotope
In experiments that created the heaviest isotope yet of magnesium, an unexpected isotope of aluminum also showed up
October 27, 2007

Axion Gone: New tests find no sign of anomalous particle
New experiments contradict earlier claims of the discovery of the axion, a possible constituent of cosmic dark matter
October 20, 2007

Mice, Magnetism, and Reactions on Solids
The 2007 Nobel prizes in the sciences recognized research in genetics, materials science, and surface chemistry.
(With Nathan Seppa and Sarah Williams)
October 13, 2007

Nanotube Press: Printing Technique Makes Nanotransistors
A new technique for printing networks of carbon nanotubes on a wide range of surfaces is a step toward mass production of nanotubes devices
September 22, 2007

Alliance of Opposites: Electrons and Positrons Make New Molecule
Positronium, consisting of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, has been made into a molecular form
September 15, 2007

Crueltyfree: Counting Photons without Killing Them
A delicate quantum measurement counts photons without destroying them
August 25, 2007

A Moment in the Life of a Cell: Microscopic Scan Images without Intruding
A laser technique similar to a CAT scan produces 3-D images of living cells without the need for chemical staining
August 18, 2007

Newton’s Dusty Mirror: Old Experiment Inspires Ultrafast Imaging
An experiment devised by Isaac Newton inspires a modern successor, in which X rays capture the image of a microscopic explosion
August 11, 2007

Crinkle Wrinkle
Wrinkles reveal a thin film’s thickness and elasticity
August 4, 2007

Slick Serpent
Oil poured into a pan of the same liquid drags along a surrounding air layer, which can make it skip in and out of the surface before it mixes in
July 28, 2007

Pulling Strings: Stretching Proteins Can Reveal How They Fold
Unfolding a single protein by pulling on its ends reveals the molecular forces that make it fold up
July 14, 2007

Dropping the Ball: Air Pressure Helps Objects Sink into Sand
A ball plunges deeper into sand under atmospheric pressure than under a vacuum, because the presence of air allows sand to flow like a liquid
July 7, 2007

Biowarfare: Engineered virus can invade bacterial film
A genetically engineered virus not only kills bacteria but makes an enzyme that breaks up the biofilm in which the bacteria live
June 30, 2007

Beyond Ethanol: Synthetic fuel offers promising alternative
A faster, simpler manufacturing technique could make a synthetic biofuel into an even stronger competitor to ethanol
June 23, 2007

Improbability Drive: Focus on rare actions speeds chemical simulations
A new algorithm speeds simulations of chemical reactions by focusing on rare but crucial molecular motions
June 16, 2007

Nanotech Bubbles
Creating large-scale, regular arrays of nanoscale components is now almost as easy as blowing bubbles
June 9, 2007

Magnetic Logic: Electron Spins Could Do Cool Calculations
Novel circuits use electrons as tiny bar magnets to process information
June 2, 2007

Dark Power: Pigment Seems to Put Radiation to Good Use
The pigment melanin may enable certain fungi to convert dangerous radiation into usable energy
May 26, 2007

Cleaning Treasures: Safer Solvents for Restoring Frescoes
Solvents in nanoscale droplets can be used to clean centuries-old frescoes, saving them from the unintended consequences of previous restorations
May 19, 2007

Degrees of Quantumness: Shades of Gray in Particle-Wave Duality
Light can be made to act as if it’s composed of particles, waves, or something in between
May 12, 2007

Quantum Loophole: Some Quirks of Physics Can Be Good for Science
Physicists have found a way to almost double measurement precision when using photons to gauge distances
May 5, 2007

Northern Exposure: The Inhospitable Side of the Galaxy?
Our solar system’s periodic motion from one side of the galaxy to the other could expose life on Earth to massive amounts of cosmic rays and cause recurring, catastrophic mass extinctions
April 21, 2007

Quantum Capture: Photosynthesis Tries Many Paths at Once
The wavelike behavior of energy in chlorophyll might explain how plants are so efficient at using solar energy
April 14, 2007

Formula for Panic: Crowd-Motion Findings May Prevent Stampedes
The physics of pedestrian flows could help prevent stampedes such as the one that killed hundreds during a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2006
April 7, 2007

Is Your Phone Out of Juice? Biological Fuel Cells Turns Drinks Into Power
A new type of fuel cell uses natural enzymes to produce small amounts of electricity from sugar
March 31, 2007

Closer to Vanishing: Bending Light as a Step toward Invisibility Cloaks
Invisibility cloaks may be a long shot, but new optical tricks could help in the design of future computers
March 24, 2007

Warming Up to Criticality: Quantum Change, One Bubble at a Time
Physicists can now observe matter as it gradually turns into a Bose-Einstein condensate–the exotic state of matter that displays quantum behavior at macroscopic scales
March 17, 2007

Notes (Newsbriefs)

Power from Heat
A more efficient material that converts heat into electricity could make a new kind of solar panel possible.
March 29, 2008

From New Orleans, at a meeting of the American Physical Society:
Neutron vision
A new neutron detector might help identify smuggled radioactive materials.
A sticky issue
Peeling off adhesive tape can be frustrating, and now researchers know why.
People move like predators
Cell phone data shows that people’s daily roaming follows statistical patterns also seen in predators.
March 22, 2008

Diamond Detectors
The quantum states of single diamond impurities work as magnetic sensors that could enable nuclear magnetic resonance to detect single atoms.
March 1, 2008

Birds Network Too
Starlings in a flock adjust their trajectories to those of their closest neighbors, which helps the flock stay together when under attack.
February 23, 2008

Researchers have used DNA as Velcro to create the first materials that spontaneously assemble into regular 3-D patterns.
February 16, 2008

Chomping on Uranium
Chemists forced the most common form of uranium into a new kind of chemical reaction, which could lead to new industrial applications and new tools to clean up the environment.
February 9, 2008

Retro RAM
A prototype memory chip stores data bits using carbon nanotubes as mechanical switches.
January 19, 2008

Energy Forest
Silicon nanowires can at least double the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
January 12, 2008

Airy Theory, but True
Physicists have created a beam of light that bends in a curve.
December 22, 2007

Sharper than Expected
A new technique beats the resolution limits of ordinary microscopes in a way that seems to defy conventional optical theory.
December 8, 2007

Tractor Beam
Magnetic nanoparticles selectively bind to specific bacteria and can drag them out of a liquid.
December 8, 2007

Hydrogen Makers
A new bioreactor produces hydrogen hundreds of times as fast as previous prototypes.
December 1, 2007

Crystal Clear
Growing nanowires directly on a crystal might lead to high-density memory chips and transparent LEDs.
November 24, 2007

Net Advantage
When damaged, networks that seem resilient can still become inefficient to the point of being unusable.
November 24, 2007

Bucky Shrink-Wrap
Scientists filmed cage-shaped carbon molecules as they shrank to become buckyballs
November 17, 2007

Hooking Up
Cleverly designed molecules can self-assemble into networks and stay robustly connected
November 10, 2007

Platinumfree Fuel Cell
Cheaper than a typical hydrogen fuel cell, a new, platinumfree cell runs on a “green” liquid fuel
October 20, 2007

Feet of Clay, but Superstrong
Gluing together nanoscale clay particles with a simple adhesive creates a strong but flexible material
October 20, 2007

A Different Spin
A change in the properties of Earth’s mantle at high pressure and temperature may influence seismic waves in a novel way
October 13, 2007

Light Does Some Weird Math
Adding a photon to a light pulse then taking one out gives a different result from doing the same operations the other way around.
October 13, 2007

Hot Stuff
A plasma-based amplifier bumps up a laser’s intensity by an unprecedented 20,000 times
October 6, 2007

Not Flipping Out
A single atom on a surface has favored magnetic orientations that could allow it to encode a data bit.
September 29, 2007

Frizzed Molecular Carpets
Researchers have taken the first snapshots of heat bursts moving along hydrocarbon molecules.
August 25, 2007

Uncharted Atomic Landscapes
Electron microscopes can now not only image single atoms but also map the locations of different chemical elements in a sample.
August 18, 2007

Pliable Carbon
Researchers have made graphene paper. Graphene is the net of carbon atoms, reminiscent of chicken wire, that forms graphite and carbon nanotubes.
August 11, 2007

More Math Helps Young Scientists
Apparently, high school math is the key to good grades in college science classes.
August 4, 2007

Double-Decker Solar Cell
Researchers have created a two-layer solar cell that’s the most efficient yet among cells made of organic materials.
July 21, 2007

Crystal Matchmaker
Having evolved from mathematical playthings to curiosities of physics, the structures known as quasicrystals could become great tools for the electronics industry.
July 21, 2007

Smallest Laser Minds the Gap
The smallest, most efficient laser yet represents a step toward speedier information transfer within computers.
July 7, 2007

Pas de Deux for a Three-Scoop Particle
Physicists have discovered the first particle containing one member of each of the three families of quarks.
July 7, 2007

Music to Alien Ears
Saturn’s moon Titan may be the best rock concert venue in the solar system, according to computer simulations of sound propagation on other worlds.
(From Salt Lake City, at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.)
June 30, 2007

Stradivari’s Secrets
Three-dimensional imaging of a classic violin’s vibrations explains the instrument’s superior ability to direct sound to the audience.
(From Salt Lake City, at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.)
June 30, 2007

Carbon’s Mysterious Magnetism
An X-ray experiment has yielded the most conclusive evidence to date that carbon can be magnetic.
June 2, 2007

The Dance of the Electron Spins
Physicists have used a novel measuring technique to track the motions of electron spins in a tiny magnet as its polarity flips, with north and south poles changing places.
May 26, 2007

Broadband Vision
Cells that act like optical fibers could explain why vertebrate retinas have sharp vision despite being mounted backwards.
May 19, 2007

Lost in Transportation
A new algorithm might make online driving directions more accurate.
May 5, 2007

Putting Einstein to the Test
A NASA mission has found new evidence for Einstein’s theory of gravity, but its final results have been delayed by unexpected problems.
(From Jacksonville, Fla., at a meeting of the American Physical Society.)
April 28, 2007

Fermilab Could Beat CERN to the Punch
A new particle accelerator starting up next year in Switzerland should finally discover the origin of mass — unless an older U.S. machine does it first.
(From Jacksonville, Fla., at a meeting of the American Physical Society.)
April 28, 2007

Liquid Origami
A French team has created the first mini-origami figures that fold themselves around droplets of water. (p. 270)
April 28, 2007

Tiny Particles Baffle Physicists, Again
An experiment failed to confirm the existence of a new elementary particle called the sterile neutrino, but its results could still point to some new physics.
April 21, 2007

Toward Imaging Single Biomolecules
Experiments have given additional evidence that a future generation of X-ray sources called free-electron lasers may be able to image single biomolecules.
April 21, 2007

This Is Your Brain on a Chip
Biophysicists have put neurons on a chip and induced them to form multiple patterns of synchronized firing, the mechanism at the basis of memory.
April 21, 2007

Meet me at 79°50′ N, 56° W
A proposed experiment that would make ancient astronomers proud could end speculation about dark matter.
March 31, 2007

How Smart Are Amoebas?
Amoebas seem to possess a rudimentary form of memory that keeps them from walking around in circles.
March 31, 2007

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