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radoration.

an adoration of all things rad

Jan 27th, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Researchers build a working tractor beam, on a very small scale

We recently saw research that suggested negative radiation pressure in light could lead to a practical tractor beam. A partnership between the Czech Republic’s Institute of Scientific Instruments and Scotland’s University of St. Andrews can show that it’s more than just theory: the two have successfully created an optical field that flipped the usual pressure and started pulling objects toward the light. Their demo only tugged at the particle level — sorry, no spaceships just yet — but it exhibited unique properties that could be useful here on Earth. Scientists discovered that the pull is specific to the size and substance of a given object, and that targets would sometimes reorganize themselves in a way that improved the results. On the current scale, that pickiness could lead to at least medicinal uses, such as sorting cells based on their material. While there’s more experiments and development to go before we ever see a tractor beam at the hospital, the achievement brings us one step closer to the sci-fi future we were always told we’d get, right alongside the personal communicators and jetpacks.

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Oct 14th, 2012 @ 6:33 am

Zen Pencil Comics52. PHIL PLAIT: Welcome to science

via tastysynapse

Reblogged from NATURE IS FULL OF JERKS.

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Oct 1st, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

Bad Pharma: account of pharmaceutical industry scientific fraud is readable and rigorous

Ben “Bad Science” Goldacre’s new book Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients ships today, and Ben has posted the foreword, including this helpful paragraph, which explains the book’s entire thesis in one handy blob:

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in its life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all. These are ongoing problems, and although people have claimed to fix many of them, for the most part, they have failed; so all these problems persist, but worse than ever, because now people can pretend that everything is fine after all.

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Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 10:10 am


A Brief Introduction to Quantum Physics
“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet,” Niels Bohr once said—and quantum physics might be wacky, but it’s not incomprehensible, so prepare to be shocked. In the early 20th century, scientists realised that the subatomic world can’t be explained by classical physics because microscopic things behave very differently to large things. Quantum theory was developed by scientists such as Bohr, Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schroedinger, based on observations of matter and radiation at a subatomic level. “Quantum” comes from the idea that the energy that particles emit isn’t a constant flow—instead, it comes in indivisible discrete units called “quanta”, which sometimes take the form of elementary particles (i.e., the quanta of electromagnetic radiation are photons). Elementary particles behave like both particles and waves, and their movement is random so they can actually exist in multiple states and places at the same time. According to the Uncertainty Principle, though, it’s physically impossible to simultaneous know both the position and momentum of a particle, because observation actually influences the particle—measuring the position changes the momentum, and vice versa. Particles can also become entangled through interaction, meaning that wherever they are in the universe, their movements will affect the other. This naturally raises the possibilities of teleportation, and quantum theory’s applications don’t stop there: the theory has successfully explained phenomena like radioactivity and antimatter, and is being used to develop cryptography, instantaneous communication, and lightning-fast computers.
Read More on NewScientist
via sciencesoup

*Quantum physics is amazingly crazy! The idea that particles can become entangled and any change to one can directly affect the other is mind-blowing. There is still so much we don’t know about how our universe works.

A Brief Introduction to Quantum Physics

“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet,” Niels Bohr once said—and quantum physics might be wacky, but it’s not incomprehensible, so prepare to be shocked. In the early 20th century, scientists realised that the subatomic world can’t be explained by classical physics because microscopic things behave very differently to large things. Quantum theory was developed by scientists such as Bohr, Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schroedinger, based on observations of matter and radiation at a subatomic level. “Quantum” comes from the idea that the energy that particles emit isn’t a constant flow—instead, it comes in indivisible discrete units called “quanta”, which sometimes take the form of elementary particles (i.e., the quanta of electromagnetic radiation are photons). Elementary particles behave like both particles and waves, and their movement is random so they can actually exist in multiple states and places at the same time. According to the Uncertainty Principle, though, it’s physically impossible to simultaneous know both the position and momentum of a particle, because observation actually influences the particle—measuring the position changes the momentum, and vice versa. Particles can also become entangled through interaction, meaning that wherever they are in the universe, their movements will affect the other. This naturally raises the possibilities of teleportation, and quantum theory’s applications don’t stop there: the theory has successfully explained phenomena like radioactivity and antimatter, and is being used to develop cryptography, instantaneous communication, and lightning-fast computers.

Read More on NewScientist

via sciencesoup

*Quantum physics is amazingly crazy! The idea that particles can become entangled and any change to one can directly affect the other is mind-blowing. There is still so much we don’t know about how our universe works.

Reblogged from Adelina's world.

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Aug 10th, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

Copyright 2012. by .

Magnifying the Universe

Looking to keep things in perspective? This absolutely incredible interactive infographic, Magnifying the Universe, should do the trick. Designer NumberSleuth has developed a beautiful illustration scaling over 100 items within the observable universe ranging from galaxies to insects, nebulae and stars to molecules and atoms.

And as the brains behind It’s Okay To Be Smart pointed out, “Remember: You aren’t insignificant. Nothing else on any scale (that we know of) has the power to define their place in ordered life quite like we do. We are powerful in the infinite powers of our minds.”

via curiositycounts

*After playing with this for 10 minutes my brain really started to hurt. Shifting the scale at which we focus is truly mind-blowing.

Reblogged from curiosity counts.

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@ 7:13 pm

Synesthesia

How fantastic would it be to see sound?

via tinyerica

Reblogged from LITTLE JOY.

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Aug 8th, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

How an Unknown Grad Student Saved Apollo 13 - and how NASA covered it up.

Either via movies, news reports or by word of mouth, you’ve likely heard of the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission. Next to Apollo 11, it’s one of NASA’s proudest achievements — returning three men to Earth against insurmountable odds. That return was only possible thanks to the bright idea of a NASA scientist who claimed that slingshotting the craft around the moon was the only way back. Now, a former NASA staffer has revealed that it wasn’t NASA’s idea at all, and the internet is on a quest to find who it was.

The bold claim that NASA didn’t actually save Apollo 13 came from the space agency’s ex-deputy chief of media relations during the time of the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11. He’s 97 years old now and like the good sport he is, took part in a Reddit ask me anything with the aid of his grandson.

He was asked pretty early on in the caper about Apollo 13, and whether or not he thought the crew would make it back to Earth. He said he had no hope for the crew’s survival, but that didn’t stop him and everyone else at NASA from staying awake for 7 days straight to try to bring the astronauts home.

That was before he dropped this bombshell:

All the engineers and everybody else at NASA in Houston were working hard at recovering the moonshot, and they were in real trouble, weren’t sure they could get it back. They got a phone call from a grad student at MIT who said he knew how to get them back. They put engineers on it, tested it out, by God it worked. Slingshotting them around the moon. They successfully did. They wanted to present the grad student to the President and the public, but they found him and he was a real hippy type — long hair and facial hair. NASA was straight-laced, and this was different than they expected, so they withdrew the invitation to the student. I think that is a disgrace.

According to the grandson who was relaying the answers, the 97-year old had been keeping this secret his whole life based on how hard the story was to tell. NASA apparently made a concerted effort to bury the grad student’s involvement in the mission.

History recounts the decision to slingshot around the moon as one that was weighed against what’s known as a “direct abort”. That is, burning every last drop of fuel in the craft to put it into an about face and return it to Earth. Flight Director Gene Kranz reportedly made the decision to slingshot around the moon in a bid to get the astronauts home. No grad student has yet been mentioned in the pages of history.

Redditors called on the ex-NASA member to right the wrong by outing the name of the grad student, but got no response. As a result, the community is now on the hunt for the name of the student.

Read the Reddit IAmA here

Edit: This is just a cool story, even if the claims are unsubstantiated.

via itsfullofstarsquantumaniaccrookedindifference

Reblogged from crooked indifference.

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Jul 14th, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Dark Energy

Astronomers once thought that due to the pull of gravity, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, but in the 1990s, studies revealed that the universe is expanding at a faster rate than ever before—it’s actually accelerating. According to our understanding, gravity is weakening due to expansion, so what’s causing the mysterious acceleration? Scientists have dubbed the unexplained force “dark energy”, and many theories attempt to explain it. One explanation is that “empty” space can possess repulsive energy, and so if dark energy is a property of space, they would expand together and cause the acceleration. Energy is supposed to have a source such as matter or radiation, so this explanation is paired with the quantum theory of matter, which theorises that empty space is actually full of “virtual” subatomic particles that constantly jump in and out of existence—which could give energy to otherwise empty space. Another possibility is that Einstein’s theory of general relativity doesn’t apply to the expansion of the universe—but how could it correctly describe the motions of our galaxy and then be different for the rest of the universe? Perhaps the answer lies in another unsolved problem: how to reconcile the physics of large matter (general relativity) with the physics of tiny matter (quantum mechanics). It’s strange that we have no firm grasp on something that makes up 75% of the universe, but the strangeness of dark energy is enthralling—it beckons us towards an unexplored realm of physics.
via sciencesoup

Dark Energy

Astronomers once thought that due to the pull of gravity, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, but in the 1990s, studies revealed that the universe is expanding at a faster rate than ever before—it’s actually accelerating. According to our understanding, gravity is weakening due to expansion, so what’s causing the mysterious acceleration? Scientists have dubbed the unexplained force “dark energy”, and many theories attempt to explain it. One explanation is that “empty” space can possess repulsive energy, and so if dark energy is a property of space, they would expand together and cause the acceleration. Energy is supposed to have a source such as matter or radiation, so this explanation is paired with the quantum theory of matter, which theorises that empty space is actually full of “virtual” subatomic particles that constantly jump in and out of existence—which could give energy to otherwise empty space. Another possibility is that Einstein’s theory of general relativity doesn’t apply to the expansion of the universe—but how could it correctly describe the motions of our galaxy and then be different for the rest of the universe? Perhaps the answer lies in another unsolved problem: how to reconcile the physics of large matter (general relativity) with the physics of tiny matter (quantum mechanics). It’s strange that we have no firm grasp on something that makes up 75% of the universe, but the strangeness of dark energy is enthralling—it beckons us towards an unexplored realm of physics.

via sciencesoup

Reblogged from words of love and despair.

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@ 7:57 am

10 Science Experiments That Looked Like the End of the World

It’s official: The Large Hadron Collider helped to find a new particle, and it didn’t turn the world inside out. Everybody relax! But history is full of strange experiments that people predicted might bring about the end of the human race… and in some cases, they might actually have had a point.
Here are 10 scientific experiments that people believed — rightly or wrongly — had the potential to wipe out humanity.
10. Digging the Kola Superdeep BoreholeInitiated in 1970, this Soviet science experiment sought to drill as deep as possibleinto the Earth’s crust. The borehole on theKola Peninsula dug to a depth of 12 kilometers into the planet’s crust by 1994.
While the Soviets did not encounter the Mole Man during digging, drilling a deep hole into the Earth’s crust (which varies from 30 to 50 kilometers in thickness) could have unleashed seismic forces that nobody could control, much like in the Doctor Who story “Inferno,” which aired that same year.

9. New Zealand’s Tsunami BombKnown more for a connection to the Shire than innovation in weapons creation, New Zealand experimented with the use of bombs to create artificial tsunamis, between 1944 and 1945.
By strategically placing bombs, the military scientists behind New Zealand’s Project Seal believed they could divert explosive energy through water, causing tsunamis and tidal waves. After thousands of test explosions, New Zealand ceased experimentation, because military scientists kept having trouble with funneling the explosive energy in a horizontal direction. If New Zealand’s tsunami bomb experiments had been successful, tsunami creation could have gone mainstream — allowing anyone with a conventional explosive device to create widespread chaos and death with ease.
8. Operation CirrusIn the late 1940s, the United States attempted to divert the path of hurricanes by seeding the storms with dry ice. After scientists poured 180 pounds of dry ice into a hurricane moving east into the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane made an extremely unpredictable move — and changed directions. The hurricane collided with the town of Savannah, Georgia — no stranger to unusual government intrusions , killing at least one person and causing over $200 million in damage.
This early weather-changing experiment eventually led to the UN’s Environmental Modification Convention, banning weather changing experiments conducted as a means of war.
7. Project Mercury and VolcanoFrom 1987 to 1992, the Russian military detonated nuclear weapons underground, with the goal of disturbing tectonic plates and electromagnetic fields as a weapon, in Project Mercury and Project Volcano.
These experiments sound like the basis for a bad James Bond movie, but four experimental attempts actually happened — until the 1978 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques banning experiments of this nature. Extended disruption of tectonic plates could cause a series of severe earthquakes and destabilize electromagnetic fields, leading to a number of theoretical and unforeseen issues.
6. Genetically engineered oil-eating superbugsIn the mid-1970s, General Electric R&D scientist Ananda Chakrabarty introduced a plasmidthat allowed the bacteria Pseudomonas putida to digest petroleum. Chakrabarty designed the bacteria with the hope that it would be used to clean up oil spills. But many people were terrified that these engineered bacteria could run amuck, consume everything in their path, and “out-compete” other bacteria and organisms for survival on Earth. The bacterial dominance theory is a “green” precursor to the grey goo theory — and it might be a more likely possibly.
5. Accidentally creating a black holeBefore the opening of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in New York, public fears amassed over the idea of the RHIC creating an uncontrollable black hole during the course course of its operation. This lead to aplethora of sensational articles in 1999, topped off by a story from the The Sunday Times of London running with the headline “Big Bang machine could destroy Earth.”
The researchers at RHIC study aspects of black holes, but they lack the energy available to create a real gravitational black hole. Whether or not the researchers crossed their fingers when they began experiments at RHIC in 2000 is another story, but as far as I know, we still exist and are not suffering the extreme relativistic effects of a journey through a black hole.
4. U.S. experiments increasing the efficiency of Magnaporthe griseaWheat blast and rice blast cause huge damage to world crops, but they’re rare in First World countries. The fungusMagnaporthe grisea leaves lesions on individual plants, that can release thousands of spores and contaminate an enormous area in a single night. The fungus exists in over 80 countries, and it entered the United States in 1996.
During the Cold War, the United States experimented with a weaponized form ofMagnaporthe grisea, which could spread via a spray — or via bombs. Nobody knows whether the U.S. intentionally used the weaponized form, but if these “contagious” crop diseases started spreading uncontrollably, two of the world’s most vital crops would be devastated, causing a worldwide famine.
3. Starfish PrimeDetonating a nuclear weapon outside of the planet’s magnetic field just sounds like a bad idea, but the United States decided to go ahead and detonate six nuclear weapons at high altitude, during 1962’s Starfish Prime(and Operation Fishbowl).
How did this nuclear explosion affect the Earth’s magnetic field? Luckily, the magnetic field “snapped back” into place — causing a strong electromagnetic pulse as a side effect. But if our geomagnetic field had been permanently altered, we could experience a loss protection from cosmic rays and solar winds, along with massive earthquakes, as the continents moved around.

2. Weaponizing the plagueThe Plague was responsible for killing up to 60% of the population of Europe in the 14th Century — and then, the Soviet All-Union Institute of Ultra-Pure Biological Preparationssucceeded in weaponizing it in the late 1980s. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, program director Vladimir Pasechnik went public with this research, which included military preparations to load warheads with a time-released version of the Black Death. In order to handle the plague, the Soviet program encased a powdered form of bacterial agent, Yersinia pestis, in a polymer capsule.
1. The Trinity nuclear testIn the days preceding the detonation of the first nuclear bomb, scientists within the Manhattan Project debated what would happen in the aftermath of detonation, with a few scientists believing the bomb would not explode at all.
Enrico Fermi, however, suggested the detonation of the bomb could create a chain reaction that would set the Earth’s atmosphere ablaze and kill almost all life on the planet. It is disturbing to realize that scientists would go forward, in light of the ruminations of a Nobel Prize winner — but thank goodness, Fermi hypothesized incorrectly.
via climateadaptation:contemplatingmadness:

10 Science Experiments That Looked Like the End of the World

It’s official: The Large Hadron Collider helped to find a new particle, and it didn’t turn the world inside out. Everybody relax! But history is full of strange experiments that people predicted might bring about the end of the human race… and in some cases, they might actually have had a point.

Here are 10 scientific experiments that people believed — rightly or wrongly — had the potential to wipe out humanity.

10. Digging the Kola Superdeep Borehole
Initiated in 1970, this Soviet science experiment sought to drill as deep as possibleinto the Earth’s crust. The borehole on theKola Peninsula dug to a depth of 12 kilometers into the planet’s crust by 1994.

While the Soviets did not encounter the Mole Man during digging, drilling a deep hole into the Earth’s crust (which varies from 30 to 50 kilometers in thickness) could have unleashed seismic forces that nobody could control, much like in the Doctor Who story “Inferno,” which aired that same year.

9. New Zealand’s Tsunami Bomb
Known more for a connection to the Shire than innovation in weapons creation, New Zealand experimented with the use of bombs to create artificial tsunamis, between 1944 and 1945.

By strategically placing bombs, the military scientists behind New Zealand’s Project Seal believed they could divert explosive energy through water, causing tsunamis and tidal waves. After thousands of test explosions, New Zealand ceased experimentation, because military scientists kept having trouble with funneling the explosive energy in a horizontal direction. If New Zealand’s tsunami bomb experiments had been successful, tsunami creation could have gone mainstream — allowing anyone with a conventional explosive device to create widespread chaos and death with ease.

8. Operation Cirrus
In the late 1940s, the United States attempted to divert the path of hurricanes by seeding the storms with dry ice. After scientists poured 180 pounds of dry ice into a hurricane moving east into the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane made an extremely unpredictable move — and changed directions. The hurricane collided with the town of Savannah, Georgia — no stranger to unusual government intrusions , killing at least one person and causing over $200 million in damage.

This early weather-changing experiment eventually led to the UN’s Environmental Modification Convention, banning weather changing experiments conducted as a means of war.

7. Project Mercury and Volcano
From 1987 to 1992, the Russian military detonated nuclear weapons underground, with the goal of disturbing tectonic plates and electromagnetic fields as a weapon, in Project Mercury and Project Volcano.

These experiments sound like the basis for a bad James Bond movie, but four experimental attempts actually happened — until the 1978 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques banning experiments of this nature. Extended disruption of tectonic plates could cause a series of severe earthquakes and destabilize electromagnetic fields, leading to a number of theoretical and unforeseen issues.

6. Genetically engineered oil-eating superbugs
In the mid-1970s, General Electric R&D scientist Ananda Chakrabarty introduced a plasmidthat allowed the bacteria Pseudomonas putida to digest petroleum. Chakrabarty designed the bacteria with the hope that it would be used to clean up oil spills. But many people were terrified that these engineered bacteria could run amuck, consume everything in their path, and “out-compete” other bacteria and organisms for survival on Earth. The bacterial dominance theory is a “green” precursor to the grey goo theory — and it might be a more likely possibly.

5. Accidentally creating a black hole
Before the opening of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in New York, public fears amassed over the idea of the RHIC creating an uncontrollable black hole during the course course of its operation. This lead to aplethora of sensational articles in 1999, topped off by a story from the The Sunday Times of London running with the headline “Big Bang machine could destroy Earth.”

The researchers at RHIC study aspects of black holes, but they lack the energy available to create a real gravitational black hole. Whether or not the researchers crossed their fingers when they began experiments at RHIC in 2000 is another story, but as far as I know, we still exist and are not suffering the extreme relativistic effects of a journey through a black hole.

4. U.S. experiments increasing the efficiency of Magnaporthe grisea
Wheat blast and rice blast cause huge damage to world crops, but they’re rare in First World countries. The fungusMagnaporthe grisea leaves lesions on individual plants, that can release thousands of spores and contaminate an enormous area in a single night. The fungus exists in over 80 countries, and it entered the United States in 1996.

During the Cold War, the United States experimented with a weaponized form ofMagnaporthe grisea, which could spread via a spray — or via bombs. Nobody knows whether the U.S. intentionally used the weaponized form, but if these “contagious” crop diseases started spreading uncontrollably, two of the world’s most vital crops would be devastated, causing a worldwide famine.

3. Starfish Prime
Detonating a nuclear weapon outside of the planet’s magnetic field just sounds like a bad idea, but the United States decided to go ahead and detonate six nuclear weapons at high altitude, during 1962’s Starfish Prime(and Operation Fishbowl).

How did this nuclear explosion affect the Earth’s magnetic field? Luckily, the magnetic field “snapped back” into place — causing a strong electromagnetic pulse as a side effect. But if our geomagnetic field had been permanently altered, we could experience a loss protection from cosmic rays and solar winds, along with massive earthquakes, as the continents moved around.

2. Weaponizing the plague
The Plague was responsible for killing up to 60% of the population of Europe in the 14th Century — and then, the Soviet All-Union Institute of Ultra-Pure Biological Preparationssucceeded in weaponizing it in the late 1980s. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, program director Vladimir Pasechnik went public with this research, which included military preparations to load warheads with a time-released version of the Black Death. In order to handle the plague, the Soviet program encased a powdered form of bacterial agent, Yersinia pestis, in a polymer capsule.

1. The Trinity nuclear test
In the days preceding the detonation of the first nuclear bomb, scientists within the Manhattan Project debated what would happen in the aftermath of detonation, with a few scientists believing the bomb would not explode at all.

Enrico Fermi, however, suggested the detonation of the bomb could create a chain reaction that would set the Earth’s atmosphere ablaze and kill almost all life on the planet. It is disturbing to realize that scientists would go forward, in light of the ruminations of a Nobel Prize winner — but thank goodness, Fermi hypothesized incorrectly.

via climateadaptation:contemplatingmadness:

Reblogged from Climate Adaptation.

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Jul 6th, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

The Road To Independence Runs Through The Classroom

Political independence was won by our forefathers. Today it is education that sets people and nations free; the fight is ongoing. With science education, we win on three fronts when we mint new engineers, research scientists and mathematicians:

1. The individual: giving him/her the ability to think critically about some of the most pressing issues of our times, from climate change to alternative energy resources

2. Communities: preparing a generation of socially mindful citizens, willing to work together for the common good

3. The nation: nurturing the technical ability and creativity to foster innovation and technological leadership

Unfortunately, American science education is in crisis. As David Plotz recently noted in a piece for Slate, “In 2010, only 4.9 percent of American jobs were in science and engineering, down from 5.3 percent in 2000 — the first such decline since 1950.”

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