It used to be that if astronomers wanted to get rid of the blurring effects of the atmosphere, they had to put their telescopes in space. But a technology called adaptive optics has changed all that.
Adaptive optics systems use computers to analyze the light coming from a star, and then compensate for changes wrought by the atmosphere, using mirrors that can change their shapes up to 1,000 times per second. The result: To anyone on Earth peering through the telescope, the star looks like the single point of light it really is.
Tawny crazy ants are invading ecosystems and homes in states including Texas and Florida, wiping out other ant species and overwhelming homeowners. Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon talks to Texas A&M research scientist Robert Puckett, who says the ants are "ecological steamrollers" that reproduce so fast they are nearly impossible to get rid of.
Value and meaning come from relationships and context. A physical object, such as a quarter, only holds the value we give it. It has no intrinsic worth.
I think we're starting to see some sort of conflict between law and values, on the one hand, and technology, on the other. The conflict is unfolding in connection with the law surrounding privacy and protection from undue government and corporate surveillance.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. If you have a smartphone, you might take the Internet for granted, right? It's always there. But around the world, some four and a half billion people still are not connected. Google, being in the Internet business, has a plan to expand its reach, bring Internet to all these people, but it's not by spooling out fiber-optic cable or building cell towers. It's using a technology that, well, sort of sounds like it belongs in another century: free-floating balloons. They call it Project Loon.
Every six months, one of my next guests ranks the 500 fastest computers in the world, the supercomputers, and back in November 2010, China took number one for the first time with a supercomputer called Milky Way 1. President Obama acknowledged China's feat in his State of the Union address a few months later and said we were facing a Sputnik moment.