How long would it take to fall through Earth? For years, physics students have been told the answer is 42 minutes. But a new calculation, published in the latest issue of The American Journal of Physics, gives a more accurate travel time of 38 minutes. Over at Science, Adrian Cho unpacks the new equation. » 3/27/15 8:00pm Friday 8:00pm

The Truth Behind The Million Dollar Space Pen Hoax

There's a famous legend that America spent millions on the development of a "Space Pen" that writes upside down, while the Russians used a pencil. Here's the truth behind the legend. » 3/27/15 9:30am Friday 9:30am

​How To Fight Fire With Nuclear Bombs

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States attempted to improve the image of nuclear bombs by using them for public works. This went about as poorly as you'd suspect. » 3/27/15 6:30am Friday 6:30am

How To Fly A Spaceship To The ISS: Orbital Mechanics And A Fancy Stick

How do astronauts get from Earth to the International Space Station? Well, in a Soyuz spacecraft, of course. But do you know what kind of path the Soyuz takes to rendezvous with humanity's orbital outpost? It's probably not what you think. » 3/25/15 1:20pm Wednesday 1:20pm

Study Suggests Magnetic Fields Can Control Heat And Sound

More than a hundred years ago, physicists discovered that heat is simply the energy stored in the vibrations of atoms. This meant that heat and sound are related. Now, for the first time ever, scientists have experimentally shown that these atomic vibrations have magnetic properties, too. » 3/25/15 11:40am Wednesday 11:40am

This Tree Branch Hits A Power Line, Screams, And Then Explodes

This tree branch is screaming — seriously, it actually is making screaming noises — as it catches fire on a group of power lines. But why does this branch spontaneously combust when it hits them, and birds that land on power lines don't? » 3/25/15 10:20am Wednesday 10:20am

We Should Be Able To Detect Spaceships Moving Near The Speed Of Light

A pair of engineers say it's possible to detect the signatures of spacecraft traveling at relativistic speeds, and we can do so using current technologies. The trouble is, their new analysis also suggests that moving through space at ludicrous speed is more hazardous than previously thought. » 3/25/15 8:40am Wednesday 8:40am

As It Turns Out, We Really Are All Starstuff

"The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars," Carl Sagan famously said in his 1980 series Cosmos. "We are made of starstuff." » 3/24/15 10:00am Tuesday 10:00am

The Strangest Discoveries That Made Me Fall in Love With Science Again

Even for people with the right inclination, the sciences aren't always easy to enjoy. They're exacting frustrating, and slow-to-advance — but also ever-changing. And sometimes, the most unexpected things can make you rediscover them all over again. Here are the strangest things that made me love each of the sciences. » 3/23/15 11:24am 3/23/15 11:24am

A Simple Illustration That Explains How The Uncertainty Principle Works

Heisenberg's definition of his uncertainty principle ("The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa") may not be instantly clear, but here's a simple example that somehow makes it all remarkably easy to grasp. » 3/20/15 4:20pm 3/20/15 4:20pm

The World's Biggest Physics Experiment Is About to Reboot 

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most audacious physics experiment in human history. Now scientists are about to restart the giant particle collider for a new set of experiments. Last time, they did the almost-impossible and found the Higgs Boson. This time, they might find something even more exciting. » 3/20/15 12:21pm 3/20/15 12:21pm

Here's How This Ancient Mayan Pyramid Makes Bird Calls


Kukulkan Temple, at the Chichen Itza archaelogical site in Mexico, isn't just an impressive architectural achievement. It also uses physics to make bird calls. That's right, a stone temple has the ability to mimic the sounds a local bird. Let's see the pyramids at Giza do that! » 3/19/15 7:40am 3/19/15 7:40am

When A Meteorite Hits Snow It Forms A "Snow Carrot" Instead Of A Crater

What happens when a meteorite hits snow? Instead of forming classic impact craters, the fragments form strange funnels of dense snow diving into the surface instead. Here's the physics of how "snow carrots" form. » 3/18/15 8:08pm 3/18/15 8:08pm

That Emergency Exit Sign Is Radioactive (But That's Okay)

One of the major requirements of an illuminated exit sign is it has to keep glowing no matter what. That means that, if power is cut to the building, or if the sign itself gets knocked around, power has to keep flowing. What's the power source? Radiation. But there's no need to panic. » 3/18/15 7:30am 3/18/15 7:30am

How To Make Smoke Rings With A Water Bottle, A Balloon, And Incense

In high school, I once tried to build a smoke-ring-generating vortex cannon out of a five-gallon paint bucket, a t-shirt, and some dry ice. My contraption was a letdown. It produced weak, wispy rings, and did so inconsistently. This video shows how to build a DIY vortex cannon that actually works. » 3/11/15 2:00pm 3/11/15 2:00pm

Just How Impossible Is This Elusive Particle?

In the early 2000s, physicists at a particle accelerator in France saw something that simply couldn't be. And it "couldn't be," two different ways. Now the world is attempting to figure out which way is more impossible. » 3/11/15 12:40pm 3/11/15 12:40pm

The Quest To Find Another Saturn Just Got One Step Closer

If our solar system is any indication, planets with rings around them are quite common, but finding extrasolar ringed planets has proven difficult. Now astronomers have developed a surprisingly simple method for detecting these distant "exorings." It'll only be a matter of time before we find the next Saturn. » 3/11/15 7:30am 3/11/15 7:30am