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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

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New Volcanoes to Worry About

Just when you thought you only had to worry about volcanoes under the West Antarctica ice sheets, scientists had to go and discover more volcanoes off Antarctica. The British Antarctica Survey (BAS) recently released its finding of undersea volcanoes near the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Ocean.

Source: British Antarctica Survey

The volcanoes were discovered during research cruises through the use of ship-borne seismic mapping of the seafloor. The research cruises discovered 12 undersea volcanoes, along with craters left by collapsing volcanoes and 7 volcanoes visible above the sea. The volcanoes above the sea are active and some are up to 3,000 meters tall. 

Hungry, Hungry Universe

This is Supernova 1994D. The supernova is the bright point in the lower-left. It is a type Ia thermonuclear supernova like those described by Howell. The supernova is on the edge of galaxy NGC 4526, depicted in the center of the image. Credit: NASA/Hubble Space TelescopeYou’ve heard of zombie humans and you’ve probably heard of zombie ants… but what about zombie stars? “Zombie stars” are stars that explode like bombs, die and then come back to life by sucking matter out of another star. These stars, known as Type Ia Supernovae, are more than just cool eating machines though.

Wormholes: The Superstars of Inter-Stellar Travel

You might not have noticed their stellar performances, but with feature roles in Thor and Green Lantern, wormholes are the biggest movie stars of the summer. Not to mention, without these theoretical shortcuts in space-time, neither film would have much of a plot. A wormhole (the characters call it an “Einstein-Rosen bridge”) in Thor allows the film’s characters to travel between the Nine Realms and in Green Lantern, Hal Jordan travels to Oa through a wormhole (though it’s not mentioned in the film). Without wormholes, neither superhero would have gotten very far – nor would the plot.

Science Sings the Blues

 When you hum to music from the radio, you probably aren’t thinking of mathematics. Equations aren’t forming in your mind and you aren’t solving for x as the tunes hit your ears. But according to Jason I. Brown, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Dalhousie University, human physiology, for some reason, is particularly suited to discovering the mathematics inherently in music. “Our bodies, our ears, and our minds are built to recognize the mathematics that lies here,” he said during his Distinctive Voices @ The Beckman Center talk on May 25, 2011.

Glaciers: The Newest (Fictional) Threat to Mankind

In the Arctic Circle, volcano eruption unleashes a glacier that will destroy mankind … at least, according to the trailer for 2012: Ice Age, a fun (and funny) B-movie featuring the destruction of New York City by a glacier – a really, really fast 1,000 miles long glacier set off by a volcano in the Arctic Circle. 

It's one of those disaster movie plots too silly to ring true, but over here at The Exchange, we couldn't help but wonder, “What if?” Could a glacier ever move that fast or be that big? Is there a known glacier threat to New York City?

In Science We Trust: The CSI Effect & Forensic Science

Can watching forensic-focused TV shows like CSI affect how you act as a juror? That is the question behind several studies on the so-called CSI Effect: jurors who watch CSI or other crime dramas are influenced by the shows’ exaggerated portrayal of forensic science and measure their experience (and decisions) as a juror against fictional Hollywood standards. According to the CSI Effect theory, jurors now demand scientific evidence in criminal trials and without such evidence, are less likely to convict. 

All About the Science

The internet is buzzing over the trailer for War Horse, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film about a horse sold to the cavalry during World War I. Here at The Exchange, we’re excited Spielberg is (once again) filming a movie with science. No, we aren’t talking about engineering weapons, the physics of warfare or the trajectories of bullets in a battlefield – it’s the horse that caught our attention.

How Supervillain Magneto Could Control Blood

It seems like just yesterday we were discussing the real world potential of supervillain Magneto’s powers. Now, we’ve spotted a new use for Magneto’s magnetic field control: thinning blood. Two researchers, Rongjia Tao and Ke Huang, recently released the results of their study on the effects of magnetic fields applied to the bloodstream.

In the study, Tao and Huang exposed blood samples to varying magnetic field pulse strengths for varying lengths of time. The results found a magnetic field pulse of 1.3 Tesla, applied for one minute in the parallel blood flow direction, reduced blood viscosity by 20-30%. After this procedure, the blood viscosity slowly returned to normal after a couple of hours. 

Event Recap: Engineering Our Future

"Engineering Our Future" was held June 9, 2011 at the Directors Guild of America.What do you think of when you hear the word “engineer?” Does it conjure up images of pocket protectors and slide rules? Does it evoke labs festooned with panels of blinking lights and spaghetti wiring over which are hunched socially awkward men in white lab coats? On the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, the character Howard Wolowitz is often derided by his colleagues because he is “just an engineer.” It seems that at some point in the not so recent past, our understanding of what an engineer is and does became somewhat skewed.

The Catastrophic Potential of Severe Space Weather

Tornadoes, earthquakes, climate change, tsunamis and comets… For screenwriters who want to tackle the disaster film genre, the hardest part might be choosing how to destroy the Earth. Look at all the options! Plus, if you aren’t satisfied with the standard disasters above, there are limitless options in epidemics, aliens, explosions and the newest disaster to entertain audiences, severe space weather

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