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Chris Rollins is a recent graduate in aerospace engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. When he's not snowboarding, he's writing about or researching physics, astronautics, or science policy.... Read More »

When many of us go to see a live performance of some kind, like a play or a concert, we are often mostly concerned with the quality of the performers. We've gone to hear the flowing sounds of the San Francisco Symphony or the clear voices of Broadway singers. But what many people overlook, and what may be the most expensive and time-consuming aspect of any musical or theater production, is the effect of room acoustics on the sound coming from the stage. Now, with the massive increases in computing power over the last decade or so, acousticians are able to predict far more accurately how a given space will respond to sound, paving the way to more optimized concert halls and theaters.

How electrical traffic is routed through the brain has always been of great interest to psychologists. It was once thought that electrical signals always followed set paths through the brain, much in the way the heart pushes blood through the cardiovascular system. Many signals do, in fact, follow the same paths over and over again, but what is now more generally understood is that these pathways are in no way hardwired. The plasticity of the brain, or its ability to change based on the needs of the organism, has now been verified using a number of independent experiments.
Thanks to NASA and the LCROSS satellite, I may soon know where the best place is to build my Moon Base. A new analysis of the data from the Lunar Prospector, launched in 1998, shows large concentrations of hydrogen around the lunar poles. If that hydrogen is in water form, then astronauts could potentially use it on a permanent outpost.

Certain lunar craters are permanently shadowed, never reaching temperatures above -170 C. Many of these areas also contain significant amounts of hydrogen. If that hydrogen is attached to oxygen in water ice form, it should be stable for millions of years. Astronauts deployed to a base near one of these sites could use this water since hauling it from Earth would be prohibitive.
As early as 1890, people were beginning to think about harnessing the power of the ocean. During the twenty-year span between 1890 and 1910, there were wave power generation stations built all along the Southern California coast. The advent of cheap petroleum coming straight from the ground, however, has taken the focus off of energy generation solutions such as wave power for decades now, and as a result the only surviving wave motor from the large Southern California program is buried in the sand at the foot of the Manhattan Beach pier. Now, thanks to the huge push toward green energy sources and freeing the world from oil, wave power has seen a flurry of research and innovation in recent years.
Millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at once should be enough to tear anything apart, including atomic nuclei. But ever since observations of a solar flare from NASA's STEREO spacecraft in 2006 suggested otherwise, scientists have wondered how a large amount of hydrogen atoms managed to make through the flare seemingly unscathed.
After it's conception and development during World War I, sonar is finally finding use in an unlikely medium: space. Astronauts on the International Space Station will soon be able to conduct experiments in zero gravity with no container contamination using beams of sound to control a sample.

Space-DRUMS, or the Space Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix System, uses a dodecahedron container armed with twenty ultrasonic beams that use sound to control the volume occupied by a sample inside.

The SpaceDRUMS 12-sided reactor is able to keep a baseball-sized sample from touching its walls. Photo Credit: University of Bath.