Telegraph: On May 26, the US Air Force tested its X-51A Waverider, which flew 200 seconds at Mach 6—six times the speed of sound—setting a new record. The previous record was 12 seconds. The unmanned craft, which is almost wingless, launched from a B-52 bomber and plunged into the ocean at the end of its run, as planned. The craft could have many applications, including space exploration and commercial transportation.
Chronicle: Michael Mann is a prominent climate researcher whose speciality is reconstructing Earth’s past climate. Ken Cuccinelli is Virginia’s attorney general. Leaked e-mails between Mann and his fellow researchers appeared to suggest that they were misrepresenting their research to support the case that humans are changing Earth’s climate. In response to what became known as climategate, Cuccinelli, a climate change skeptic, demanded earlier this month that the University of Virginia hand over the research records that Mann kept there before he moved last year to Pennsylvania State University. Now, the University of Virginia has petitioned a state court to overturn the AG’s demand.
Science: In 2000, the leaders of Europe’s higher education establishments gathered in Bologna, the site of the world’s oldest university. Their goal: to make the higher education systems of Europe’s countries more compatible with each other. In personal terms, European students who start their university educations at the same time should be able to graduate, move on to advance degrees, and finish at the same time, regardless of where in Europe they choose to study. Now, 10 years after the Bologna Process was announced, Science‘s Elisabeth Pain examines its progress.
Baltimore Sun: Three recipients will share the $1 million Shaw Prize in astronomy this year: Charles L. Bennett of Johns Hopkins University and Lyman A. Page Jr and David N. Spergel of Princeton University. From their work with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe experiment, they determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that the type of matter that has been observed on Earth constitutes less than 5% of all matter in the universe—dark matter and dark energy make up the other 95%.
Nature: Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) is an experimental program for assessing airline passengers and others for the intent to cause harm. The program, which is being funded by the US Department of Homeland Security, relies on remote sensors that can measure heart rate, face temperature, and other supposedly outward indications of “malintent.” In a news feature, Nature‘s Sharon Weinberger examines whether these and other methods are effective.
BBC: Researchers from Australia and the US have created a transistor a mere seven atoms in size and only four-billionths of a meter across. Although not the smallest ever created, it is embedded in a single silicon crystal and is 10 times smaller than those used in contemporary computers. The ongoing goal of computer hardware development has been to make machines that are faster, cheaper, and able to store more data. Michelle Simmons at the University of New South Wales and coworkers, who published their results in Nature Nanotechnology, hope that their tiny transistor will lead to the development of a solid-state quantum computer.
New York Times: On Wednesday this week, for the first time in the two companies’ history, Apple Inc’s total value on NASDAQ overtook Microsoft Corp’s. Apple is now the world’s most valuable publicly traded tech company. Among US companies of any kind, only Exxon Mobil Corp is now worth more. Apple’s recent success is attributed to its introduction of a series of innovative consumer products, starting with the iPod (2001) and followed by the iPhone (2007) and iPad (2010). Microsoft, however, is currently more profitable than its rival.
Physics Today: The first peer-reviewed scientific paper on the Icelandic volcano came out today. In it, Giles Harrison of the University of Reading in the UK and his colleagues reported the results of sending instrument-laden balloons up through the ash cloud soon after it had reached Scotland. Lightning and other electrical phenomena are expected above an eruption because ash particles become charged as they shoot through the air. Scotland is too far from Iceland for the original eruption-produced electrical charge to have survived. Even so, Harrison found evidence for strong charging inside the cloud—as if the cloud could replenish its charge. “Detailed volcanic plume properties, such as the particle size, concentration and charge found by our weather balloon are important in predicting the impact on aircraft,” he says.
Nature: Nuclear reactors around the world produce highly enriched uranium for civilian research. Compared with the HEU in nuclear arsenals, the total amount of civilian HEU is modest (about 100 tons), yet not so modest that its proliferation implications can be discounted. Pablo Adelfang, the head of reactor research at the International Atomic Energy Agency, discussed the danger recently with Nature‘s Declan Butler.
New Scientist: Every two years in Atlanta, the Gathering for Gardner convention draws mathematicians, magicians, and puzzle enthusiasts. This year’s event, G4G9 (the ninth one), was held 24–28 March. The world’s premier celebration of recreational mathematics honors Martin Gardner, who wrote the mathematical games column for Scientific American from 1957 to 1981 as well as numerous books, including The Annotated Alice, first published in 1960. Gardner died on 22 May at the age of 95.