8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With An Electron Microscope  

When art and science collide, beautiful things happen. That’s the case with the Wim Noorduin’s nanosculptures. For the past few years, this Harvard materials scientist has been using basic chemistry to create beautiful forms so small, you need an electron microscope to see them.

These delicate flower-like forms are smaller than the width of a human hair, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful. The simplicity of the process Noorduin takes to create them actually makes them even more impressive. He simply mixes chemicals in a beaker to create tiny colorful crystals that grow into a variety of shapes, though he’s developed ways to manipulate the process.

“Over the years, I’ve been growing thousands of these samples, and I’ve tried many ways to stack structures on top of each other, and to sculpt them while they’re growing,” Noorduin told The Creators Project recently. “I notice, of course, that with all these experiments, some things aesthetically simply work better than others. That’s how I started to develop a sort of style in which most of the structures started to look like flowers.”

It’s kind of a bummer they’re so small, actually. Electron microscopes are hard to come by! Then again, size doesn’t matter.

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope

8 Tiny Sculptures You Can Only See With an Electron Microscope


Why the Same Side of the Moon Always Faces the Earth

One Moon “day” is approximately 29 1/2 Earth days. This rotation coincides with its orbit around the Earth so that we only see about 59% of the surface of the Moon from Earth. When the Moon first formed, its rotational speed and orbit were very different than they are now. Over time, the Earth’s gravitational field gradually slowed the Moon’s rotation until the orbital period and the rotational speed stabilized, making one side of the Moon always face the Earth.

How does this work? Simply put -tidal friction. For a slightly less simple explanation, we’ll have to put our science caps on. But stick with it; it’s fascinating. I promise.

To start, think of how the Moon causes major tides on the Earth due to the Moon pulling at the Earth via its gravitational field. The Earth has this same effect on the Moon and, being 81.28 times more massive, the effect is much more powerful.

So, as the mass of the Moon is attempting to go one way (in a straight line), the Earth is simultaneously pulling it another way (towards the Earth). Further, the effect of the Earth’s gravitational field is stronger on the side of the Moon closest to the Earth than on the far side (and the same with the Moon’s gravitational field’s effect on the different parts of the surface of the Earth).

This combination essentially stretches the Earth and Moon, creating tidal bulges on both celestial bodies. This occurs on both sides of each, with the bulge on the sides closest together from gravity and on the sides farthest away from inertia. In the latter case, the matter is less affected by the gravitational force with inertia dominating in this instance. To put it another way, the matter is trying to move in a straight line away from the Earth and the gravitational forces here aren’t as strongly able to overcome this, which creates the bulge on that side.

So back before the Moon was tidally locked with the Earth, the bulge on the side of the Moon nearest to Earth ended up slightly leading thanks to friction and the fact that the Moon rotated faster than its orbital period around the Earth. So with this slightly leading bulge being offset from the line of gravitational pull between the Moon and Earth, this created a torque, which overtime resulted in the Moon’s rotation slowing until it became tidally locked with the Earth; thus, only one side faces the Earth. (Note: the bulge on the far side of the Moon had the opposite effect, but the bulge closest to the Earth dominated the interaction.)

You’ll note, though, that I said we actually get to see about 59% of the surface of the Moon from Earth, not 50%. The discrepancy comes from the fact that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t perfectly circular, more of an ellipse. As the Moon’s distance from the Earth increases and decreases, its angular speed changes, while its rotational speed stays the same. The result is that we get to see an extra 9% of its surface than we would if it had a perfectly circular orbit.

The other side of this, as you may have guessed, is that the Moon has the same effect on the Earth and is gradually slowing the Earth’s rotation in the exact same way the Moon became tidally locked with the Earth. Further, as the Moon slows the Earth’s rotation, a small portion of the Earth’s rotational momentum gets transferred to the Moon’s orbital momentum, with the result being that the average radius of the Moon’s orbit increases at about 3.8 centimeters per year with the current continental positions and barring major geological events. (Contrary to what you’ll often read, the Moon isn’t getting all the energy here, most of it is being converted to heat via friction, with only an estimated 3% of the energy in the interaction being “stolen” by the Moon.)

Thus, the distance between the Moon and the Earth changes gradually and is more or less in step with the rotational period change. It should be noted, though, that it’s not a constant change as things like major earthquakes, glacial changes, continental drift, and other such geological events play a role here, which is why leap seconds aren’t added at regular intervals, but only when needed. But the overall effect is that over time, the Moon is getting farther and farther away from the Earth every year, while the Earth’s rotation is slowing down.

In theory, at some point tens of billions of years from now (with the exact timeframe being extremely difficult to nail down due to so many unknowable factors) the same side of the Earth will always face the Moon, with the Earth only rotating once per lunar cycle, which at that point most estimates indicate should be about 47 current Earth days long.


“In theory”… but this will likely never happen. Why? In about 1 to 2 billion years or so, the Sun’s brightness will have increased sufficiently to vaporize all water on the surface of the Earth, getting rid of the ocean tides altogether, which is a huge factor in this interaction. However, there still would be some bulging of the Earth’s crust to continue the process to a much lesser extent.

In 5 to 6 billion years, the Sun will be around the peak of its Red Giant phase, and according to the latest models, even with the Sun losing quite a bit of mass during this process, thus making the Earth’s orbit farther out, the Sun should just barely consume the Earth and Moon many billions of years before such a dual tidal lock can occur.

Bottom line, at some point in the next billion years or so, humans will need to either find another home, or figure out how to manually move our current one to a farther out orbit, keeping Earth in the habitable zone of our solar system.

  What Happened To The Flags On The Moon?


On July 10, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon. At 10:56 pm eastern standard time, Neil Armstrong accomplished another first. With the immortal words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” (or something like that) Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on a major celestial object. Soon after, Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the alien surface. The two of them spent the next two and half hours exploring, taking pictures, and collecting samples.

Before they took off back to Earth, Apollo 11 left evidence of their rendezvous with the moon. Besides Armstrong’s boot print and a bunch of junk, the astronauts also planted a three foot by five foot nylon American flag mounted on a pole into the ground. Subsequent Apollo missions that made it to the moon followed suit. But what happened to all of these flags? Are they still standing? Do they even still exist after nearly a half century on the moon?

As for the Apollo 11 flag, when the engine came on and the spaceship shot up away from the moon, Aldrin said he saw the flag get knocked over by the rocket blast. Beyond that, it was thought that there would be little chance the flag would survive on the harsh environment of the moon. From the extremely abrasive lunar dust to the sun’s unfiltered ultraviolet rays, the flag most likely would quickly be bleached white and disintegrate.

In fact, the flag was never intended to last long. It was purchased from the New Jersey-based flag company Annin for five dollars and fifty cents (which is about thirty five dollars today). (Annin has been making flags since 1847, making them the oldest flag manufacturer in the US today.) The flag was made with basic, ordinary nylon with no intention of existing on the moon for very long, much less for decades or more. In 2008, Dennis Lacarrubba, an employee of Annin, told Smithsonian that he couldn’t “believe there would be anything left. I gotta be honest with you. It’s gonna be ashes.”

Five other, less talked about, flags got planted on the moon during Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Apollo 13 never made it to the moon because, well… they had some problems as you’re no doubt familiar. These flags were also not specially made to survive on the moon, but just ones anyone could pick up at a local store.

Apollo 17, launched on December 7, 1972, featured the last humans to walk on the moon. As astronaut Eugene Cernan and geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt were placing the American flag into the lunar surface, Cernan apparently quipped that if he pounded the flag extra hard into the moon, that it may just last a million years.

While no human has walked on the moon since 1972, plenty of crafts sent by various nations have orbited it, taking pictures as they went. As the technology advanced and the pictures became sharper, portions of the moon’s surface were seen in great detail for the first time since 1972.

This brings us to 2012. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC for short, was first launched in June 2009. It spent over three years orbiting the moon and taking pictures with its high-resolution camera. In 2012, images sent back by LROC confirmed that all but Apollo 11’s flag and possibly Apollo 15’s flag not only survived, but are still standing.

By looking at the photos from different points in the day, the movement of shadows confirm that the flags, in some form or another, are still there. Apollo 15’s flag is still generally thought to be standing, as there is footage of this after the astronauts left. But the LROC images showed no distinctive shadow for it, as with the others confirmed still standing. That said, given the other flags seemed to have survived and it was still standing after the astronauts left, there is little reason to think this particular one disintegrated when the others did not. For that matter, it’s possible the Apollo 11 flag is still intact as well, simply lying on the lunar surface.

So what about the condition of the flags? The general consensus is that the colors have probably faded to white.

The LROC was also able to document other things left behind by the various Apollo missions, including tracks made by astronauts, backpacks, and rovers that were left. As technology progresses, we will soon be able to see the flags for ourselves to confirm the exact state, instead of relying on shadow movement.

NASA Space Rover Drives On The Underside Of The Ice

NASA just completed a test of an early prototype-maybe just an early, early precursor-space rover that may be flown to explore the Jupiter moon Europa. What’s cool is that the rover is designed to float on the underside of the ice and “rove as if the underside of the ice is the ground.” Up is down, down is up.

NASA says that it’s the first time ever that an underwater, under-ice, untethered vehicle has been operated through satellite link. It’s one of the cool technologies that can help us better understand the world we live in now while preparing us for exploration of future worlds.



How Computer Memory Really Works

We talk about memory a lot when we discuss gadgets, and it’s no surprise: it’s one of the biggest indicators of performance in the gadgets we all use. But rarely do we stop and think about how it works at the very basic level.


In this video, Dr Steve Bagley explains how logic gates-the simplest of digital systems-are used to store information in computer memory. When you stop and think about how many of those you need, and how small they can be made these days, it’s quite amazing.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Late last night, Nest announced its Developer Program: An initiative that’s going to allow more than 5,000 developers to tinker and build new Nest functionality. To kick things off, it’s launching with a handful of partner-enabled features, from your Benz telling your thermostat when you get close to home to your LIFX bulbs flashing red if Protect detects smoke.

Keep in mind, this is just a sort of teaser-the real fun will come from the developers who now have access to Nest’s framework. And for now, many of these new features are only available with certain brands, which makes sense, since these are launch partners. We don’t all drive Mercedes-Benz, and we don’t all use Logitech remotes.

But remember: These launch features are just the first, Nest-produced partnerships. More are sure to come in the future.

Your washer and dryer will keep clothes fresh if you’re away.

If your thermostat notices you’re not home when a cycle ends, Whirlpool appliances will freshen them up when you get near to make sure they’re wrinkle-free. It’ll also delay cycles if your Nest tells it that it’s nearing a “rush hour” time when energy consumption is peaking.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Your lights will flash red when there’s a fire.

Thanks to integration with LIFX, the Australian LED bulb startup, you can tell Protect to flash your lights red (or some other color) when something’s up. You can also tell it to do things like turn your lights on and off when your thermostat is in “away” mode.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Nest will know when you wake up and go to sleep.

One of Nest’s partners in the new program is Jawbone-which means that for starters, you’ll be able to set your Nest to adapt to when you wake up and go to sleep. So if you like your house cooler when you sleep and warmer when you’re awake, or some other sleep-based pattern, Jawbone will talk to your thermostat so it adjust automatically.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Protect can text your neighbor if there’s smoke. 

Using IFTTT-a framework that connects web apps-you can set up a nearly infinite number of alerts based around Nest. Want to let your neighbors know if Protect smells smoke? Just set up an IFTT alert for “If Protect detects smoke, text my neighbors.” And yep-you can set up alerts for Facebook and Twitter to. If you must.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

You can set your temperature from Google Now.

Say you want to set your temperature via your phone (or your Android Wear smart watch!). Wherever you are, just say “OK Google. Set Nest to 72 degrees.” This particular one won’t be available until the fall.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Nest will know when you come and go from your garage door opener.

If you have a Chamberlain or LiftMaster garage door, you can ask it to let your Nest thermostat know when you come and go, and adjust to your every-day schedule that way. This one will be available in the fall, too.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

You can control your Nest using Logitech remotes.

Using Logitech’s universal remote, you can set your thermostat as you would normally.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do

Nest will know when you arrive home in your car.

If you drive a Mercedes-Benz, first of all, congratulations. Second of all, your car can now connect with your Nest products-not only can you check them from behind the wheel, but Nest will start heating or cooling when you get near.

The 8 Coolest New Tricks Your Nest Can Do


Let Science Show You How To Make The Perfect Ice Cream

When it comes to ice cream, the creamier the better. American University professor Matthew Hartings and Reactions explain how ice crystals affect ice cream and its consistency.

There’s two things you can do ensure your ice cream is the creamiest. First is to use an emulsifier to control the size of the ice crystals in your ice cream. The smaller the crystals, the creamier the ice cream. Ice cream is essentially just water and fat, and they naturally want to separate, but using an emulsifier can bring the water and fat molecules together. That will increase the chance of small ice crystals. The second thing you can do is freeze your ingredients together as fast as possible. The faster the ice cream freezes, the smaller the crystals and the creamier it is.