Opinion: Why a different voting system might be better
March 16th, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Opinion: Why a different voting system might be better

Editor's Note: Matthew Lane is a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at UCLA, and is the founder of Math Goes Pop!, a blog focused on the surprisingly rich intersection between mathematics and popular culture.  He is also a contributor to the Center for Election Science.  You can follow him on Twitter at @mmmaaatttttt.

Although Mitt Romney claims to be the mathematically inevitable Republican presidential candidate, voters remain less than excited about him.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 35% of Republicans would enthusiastically vote for him this fall.  This is below the 47% John McCain had around this time in 2008, and also below the 55% and 53% enjoyed by Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, respectively, when they duked it out four years ago.  There's still plenty of time until November, but for now it seems Republicans haven't yet completely warmed to their presumptive nominee.

When the results of an election (primary or otherwise) run counter to our desires, it is easy to scapegoat the political process.  The right person didn't win, we may argue, because the system itself is broken.  The two-party system, for example, is sometimes cited as a leading cause of the current dysfunction in Washington.  But perhaps much of what ails the political climate comes from an underlying mathematical dilemma in the way we determine the winners of our elections.  The mathematics of voting highlights many problems with current systems, and also proposes some interesting solutions.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Voices
Man and Machine
March 16th, 2012
11:37 AM ET

Man and Machine

"While Robonaut 2 has been busy testing its technology in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, NASA and General Motors have been working together on the ground to find new ways those technologies can be used.

The two groups began working together in 2007 on Robonaut 2, or R2, which in 2011 became the first humanoid robot in space. NASA and GM now are developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to perform their respective jobs, while reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Officially, it’s called the Human Grasp Assist device, but generally it’s called the K-Glove or Robo-Glove.

In this image, Robonaut and a spacesuit-gloved hand are extended toward each other to demonstrate the collaboration between robots and humans in space."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
More evidence that Einstein was right about light speed
In Albert Einstein’s famous equation, “e” stands for energy, “m” for mass, and “c” represents the speed of light.
March 16th, 2012
11:16 AM ET

More evidence that Einstein was right about light speed

The cards keep on stacking up in favor of Albert Einstein being right about the speed of light: It's looking like its limit is approximately 300,000 kilometers per second, or the "c" in the famous equation E=mc2.

The ICARUS experiment at the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy reported Friday that tiny particles called neutrinos did not surpass this commonly recognized speed of light as they traveled from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland to the Italian underground laboratory.

That's what the established laws of physics would predict. The result wouldn't be special, except that it flies in the face of a measurement from 2011 that challenged the foundations that Einstein had laid out.

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Filed under: On Earth
Chinese space program advancing quickly
A Long March 2F rocket carrying a Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in China in October 2011.
March 16th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Chinese space program advancing quickly

The Chinese space program is advancing, and fast, to the point that the country's ambition has become a campaign issue in the United States.

China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and assemble a 60-ton manned space station around 2020, when the current International Space Station is estimated to likely retire, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in November. China has also begun efforts to explore the moon using space robotics. The eventual goal: a manned lunar landing.

This exploration comes as the United States has been scaling back its plans and funding for space exploration.

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