Physicists a step closer to invisibility cloak
March 27th, 2013
05:54 AM ET

Physicists a step closer to invisibility cloak

Some scientists seem to take their cues from science fiction or fantasy novels.

Physicists in Texas have developed a method to make objects "invisible" within a limited range of light waves. It's not Harry Potter's invisibility cloak just yet, but scientists say it has a lot of potential.

The desire to become invisible dates back to the ancient Greeks, if not further. In mythological literature, gods and goddesses donned a headdress to disappear from sight. Like Potter's cloak, the "cap of invisibility" was imbued with magical powers.

A fixture in magic, the invisibility cloak has now advanced to science.

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February 4th, 2013
10:06 AM ET

Body found under parking lot is King Richard III, scientists prove

By Bryony Jones, CNN

DNA tests have confirmed that human remains found buried beneath an English car park are those of the country's King Richard III.

British scientists announced Monday they are convinced "beyond reasonable doubt" that a skeleton found during an archaeological dig in Leicester, central England, last August is that of the former king, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne of York.

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Filed under: On Earth • Scientific mysteries
Oldest tooth filling may have been found
Beeswax on this ancient jawbone indicates the earliest evidence of theraputic dentistry
September 19th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Oldest tooth filling may have been found

We all know the drill: Slip up on your regular brush-and-floss routine, and you may end up at the dentist's office with a cavity that needs to be filled. But what people did about their toothaches thousands of years ago?

Scientists in Italy have discovered what may be the earliest evidence of therapeutic dentistry performed on a human.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One reports the discovery of a beeswax filling on the left canine of a 6,500-year-old human jawbone from Slovenia. It is housed at the Natural History Museum of Trieste, Italy.

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'Fringe' star examines real weird science
August 21st, 2012
11:50 AM ET

'Fringe' star examines real weird science

John Noble may be best known as scientist Walter Bishop on "Fringe," but his interest in strange scientific stories extends into the real world.

The actor – recently back to work after seeking treatment for a sleeping disorder – delves into these stories on the Science Channel series, "Dark Matters: Twisted but True."

"It's kind of tongue in cheek or Orson Welles-ish," said Noble of the series. "Some of the (stories) are quirky or weird. We're telling stories from all over the place."

Noble's performance on "Fringe" informed his role as host.

"Playing Walter Bishop, I had to read pretty widely to make sense of what he was talking about," he said. "It seemed to segue very easily into this. It's probably the reason I'm hosting it, to be honest with you."

Despite his voracious thirst for knowledge, the show has sometimes presented him with things he was not aware of. "There were things I knew vaguely but hadn't put into place. There are so many curious, wonderful stories."

Now that he has one foot in science fiction and another in fact, how does he think the two relate today?

"It's very difficult for science fiction writers to stay ahead of science fact, because of the rate of change today," he said.

"People are dreaming up ideas, not unlike the times of Jules Verne. Now, sometimes by the time it's been published, something has happened to change the face of science fiction. Science fiction has proved to be a good indicator of where we're going. There is a blending with fantasy, which has sort of taken over. Fantasy is also a very valid and interesting area to explore."

Noble believes that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg for scientific advancement.

Noble spoke of a scientist friend who recently proposed a new theory on black holes. "He was so excited that this was a big breakthrough. This is happening all the time, and these things breed more and more invention. This is probably the most exciting time in science since – there was the Renaissance period, and the Industrial Revolution – I think this is the third, and I think, the most exciting period of science."

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Filed under: News • Scientific mysteries
July 5th, 2012
04:31 PM ET

Higgs boson is like ... a Justin Bieber fan?

It's like molasses! But sort of like the air! Yet it also behaves like fans of Justin Bieber!

Everyone's talking about the Higgs boson, even though there's no really great metaphor for describing what it is and how it works. We know that this particle is responsible for the fact that matter - i.e. the stuff we are made of - has mass. Beyond that, physicists have to get creative.

Scientists from the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) said yesterday that they had discovered a new particle with attributes of the Higgs boson, a particle that had never been detected, but needs to exist in order for current theories about the universe to remain true.

"It's an enormous celebration and everyone's incredibly excited to have found it, but this is by no means a gigantic surprise," said prominent theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed.

Profile: Colliding with the universe's best-kept secrets

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Alien hunter steps down from extraterrestrial search
Jill Tarter is stepping down from her post as leader of research at the SETI Institute.
May 25th, 2012
07:06 PM ET

Alien hunter steps down from extraterrestrial search

Remember the character Jodie Foster played in the movie "Contact," based on the book by Carl Sagan? She wasn't entirely invented; her character's basis was astronomer Jill Tarter.

Tarter, 68, has spent more than three decades leading the search for intelligent non-Earthly life at the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization that devotes itself to scientific research, education and outreach on the subject of life in the universe.

This week, Tarter announced her retirement from directing the research side of SETI; she will now focus on fundraising, she told CNN Light Years in a recent interview.

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So you're a cyborg - now what?
May 7th, 2012
10:09 AM ET

So you're a cyborg - now what?

Quick: What's the fattiest system in your body that has two halves and weighs between 2 and 4 pounds?

It's your brain - you know, that thing that remembers stuff. But because of rapidly evolving information technology, your first impulse was probably to search for the answer on the Internet.

As we become ever more dependent on external sources of memory - using GPS to guide our driving, smartphones to keep our schedules - it's time to rethink our ideas about what "memory" actually is.

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April 19th, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Gadget implant aims to solve gorilla mystery

"Good. Hold," said great ape keeper Amanda Bania to the 200-pound gorilla Kojo as she held what looked like a computer mouse to his back.

The western lowland gorilla leaned his back against his cage at the National Zoo in Washington while being hand fed grapes by zookeeper Elliot Rosenthal.

“Kojo is pretty happy to hold as long as he’s getting grapes,“ said Bania. She then downloaded heart data from an Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR) that had been surgically placed between Kojo's shoulder blades to track his heart rates and rhythms.

While Kojo was chowing on fruit, he was also providing valuable data to help scientists solve a scientific mystery: why do gorillas have problems with their hearts?

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