Science & Technology


Traffic jam mystery solved by mathematicians

Mathematicians from the University of Exeter have solved the mystery of traffic jams by developing a model to show how major delays occur on our roads, with no apparent cause. Many traffic jams leave drivers baffled as they finally reach the end of a tail-back to find no visible cause for their delay. Now, a team of mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest, have found the answer and published their findings in leading academic journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Asteroid on track for possible Mars hit

Talk about your cosmic pileups.

An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars sometime in the next few weeks, scientists said.

Researchers attached to NASA's Near-Earth Objects Program, who like to call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid for days.

The scientists, based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet at about 1 in 300. That's better odds than any known asteroid has ever had of hitting Earth, except for the Siberian strike, the scientists said.

Meteors May Set Off Explosions of Biodiversity

If you woke up this morning and the newspaper headline screamed Meteor Headed for Earth, you'd think: That's not good. And you'd probably be right. But sometimes a little cosmic bombardment can be just what the doctor ordered. In a study published online in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers in Sweden say that 470 million years ago, meteor showers might have boosted our biodiversity.

Time is running out - literally, says scientist

Scientists have come up with the radical suggestion that the universe's end may come not with a bang but a standstill - that time could be literally running out and could, one day, stop altogether.

Hubble telescope photo of a supernova. Scientists use these to study distant galaxies
Monkey Wrench

Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation

Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science fact, according to a study reported today by physicists.

In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that invisibility cloaks are feasible.


Archaeologists find mysterious neolithic structure in Orkney dig

The sands of time have been rapidly eroding at the Orkney Bronze Age site, the Links of Noltland. Before everything is lost to the sea around the island of Westray, Historic Scotland have been carrying out a thorough excavation to learn everything they can.

The dig at the ancient dune-protected houses has now turned up an unexpected and impressive discovery dating to Neolithic times, archaeologists have announced following the conclusion of their work.

Huge Newfound Part of Milky Way Rotates Backward

Our Milky Way Galaxy has two distinct parts in its outer reaches that rotate in opposite directions, astronomers announced today.

©SDSS-II, Masashi Chiba, Tohoku University, Japan
The new study finds an inner halo (orange area) that is more flattened and dominates the population of stars up to 50,000 light years from the Milky Way's center. The outer halo (blue) is more spherical, and dominates the population beyond 65,000 light years from the galactic center. It may extend out to more than 300,000 light years. The red plus symbols represent stars and the brown burst-like symbols are star clusters.

Baffling Cosmic Explosion Comes Out of Nowhere

A cosmic explosion that seems to have come out of nowhere--thousands of light-years from the nearest collection of stars--has left astronomers baffled.

©B. Cenko, et al. and the W. M. Keck Observatory
The robotic Palomar 60-inch telescope imaged the afterglow of GRB 070125 on January 26, 2007. Right: An image taken of the same field on February 16 with the 10-meter Keck I telescope reveals no trace of an afterglow, or a host galaxy. The white cross in this zoom-in view marks the GRB's location. The two nearest galaxies, and their distances, are marked with arrows.

"Granddaddy of Kangaroos" Found in Aussie Fossil

A 25-million-year-old fossilized skeleton of a kangaroo is shedding new light on the evolution of the iconic Australian animal, scientists say.

The nearly complete specimen reveals a creature that once plucked fruit from Australian rain forests and bounded on all fours like a modern-day possum.

©La Trobe University
A 25-million-year-old skull is part of what scientists say is one of the oldest and most complete kangaroo fossils ever found.

Uranus, Neptune Swapped Spots, New Model Says

Like children growing up and moving away from home, the gas giant planets of our solar system took shape twice as close to the sun as they are now and slowly moved outward.

©Uranus image courtesy NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute; Neptune image courtesy NASA/JPL
The gas giant planets of our solar system took shape twice as close to the sun as they are now and slowly moved outward, according to a new theory that challenges established ideas for how the gas giants formed. But for this theory to work, the lead author says, Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) had to have switched orbital positions up to four billion years ago.