Search Results for: label/electron orbital
Biology Explainer: The big 4 building blocks of life–carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and nucleic acids
…molecules themselves break down into a surprisingly small number of building blocks. The proteins that make up all of the living things on this planet and ensure their appropriate structure and smooth function consist of only 20 different kinds of building blocks. Nucleic acids, specifically DNA, are even more basic: only four different kinds of molecules provide the materials to build the countless different genetic codes that translate into all…
Authored by Emily Willingham on June 8, 2012
How large is a proton?
…of various types, mostly hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, with plenty of others to bulk things out. Let’s think about some numbers for size, then: unless you’re a kid or a giant, your height is probably between 1 and 2 meters. One of my fingernails is about 1 centimeter across (1/100 of a meter). A red blood cell is a little less than 10 micrometers—10 millionths of a meter—across. A typical atom is a few hundred picometers (100 trillion…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on February 13, 2013
Did Einstein write his most famous equation? Does it matter?
Why all the fuss about E = m c 2? By Matthew R. Francis Albert Einstein in Pittsburgh, 1934. (Credit: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph/Dwight Vincent and David Topper) The association is strong in our minds: Albert Einstein. Genius. Crazy hair. E = m c 2. Maybe many people don’t know what else Einstein did, but they know about the hair and that equation. They may think he flunked math in school (wrong, though he did have conflicts with some teach…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on May 21, 2013
Why Are Snowflakes Always Six-Sided?
…y water molecules are arranged like they are. Water seems like a simple enough molecule. It consists of one oxygen atom with two hydrogen atoms bonded to it. The hydrogen atoms bond to the oxygen atom at a distance of exactly 104.5 degrees from each other (1). Why that particular angle? An oxygen atom has a total of eight electrons. Two of them take up all the available spots in the shell closest to the atom’s nucleus. The remaining six elec…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on February 3, 2012
After Newtown missteps, journalists get guidelines
…almost twice as likely to say that they don’t want to live or work near a person with mental illness if they read an article about a person with mental illness involved in a mass shooting, according to a study published March 20 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Interestingly, this tendency is the same even if the article avoids any mention of mental illness. This may be because this link between violence and mental illness is deeply engrain…
Authored by DXS Contributor on March 27, 2013
How fluorescent lights work: quantum mechanics in the home
We have a tendency to think that “quantum mechanics” is synonymous with “out of the ordinary.” I do that, too, since there’s so much strange to talk about: the blurring of particles and waves, the apparent randomness that drove Einstein crazy, and so forth. It’s easy to forget that quantum mechanics also is an everyday matter. The odds are pretty good you’re reading this post on a computer screen (as op…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on January 30, 2012
Why is the sky pink?
On Mars, the sky is pink during the day, shading to blue at sunset. What planet did you think I was talking about? On Earth, the sky is blue during daytime, turning red at as the sun sinks toward night. Scattering light Well, it’s not quite as simple as that: if you ignore your dear sainted mother’s warning and look at the Sun, you’ll see that the sky immediately around the Sun is white, and the sky right at the horizon (i…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on March 12, 2012
Life and science challenges: flames, Hawkeye, the needle and the damage done
Alda’s World Science Festival discussion about the Flame Challenge , which was to occur at 4pm that afternoon. Not really knowing what was in store, I quickly accepted (um, hello, Alan Alda ). A second phone call about 20 minutes later informed me that I would be joining Alan on stage. Was this really happening? In about 30 minutes time, I went from despair to elation. I also went to the store to buy a skirt since I was already in trans…
Authored by Emily Willingham on June 6, 2012
…om, Scientific American Mind and all newsstand special editions. She is the eighth person and first female to assume the top post in Scientific American‘s 166-year history. Under her leadership, the magazine received a 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. A science journalist for more than 20 years, she first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. She is an advisor for the Citizen Science Alliance…
Authored by Emily Willingham on February 17, 2012
The World Will Not End Tomorrow
The world will not end tomorrow. The Sun will rise on the morning of December 22 and find most of humanity still living. I can say that with a great deal of confidence, though my scientist’s brain tells me I should say the world “probably” won’t end tomorrow. After all, there’s a tiny chance, a minuscule probability…but it’s so small we don’t have to worry about it, just like we don’t have to…
Authored by Matthew R Francis on December 20, 2012