Building a Better Battery

Inside Science, December 2012

Lithium-ion batteries generate electricity when tiny charged lithium atoms move from a negatively charged electrode to a positively charged one. As the battery charges, the lithium atoms move in the opposite direction. The problem is that with each cycle of charging and discharging, the battery’s electrodes degrade and the battery’s capacity drops. To fix this dying battery dilemma, scientists need to see what’s happening inside the battery in realtime at a resolution of one billionth of a meter — something that hasn’t been possible until just recently.

Mosquito Flight Fails in Fog

Inside Science, November 2012

Mosquito bites are a scourge to campers and spread deadly malaria infections. While nets and insecticides have long been the answer to blocking the winged menaces, researchers have discovered a simple way of grounding mosquitoes: fog.

Investigating the Venus Flytrap’s Speedy Snap

Inside Science, November 2012

Plants aren’t typically known for their speed, but the carnivorous Venus flytrap can close its jaw-like leaves in the blink of an eye. Charles Darwin once referred to the Venus flytrap as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” But despite the plant’s notoriety, its closing mechanism remains a mystery 250 years after its discovery.

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Calcium Keeps Night Vision From Tricking Our Brains

Inside Science, October 2012

As candy-crazed kids run up and down driveways this Halloween, guided only by the flickering light of jack-o’-lanterns, it’s easy to appreciate the low light vision that’s preventing trips over superhero capes and princess dresses. But despite the usefulness of night vision, scientists have only now identified the important chemical process that compensates for visual errors in low light.

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Shortest Laser Pulse Ever Created

Inside Science, September 2012

American researchers have generated a record-setting laser pulse so short that it makes most everything else seem like an eternity. The pulse lasted just 67 attoseconds, which is about two million billion times faster than the blink of an eye. The previous record, set by European researchers in 2008, was about 20 percent slower.

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The Iceman Cometh at 275 Molecules of Water

Inside Science, September 2012

If you’ve ever dealt with an exploded can of frozen soda in the freezer, you’ve seen firsthand that ice takes on a crystal structure. At freezing temperatures, water molecules line up to form geometric shapes, creating ice’s crystal structure. The crystal structure takes up more space than the loose liquid water molecules, causing water to expand when frozen.