Neutrinos, Book Club, Air Conditioning. July 13, 2018, Part 1

Jul 13, 08:43 PM

In 1988, physicist Stephen Hawking’s wildly popular A Brief History of Time introduced general audiences around the world to scientists’ questions about the Big Bang, black holes, and relativity. Many of those questions remain unanswered, though the science has advanced in the 30 years since the book was first published. Hawking, who passed away this spring, was known not just for this book, but for his enthusiastic and persistent communication with the public about science. And this summer, the Science Friday Book Club celebrates his legacy on the page, and off. Join Ira and the team at Science Friday as we read A Brief History of Time and ponder the deep questions about matter, space, and time. We’ll read the book and discuss until late August. And we want to hear from you! 

Neutrinos are particles that are constantly raining down in the universe. They are created from nuclear reactions in places like our sun, distant stars, and even on Earth. But the source of higher-energy cosmic neutrinos formed deeper in the universe is still a mystery. Researchers have built telescopes to detect these low and high energy neutrinos as they pass through the Earth. One of these telescopes is IceCube, which is buried deep beneath the ice in the Antarctic. In September, IceCube detected one of these cosmic neutrinos and alerted the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope and other observatories. These telescopes were able to trace the source of the neutrino to a flare up in a blazar—a black hole at the center of a galaxy—4 billion light-years away.

When the mercury soars dangerously high, air conditioning can help save lives that might otherwise be lost to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other stresses brought about by heat waves. But there’s a downside: it can take a lot of electricity to keep you cool. New research published in PLOS Medicine earlier this month assesses what happens when the demand for air conditioning rises with the temperature, and why saving those lives might also cost lives. Senior author Tracey Holloway, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains.