The weather’s hot out there, I’m working on a couple of articles under deadline, and I have a cat purring next to my desk. Nevertheless, I realize that I haven’t updated this blog in a while, so I will go ahead and post a few things.
First of all, July 18 was not only Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday, but also John Glenn’s 90th birthday. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Glenn may be the oldest surviving U.S. astronaut. Certainly he and Scott Carpenter are the only two of the Mercury Seven left alive, and Carpenter is about four years younger. Most of the astronauts who joined NASA in the years between 1962 and 1966 were born in the first half of the 1930s.
Last week, I happened to see a CNN video segment about a British scientist who is making “bionic glasses” to help visually challenged people see. The glasses use LEDs and a couple of small cameras — really, the type of technology used in today’s smartphones. The scientist is Stephen L. Hicks of Oxford University; I found his home page and this science blog post from the Oxford press office.
News from the particle physics community: Scientists could be tantalizingly close to finding the Higgs boson, if it exists, according to Symmetry magazine’s blog.
The quest for the invisibility cloak continues to be a hot topic in optical physics. As my colleague Yvonne Carts-Powell reported, Columbia University scientists have devised a structure with an average refractive index of zero in the near-infrared. Also — no doubt tying in with the recent release of the last of the Harry Potter movies — several media outlets reported (see, for example, here, here and here) about the “time cloak” created at Cornell University. As the last of those three links states, the new cloak is reminiscent of the “spacetime editor” described earlier this year; I wrote about it for the March 2011 issue of Optics & Photonics News. The Cornell paper has only been submitted to Nature and not yet published there; however, you can check out the arXiv.org preprint.
Finally, I’m posting a link to this gorgeous image, taken from the International Space Station, of the space shuttle Atlantis heading home.