Science Critical Digest: 19.12.11

Written by  //  December 19, 2011  //  Critical Digest, Science & Technology  //  Comments Off

1.  A research group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a paper in Science, where they describe new regime of solar cells. These cells utillise lead selenide quantum dots for the capture of packets of light, called photons. These quantum dots allow the energy which is normally lost has heat during photon capture, to be converted into electrical energy instead. This allows the solar cell to produce more than one unit of electrical charge (an electron) per photon absorbed, something which was only conceived of theoretically until now. This work could pave the way for new high-efficiency solar cells, making them commercially competitive with fossil fuels. The paper can be read here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6062/1530.full

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2. Earlier this month, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler 22-b, a planet outside our solar system that orbits its star within the habitable zone. This zone, also known as the ‘Goldilocks zone’, is a region around a star where planets are neither too close nor too far from their sun, such that liquid water could be present on their surface. This makes Kepler 22-b and its moons excellent candidates for the search of extraterretrial life, or as extrasolar earth-like planets we could flee to if we really lose the plot back home. However, Kepler 22-b is 2.4 times the size of the earth (leading to a much stronger graviational pull), and scientists do not yet know whether it has a predominantly rocky or gaseous surface. However, this is a significant landmark in the search for earth-like planets. Read up on Nasa’s announcement here: http://kepler.nasa.gov/news/nasakeplernews/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=165

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3. The team at CERN has announced that it is closing in on the Higgs Boson, the particle predicted to exist by the standard model of particle physics.  However, John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at King’s College, London, argues that whether or not the Higgs Boson is found, scientists must formulate new frameworks of particle physics. I won’t reveal the reason why he says this, but urge you to read his article in Nature here http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/481024a.html

The paragraph with the subheading ‘averting collapse’ is quite chilling.

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4. Rounding off this week’s Critical Digest are a few links on Bad Science. I want to highlight practices that the scientific community has debunked and recognised as pseudoscience, yet are still prevalent in many countries, especially India.



I’ll leave you now with a little something from the great Tim Minchin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

Whew, that was long. Until next time!

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