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  • Explained: Phonons

    When trying to control the way heat moves through solids, it is often useful to think of it as a flow of particles.

    July 8, 2010
  • Explained: Quark-gluon plasma

    By colliding particles, physicists hope to recreate the earliest moments of our universe, on a much smaller scale.

    June 9, 2010
  • Explained: Knightian uncertainty

    The economic crisis has revived an old philosophical idea about risk and uncertainty. But what is it, exactly?

    June 2, 2010
  • Explained: The Carnot Limit

    Long before the nature of heat was understood, the fundamental limit of efficiency of heat-based engines was determined

    May 19, 2010
  • Explained: Monte Carlo simulations

    Mathematical technique lets scientists make estimates in a probabilistic world

    May 17, 2010
  • Explained: Directed evolution

    Speeding up protein evolution in the lab can yield useful molecules that nature never intended.

    May 13, 2010
  • Explained: Thermoelectricity

    Turning temperature differences directly into electricity could be an efficient way of harnessing heat that is wasted in cars and power plants.

    April 27, 2010
  • Explained: Dynamo theory

    Recent discoveries raise questions about how small planets can have self-sustaining magnetic fields

    March 25, 2010
  • Explained: Climate sensitivity

    If we double the Earth’s greenhouse gases, how much will the temperature change? That’s what this number tells you.

    March 19, 2010
  • Explained: Regression analysis

    Sure, it’s a ubiquitous tool of scientific research, but what exactly <em>is</em> a regression, and what is its use?

    March 16, 2010
  • Explained: Radiative forcing

    When there’s more energy radiating down on the planet than there is radiating back out to space, something’s going to have to heat up

    March 10, 2010
  • Explained: Linear and nonlinear systems

    Much scientific research across a range of disciplines tries to find linear approximations of nonlinear behaviors. But what does that mean?

    February 26, 2010
  • Explained: Gallager codes

    In 1993, scientists achieved the maximum rate for data transmission — only to find they’d been scooped 30 years earlier by an MIT grad student.

    January 21, 2010
  • Explained: The Shannon limit

    A 1948 paper by Claude Shannon SM ’37, PhD ’40 created the field of information theory — and set its research agenda for the next 50 years.

    January 19, 2010
  • Explained: The Discrete Fourier Transform

    The theories of an early-19th-century French mathematician have emerged from obscurity to become part of the basic language of engineering.

    November 25, 2009
  • Explained: RNA interference

    Exploiting the recently discovered mechanism could allow biologists to develop disease treatments by shutting down specific genes.

    November 12, 2009
  • Explained: P vs. NP

    The most notorious problem in theoretical computer science remains open, but the attempts to solve it have led to profound insights.

    October 29, 2009