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Canadian Universities Join Consortium to Build Telescope in Chile

Lori Oliwenstein

Seven Canadian universities have joined a Caltech and Cornell University-led consortium to build CCAT, a proposed 25-meter aperture telescope. The telescope will be occupy a site 18,400 feet above sea level on Cerro Chajnantor, a mountain in Chile’s Atacama desert.


TMT Permit Approved

Kathy Svitil

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) got one step closer to realization this week, with the granting of a conservation district use permit by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The permit gives the University of Hawai'i permission to build and operate TMT on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea; TMT will sublet the land from the University.


Daraio Awarded Sloan Fellowship

Kathy Svitil

Caltech's Chiara Daraio is among this year's crop of Sloan Research Fellows. Daraio is one of 118 faculty from across the country to receive the two-year, $50,000 fellowship, given to early-career scientists and scholars in recognition of achievement and the potential to contribute substantially to their fields.


Asteroids Ahoy! Jupiter Scar Likely from Rocky Body

Allison Benter

A hurtling asteroid about the size of the Titanic caused the scar that appeared in Jupiter's atmosphere in July 2009. Data from three infrared telescopes enabled scientists to observe the warm atmospheric temperatures and unique chemical conditions associated with the impact debris. An international team of scientists was able to deduce that the object was more likely a rocky asteroid than an icy comet.


Plasmonic Metamaterials: From Microscopes to Invisibility Cloaks

Lori Oliwenstein

A new class of artificial materials called metamaterials may one day be used to create ultrapowerful microscopes, advanced sensors, improved solar cells, computers that use light instead of electronic signals to process information, and even an invisibility cloak. In a Perspectives piece in this week's issue of the journal Science, Caltech's Harry Atwater and Purdue University colleague Alexandra Boltasseva describe advances in a particular subtype of these materials—plasmonic metamaterials. 


Ellis Awarded Gold Medal

Marcus Woo

Richard Ellis, the Steele Family Professor of Astronomy, has received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Awarded annually since 1824, the Gold Medal is the society's highest honor and one of the premier prizes in astronomy.


Astronomers Discover Close-knit Pairs of Massive Black Holes

Marcus Woo

Astronomers at Caltech, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and University of Hawaii (UH) have discovered 16 close-knit pairs of supermassive black holes in merging galaxies. These black-hole pairs are about a hundred to a thousand times closer together than most that have been observed before, providing a glimpse into how they and their host galaxies merge—crucial for understanding the evolution of the universe. The discovery is being presented today in Seattle at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society.


The Frontiers of Physics

Marcus Woo

If your New Year's resolution is to be more organized and orderly, maybe you should take a cue from the universe. With planets, stars, and galaxies, the cosmos is surprisingly orderly—or in physics parlance, in a state of low entropy. At the time of the Big Bang, the universe had even less entropy. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech, will examine this mystery at next week's TEDxCaltech. In separate talks, Caltech physicists Kip Thorne and John Preskill will also discuss Richard Feynman's legacy.



Caltech Establishes Four Research Programs

Marcus Woo

Caltech is embarking on four research programs that intend to produce clean energy, probe the bizarre phenomena of quantum physics, understand the genetic and neural wiring behind complex behaviors, and save lives during earthquakes. To support these projects, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation recently allocated a total of $17.5 million, part of the Foundation’s $300 million commitment made to Caltech in 2001.


Make Your Own Flake

Lori Oliwenstein

With little more than a plastic soda bottle, some fishing line, a sponge, and dry ice, anyone can make it snow, make it snow, make it flake at a time. So says Caltech physicist-turned-snowflake-guru Ken Libbrecht, who recently walked listeners of NPR's Science Friday through a do-it-yourself snowflake-making tutorial.