Navigation on the Brain

Before GPS and cellular devices gave drivers directions, Long Range Navigation (LORAN) beacons helped sailors and pilots to find their way during their travels. Powerful radio pulses emanate from radio transmitter sites. Skilled operators are able to determine latitude and longitude if they’ve received at least three different beacons. Signals from close transmitters arrive earlier than those from far away sites, because radio energy constantly travels at the speed of light. Read More →

Nuclear Clock Powered by Single Thorium Ion

Ultra-high vacuum chamber housing an RF ion trap where single thorium atoms are suspended and laser-cooled to near absolute zero temperature.

A clock accurate to within a tenth of a second over 14 billion years – the age of the universe – is the goal of research being reported this week by scientists from three different institutions. To be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the research provides the blueprint for a nuclear clock that would get its extreme accuracy from the nucleus of a single thorium ion. Read More →

Vernier Launches LabQuest 2 for STEM Education

STEM students in more than 130 countries have deepened their knowledge of scientific practices using sensors and Vernier’s data-collection interface, the LabQuest. Now, that technology is even more powerful. Vernier Software & Technology‘s new LabQuest 2 features faster computing, a large high-resolution screen, wireless data sharing, and five built-in sensors, including GPS. LabQuest 2 is compatible with all Vernier probes, which includes more than 70 different sensors used in experiments to study physics, chemistry, biology, and a variety of other STEM topics.

“LabQuest 2 is part of what we call the Connected Science System, which we designed to expand possibilities for science educators,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier Software & Technology and a former physics teacher. “As educators look to the future for data-collection technology that can be used with a variety of tablet devices, smart phones, and other mobile technology, LabQuest 2 offers teachers the greatest versatility.”

Used as a standalone device, or as a data-collection interface for computers with Vernier’s Logger Prosoftware, LabQuest 2 offers a 12.8 cm, high-resolution touch screen, real-time data collection, powerful analysis tools, and on-board curriculum. Its built-in GPS, 3-axis accelerometer, ambient temperature, light, and microphone sensors broaden data-collection opportunities while offering schools increased value. LabQuest 2’s software features quick response to touch, curve fits, and modeling, and the interface can collect data at a rate of up to 100,000 samples per second.

New to LabQuest 2 is the Connected Science System, a networked collection of technology that supports hands-on, collaborative learning with individualized accountability. Using the built-in Wi-Fi capability, students can share data from LabQuest 2 to any device with a web browser, including iPads®, iPhones®, and Android™ devices. Students can also send data from LabQuest 2 to any email address, and they can connect LabQuest 2 to a computer with a projector to view and control the device in a presentation format.

LabQuest 2 comes with a rechargeable battery, USB cable, power adapter, CD containing Logger Lite software, stylus, and stylus tether.

Pricing and Availability
LabQuest 2 replaces Vernier’s award-winning original LabQuest. It will be available for purchase in April 2012 for $329. To learn more about LabQuest 2, visit

Image Credit: 1) The Hacktory

Source: Vernier Software & Technology

NASA Pinning Down Where ‘Here’ is Better Than Ever

Before our Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices can tell us where we are, the satellites that make up the GPS need to know exactly where they are. For that, they rely on a network of sites that serve as “you are here” signs planted throughout the world. The catch is, the sites don’t sit still because they’re on a planet that isn’t at rest, yet modern measurements require more and more accuracy in pinpointing where “here” is.

To meet this need, NASA is helping to lead an international effort to upgrade the four systems that supply this crucial location information. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the next generation of laser ranging and radio interferometry systems is being developed and built, is bringing all four systems together in a state-of-the-art ground station. This demonstration station and merger of technique processing, known as the Space Geodesy Project, will serve as an example of what is required to measure Earth’s properties to keep up with the ever-changing, yet subtle, movements in land as it rises and sinks along with shifts in the balances of the atmosphere and ocean. All of these movements tweak Earth’s shape, its orientation in space and its center of mass — the point deep inside the planet that everything rotates around. The changes show up in Earth’s gravity field and literally slow down or speed up the planet’s rotation.

“NASA and its sister agencies around the world are making major investments in new stations or upgrading existing stations to provide a network that will benefit the global community for years to come,” says John LaBrecque, Earth Surface and Interior Program Officer at NASA Headquarters.

GPS won’t be the only beneficiary of the improvements. All observations of Earth from space — whether it’s to measure how far earthquakes shift the land, map the world’s ice sheets, watch the global mean sea level creep up or monitor the devastating reach of droughts and floods — depend on the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, which is determined by data from this network of designated sites.


For more information, visit:

Image Credit: Artist’s concept of a quasar (bright area with rays) embedded in the center of a galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

Source: JPL