Big Ideas for future NSF investments

These are the latest articles and videos I found most interesting.

  1. Predicting the range of droplet sizes for sticky fluids
  2. Additive Manufacturing with Metals
  3. What’s harder to understand, a human brain or the universe?
  4. Big Ideas for future NSF investments
  5. Marie Tharp: Uncovering the Secrets of the Ocean Floor

Predicting the range of droplet sizes for sticky fluids

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

A team of MIT engineers show they can predict a liquid’s droplet size distribution, including the likelihood of producing very big and very small droplets, based on one main property: the liquid’s viscoelasticity, or stickiness.

Additive Manufacturing with Metals

College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Tony Rollett discusses additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, with metals, as well as using advanced characterization techniques to solve industry challenges in the field.

What’s harder to understand, a human brain or the universe?

World Science Festival

The human brain is immensely complex, containing more connections than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. At the 2016 World Science Festival, physicist Brian Greene and neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis discussed why scientists have a better handle on our vast universe than on the three-pound organ inside a human’s head–and what role that organ plays in creating the universe it seeks to understand.

Big Ideas for future NSF investments


Six research “big ideas” that will drive important aspects of NSF’s long-term research agenda, push forward the frontiers of U.S. science and engineering research, and lead to new discoveries and innovations.

1. How do we predict the phenotype, the structure, function, and behavior of an organism based on what we know about its genes and environment?

2. Arctic research

3. Harnessing the data

4. Quantum leap

5. The workplace of tomorrow

6. Astrophysics

Marie Tharp: Uncovering the Secrets of the Ocean Floor

The Royal Institution

Continental drift is common knowledge now, but when the idea was first proposed it was revolutionary. Helen Czerski tells the story of how the maps of one of history’s finest cartographers shifted our view of the planet.

In the early 20th century, Alfred Wegener proposed a revolutionary idea: that the Earth’s continents were once joined together, and had gradually moved apart. The idea contradicted almost everything scientists thought at the time, and it took the detailed work of a brilliant cartographer to prove him right.

Conventional ideas held that the ocean floors were flat, featureless planes. As expeditions started to go around the world collecting ocean depth measurements, Marie Tharp – not allowed to join the expeditions herself – processed the data and began to craft detailed, revealing maps of the hidden ocean depths.

She discovered that the ocean floor was in fact a complex assortment of peaks and troughs. In particular, her profiles revealed stark rift valleys, which supported Wegener’s controversial ideas. Even then, it took a long time to convince the scientific community that her findings were correct. Eventually, however, she was proved right, and Marie Tharp took her rightful place as one of history’s finest cartographers.

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